U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve drops to lowest level since 1987

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A maze of crude oil pipes and valves is pictured during a tour by the Department of Energy at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport, Texas, U.S. June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Richard Carson/File Photo

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HOUSTON, May 16 (Reuters) - The amount of crude oil in the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) dropped by 5 million barrels in the week to May 13, data from the U.S. Department of Energy showed.

Stockpiles in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) fell to 538 million barrels, the lowest since 1987.

About 3.9 million barrels of sour crude was released into the market, while about 1.1 million barrels of sweet crude was issued, according to the data.

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President Joe Biden in March announced the largest release ever from the U.S. emergency oil reserve at 1 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil for six months from the reserve in an attempt to bring down gasoline prices that have soared during Russia's war with Ukraine.

Before that, the United States had committed to release 30 million barrels of SPR oil in March and pledged in November to release 50 million barrels from SPR.

U.S. oil prices have surged nearly 25% to nearly $114 per barrel as markets worry about a supply crunch. Retail gasoline and diesel prices touched record highs this week as fuel demand rebounds to near pre-pandemic levels, while refining capacity has dropped.

The 180 million-barrel release is equivalent to about two days of global demand, and was the third time Washington had tapped the SPR in the six months prior.

Winners of the latest round of sales from the SPR include Valero Energy Corp (VLO.N), Motiva, Exxon Mobil (XOM.N), Shell (SHEL.L), Phillips (PSX.N) and Marathon Petroleum Corp (MPC.N).

At least three vessels carrying crude oil from U.S. emergency stockpiles sailed for Europe in April as refiners there scrambled to replace Russian crude supplies, according to U.S. Customs data, ship tracking, and an industry source. read more

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Reporting by Arathy Somasekhar in Houston Editing by Chris Reese, Lisa Shumaker and Cynthia Osterman

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