HACKBERRY, LA (KPLC) - With high gas prices it would be nice if we could just dip into the Strategic Oil Reserves in Hackberry and pay less at the pump-- but that's not how the Strategic Petroleum Reserve works.
The site where oil is stored underground is currently on what they call draw down alert one. Here at the Department of Energy's West Hackberry Strategic Petroleum Reserve you only get inside if you have permission. Security is tight. The site is one of four in the nation and was created in the late seventies to store oil underground in case there is ever a major interruption in the supply of oil to the United States. Senior site representative Allison Kuhn says right now they are on alert--- draw down alert one. "What that means is that there is a possibility that the energy supply could be disrupted to the United States."
Yet she's not allowed to speculate how or why. The next alert level would be two. Kuhn explains, "When there is a probability of an impending draw down."
And if a draw down is ever ordered, well that's level three. "The president as well as the assistant secretary of energy would be the authority to give us the authority to draw down," says Kuhn.
This model of the West Hackberry shows the 22 caverns underground which have been hewn from the huge salt dome, a geological formation. Way back they used water to create the caverns that now help provide for our national security. Right now we're at 727 million barrels among our four sites of which Hackberry is 228 million barrels.
The storage of the oil underground protects it from natural hazards as well as losses from theft or sabotage. "The top of the caverns generally start at about two thousand feet below the surface here at Hackberry and they go down to between four and five thousand feet below the earth's surface," Kuhn said.
If a draw down is ever issued within thirteen days they'd be ready to start supplying our nation with oil. If and when a draw down occurs at West Hackberry they will announce it. For more information click here.
To hear more of our interview with Allison Kuhn check out the video in the column to the right.