Oil from U.S. reserves sent overseas as gasoline prices stay high

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HOUSTON, July 5 (Reuters) – More than 5 million barrels of oil that were part of a historic U.S. emergency reserves release to lower domestic fuel prices were exported to Europe and Asia last month, according to data and sources, even as U.S. gasoline and diesel prices hit record highs.

The export of crude and fuel is blunting the impact of the moves by U.S. President Joe Biden to lower record pump prices. Biden on Saturday renewed a call for gasoline suppliers to cut their prices, drawing criticism from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

About 1 million barrels per day is being released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) through October. The flow is draining the SPR, which last month fell to the lowest since 1986. U.S. crude futures are above $100 per barrel and gasoline and diesel prices above $5 a gallon in one-fifth of the nation. U.S. officials have said oil prices could be higher if the SPR had not been tapped.

“The SPR remains a critical energy security tool to address global crude oil supply disruptions,” a Department of Energy spokesperson said, adding that the emergency releases helped ensure stable supply of crude oil.

The fourth-largest U.S. oil refiner, Phillips 66 (PSX.N), shipped about 470,000 barrels of sour crude from the Big Hill SPR storage site in Texas to Trieste, Italy, according to U.S. Customs data. Trieste is home to a pipeline that sends oil to refineries in central Europe.

Atlantic Trading & Marketing (ATMI), an arm of French oil major TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA), exported 2 cargoes of 560,000 barrels each, the data showed.

Phillips 66 declined to comment on trading activity. ATMI did not respond to a request for comment.

Cargoes of SPR crude were also headed to the Netherlands and to a Reliance (RELI.NS) refinery in India, an industry source said. A third cargo headed to China, another source said.

By Arathy Somasekhar

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