U.S. to release reports on crude oil export issues in September

WASHINGTON Mon Aug 18, 2014 2:56pm EDT

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WASHINGTON Aug 18 (Reuters) - The U.S. Energy Information Administration plans to release two reports in September examining some of the issues surrounding a potential end to the nation's decades-old ban on most crude oil exports, the EIA's chief said on Monday.

Some lawmakers have pressed the EIA, the statistical arm of the Department of Energy, to provide analysis on the implications of relaxing or abolishing the ban, as debate over the future of the moratorium has intensified.

The EIA's upcoming reports will focus on the impact to U.S. gasoline prices at the pump from changing domestic and global oil markets, and on the costs of building different types of crude oil refining units in the United States.

EIA administrator Adam Sieminski said the report on gasoline would not specifically weigh in on whether crude oil exports would raise U.S. gasoline prices, but it would provide an analysis of whether domestic gasoline prices are determined more by world or U.S. oil markets.

"The goal would be to try to understand: if Midwest oil prices go up, is that going to change gasoline prices in the U.S." as well, Sieminski told reporters at a workshop on EIA data.

The report on constructing refinery projects will delve into the costs of building equipment such as stabilizers and splitters.

The focus on refining infrastructure has increased after the Commerce Department clarified that companies can export ultra-light crude oil that has been run through stabilizers, which shave off volatile natural gas liquids.

The U.S. crude oil export ban was imposed by Congress in the 1970s after the Arab oil embargo. The U.S. shale oil boom of recent years is expected to soon make the country the world's top crude producer, surpassing both Saudi Arabia and Russia.

It has also led to a glut of light oil in Texas and Louisiana because refiners have invested billions of dollars to process heavier oils imported from Mexico and Venezuela. (Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Ros Krasny and Marguerita Choy)

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