Expect more U.S. oil on the global market

A forecasting unit of Platts points to the growing spread between U.S. crude oil and rival grades as an incentive for more exports.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Oct. 10, 2017 at 7:53 AM
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Oct. 10 (UPI) -- U.S. crude oil exports will likely increase in part because of the discount for the U.S. benchmark price for oil against other grades, an industry report found.

An emailed market report from Bank of America-Merrill Lynch this week said the spread, or difference, between West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for the price of oil, and Brent, the global benchmark, made U.S. crude competitive on the open market.

A 40-year-old ban on U.S. crude oil exports ended in the waning years of President Barack Obama's tenure. During his term, Republican lawmakers helped broker an end to the ban enacted in the 1970s in response to an oil embargo embraced by some members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

The Commerce Department had allowed some exports of domestically-sourced condensate, an ultra-light form of oil found in many U.S. shale basins. If processed in a certain way, condensate does not meet the federal classification of crude oil.

Two years ago, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said ending the ban would bolster the security for European allies fretting over supplies from Middle East producers. Regional disputes between Qatar and Persian Gulf allies in June have highlighted that risk.

Analysis emailed from PIRA Energy, a unit of S&P Global Platts, said exports last week were around 1.6 million barrels per day, snapping a streak for all-time highs, but still sharply higher than the four-week moving average from last year. Pointing to the spread, the report found continued support for U.S. crude oil exports.

"This massive outflow of U.S. crude isn't surprising in light of the shifting economics that has provided a strong incentive for exports," the report read.

Brent held a $6 per barrel premium against WTI early Tuesday. Of all the major traded grades for crude oil, only Western Canadian Select, the Canadian benchmark, is cheaper than U.S. crude. That means WTI could be displacing major grades like Dubai, the Middle East benchmark, in some Asian economies.

With the ban on the line in 2015, a report from RBC Capital Markets said that, in terms of oil prices, U.S. crude oil would continue to trade lower than the global benchmark Brent because of transport costs and infrastructure constraints.

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