February 6, 2014 / 11:00 PM / in 4 years

Plains All American says could export U.S. crude oil if ban lifted

NEW YORK, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Plains All American has facilities in several locations in the United States that could export crude oil should a 40-year-old ban on most crude exports be lifted, Chief Executive Greg Armstrong said on Thursday.

Lifting the export ban has become a hot energy policy issue as supplies of the light sweet variety from the shale oil boom soar and flood a domestic market more suited to heavier grades for its refineries.

The U.S. energy industry is split on the issue - some oil companies favor allowing exports as their domestic barrels would fetch a higher price abroad but some refiners oppose the move as they are benefiting from the cheap supply.

“Ultimately, we’re positioned - we think - well for either answer (on the issue). We have assets in the right places that can help fill that market niche,” Armstrong told analysts during an earnings call.

Chief Operating Officer Harry Pefanis said the midstream company with pipeline, rail, terminal and trucking assets, had several facilities out of which it could load oil for export.

“Yorktown is a location where we can rail in and load out on ocean-going vessels. We’ve got the ability to do that at Saint James and we’re developing capacity at Corpus Christi as well,” he told analysts.

PAA has a 140,000 barrel per day (bpd) rail offloading facility in Yorktown, Virginia, and another 140,000 bpd facility at St James, Louisiana, along the Mississippi River.

Plains All American is one of the largest midstream companies in the country with about 18,000 miles (29,000 km) of pipelines and 119 million barrels of terminal and storage capacity, including 19 million at Cushing, the delivery point for U.S. benchmark crude futures.

Last week, the U.S. Senate Energy Committee held its first hearing in 25 years on whether the restrictions on oil exports should be lifted and heard conflicting views. There were warnings that domestic gasoline prices would rise or that energy security would be squandered by repealing the ban. One counter argument was that by maintaining the ban jobs would be lost because oversupply would eventually suppress production.

Despite the landmark hearing, few expect a decision in 2014, a mid-term election year.

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