BHP adds voice to U.S. oil export debate

White House not yet considering a veto threat, deferring matter to Commerce Department.

By Daniel J. Graeber

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- Australian energy giant BHP Billiton said the United States could send a strong message to allies and markets alike with a repeal of the ban on oil exports.

Republican leaders in the U.S. House and Senate have moved legislation meant to end the ban placed on U.S. crude oil exports after Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in the 1970s blocked their exports to the United States in response to Washington's support for Israel.


Addressing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, BHP Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mackenzie said a larger U.S. presence on the global energy market could have significant consequences.

"The United States would send a strong signal with the repeal of the oil export ban. A change in policy would add hundreds of thousands of jobs," he said. "Importantly, it would further demonstrate the nation's ongoing commitment to economic freedom and the promotion of global growth."

The company in July said it would take a $2 billion hit on Texas shale, but held out hope for its onshore U.S. operational strategy.

The company blamed "geological complexity" and other issues associated with developing the Hawkville shale area in Texas for the impairment charge. BHP nevertheless singled out the Permian shale basin in Texas as a bright spot in its onshore portfolio.


The U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security, a division of the Commerce Department, in 2014 authorized two U.S. companies, Pioneer Natural Resources and Enterprise Products Partners, to export an ultra-light form of oil called condensate from the U.S. market. Processing steps mean condensate doesn't qualify as crude oil under the terms of U.S. law.

BHP Billiton said in November it concluded that condensate taken from the Eagle Ford shale play in Texas was legally eligible for exports.

Opponents of lifting the ban said it would lead to more expense for those in the refining sector, while noting overseas markets are tooled to accept U.S. fuels, not U.S. crude oil.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said during his latest press briefing legislative action to lift the ban was ineffective.

"I don't have a veto threat to issue at this point, but clearly it's not a piece of legislation we support because this is essentially the domain of the Commerce Department," he said.

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