The Department of Energy will release hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil from the U.S. strategic reserves to limit the impact Tropical Storm Harvey is having on the energy industry.
The release will be delivered to a Phillips 66 refinery in Louisiana, according to a Thursday press statement from the agency. Harvey, which began as a Category 4 hurricane but was downgraded shortly after hitting Texas, has not affected that refinery’s output.
DOE’s release includes dumping 200,000 barrels of sweet crude and 300,000 barrels of sour crude oil — sweet crude contains less sulfur than sour. The country’s reserve was established in the 1970s during the oil embargo and currently contains 679 million barrels of oil.
Harvey has taken a cudgel to the county’s oil industry. Energy producers ExxonMobil and Shell told reporters Sunday night that they are expecting the giant storm to force offline refineries in and around the Texas area. Shell, for instance, was forced to shut down the Deer Park refinery in southeastern Houston, which supplies more than 340,000 barrels of oil per day.
Exxon, meanwhile, also temporarily shuttered a massive plant in Baytown, Texas, with a capacity of more than 560,000 barrels per day, according to reports from CNBC. The Houston Ship Channel is the busiest in America and remains closed by the storm. Oil production is also taking a hit.
Gas prices are expected to increase dramatically as oil production and refining is slashed.
Harvey is shattering records. A rain gauge in the southeast section of Houston, which has seen the bulk of the storm’s power, reported 49 inches of rain Tuesday, nearly four days after Harvey made landfall. The total, which was recorded from Aug. 24 to Tuesday, is higher than the 48 inches set during tropical cyclone Amelia in 1978.
Rescue crews have already plucked more than 3,000 people from the rising waters. Local officials also warn the death toll, which currently stands at about 30 people, could rapidly increase once water levels in Houston begins receding.
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