U.S. negotiating contracts to store 23 million bbls of oil in SPR

FILE PHOTO: An oil storage tank and crude oil pipeline equipment is seen during a tour by the Department of Energy at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport, Texas, U.S. June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Richard Carson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Energy Department said on Tuesday it is negotiating contracts with nine energy companies to store about 23 million barrels of domestically produced oil in the country’s emergency crude reserve.

The department initiated a plan to lease space to companies in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, or SPR, as a way to help companies suffering from the oil price plunge and after Congress failed to fund another plan to purchase oil for the facility. The department said most of the deliveries will be received in May and June with some possible shipments in April.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama