Oil Exporting Begins

ND Pump Jack Photo
ND Pump Jack Photo

After nearly four decades, the Obama administration has opened the door for U.S. exports of unrefined American oil, according to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

The decision, WSJ reported, was approved in a private ruling by the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security, and will for now allow only two companies, Pioneer Natural Resources Co. (NYSE: PXD) and Enterprise Product Partners LP (NYSE: EPD), to export condensate to foreign buyers. PXD and EPD said they sought permission to export processed condensate from South Texas' Eagle Ford Shale, the article noted.

Condensate, which is also referred to as ultra-light oil, and light sweet crude oil make up a majority of production in the Eagle Ford Shale and to a slightly lesser extent in the Bakken Shale. Next to the Ealge Ford, the Bakken Shale produces the most light sweet crude oil/condensate in the U.S. As a general rule, lighter crudes and condensate are easier to process into refined products.

The new rule flirts with current rules put into place after the Arab oil embargo in the 70s, which allow U.S. companies to export refined products such as gasoline, but not unrefined products (i.e. crude and condensate). WSJ reports the private rulings by the Commerce Department define some ultra-light oil as fuel after it has been minimally processed, making the oil eligible for sale outside of the U.S. With the door open to PXD and EPD to export condensate from the Eagle Ford, and domestic production reaching record levels in the U.S., exports of crude/condensate from the Bakken Shale could be on the horizon.

Continental Resources CEO Pushing for Lift of Export Ban

The Commerce Department's ruling is an encouraging sign for those who have been proponents of lifting the export ban. Harold Hamm, the CEO of Continental Resources, the Bakken's largest producer, testified in January of 2014, at a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, to ease the limitations the ban imposes. Hamm, who has been outspoken on the issue, says scarcity fears on which the law banning oil exports is based no longer exist.

Read more at wsj.com