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U.S. oil exports relatively unchanged

Washington in late December lifted a 40-year ban on crude oil exports.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   Jan. 28, 2016 at 8:22 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Though a 40-year-ban on crude oil exports from the United States was lifted, federal data show total crude oil exports up only marginally from last year.

Trading company Vitol, which has headquarters in Switzerland, loaded 600,000 barrels of light crude oil from a Houston shipping terminal with the help of Enterprise Product Partners during the first week of January. It marked the first sanctioned delivery since a ban on crude oil exports was enacted in the 1970s.

The Department of Commerce issued a statement last month that said a license is no longer required to export crude oil.

The White House in December signed off on a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill that included language that, with certain provisions, lifted the export ban. Lifting the ban had been a priority for mostly Republican lawmakers who argued energy regulations were outdated given the steady increase in U.S. oil production, largely from inland shale basins.

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show total crude oil exports for the week ending Jan. 22 at 4.36 million barrels per day. That's consistent with what the White House said was already allowed in terms of refined products. Waivers were in place before the ban was lifted for the export of 500,000 bpd of conventional crude oil.

Crude oil exports of 399,000 bpd were down 20 percent from the previous week, but consistent with exports from one year ago. Exports of petroleum products, which includes liquids like finished gasoline for vehicles, was 3.96 million bpd, up 10 percent from last year.

With crude oil prices hovering near $30 per barrel, about 25 percent below this time last year, a report from the Congressional Budget Office finds authorizing U.S. crude oil exports could increase the price of U.S. crude oil by around $2.50 per barrel during a period ending in 2025. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service, however, found some overseas refineries aren't designed to handle the lighter oils from the United States.

West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for crude oil, remains at a $1 discount the global standard, Brent. For the year, EIA expects Brent crude oil to average $40 per barrel, with WTI selling at an average $2 discount to Brent.

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