HOUSTON, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Plains All American executives on Thursday stopped short of saying the company is seeking a ruling from the U.S. government on whether Plains can export a very light form of crude oil with minimal processing, but said they’ll be ready to do so.
Harry Pefanis, chief operating officer for Plains, told analysts the company was “trying to get clarity” on what processing is necessary for condensate to be excluded from the decades-old U.S. crude export ban.
“We are certainly positioning ourselves to be able to move condensate on our system and across our assets and into the export market if the stabilization at Gardendale is sufficient so the condensate wouldn’t be subject to the export ban,” Pefanis said during the company’s quarterly earnings call.
Two other companies in March received approval from the U.S. Department of Commerce to export lightly processed condensate, saying that running it through a stabilizer to remove natural gas liquids and other contaminants.
Before that, the industry believed crude and condensate needed more sophisticated processing to qualify as an exportable product, such as being run through a condensate splitter that makes distillates and naphtha or a refinery that makes finished motor fuels.
Now the Commerce Department has put on hold several requests for approval to export minimally processed condensate.
When an analyst on Thursday asked if Plains had applied for a ruling from the Commerce Department, Chief Executive Greg Armstrong declined comment.
But earlier, another analyst said: “There’s no reason to think your volumes wouldn’t be eligible to be exported, but you still have to go through the process to figure that out. Is that a correct statement?”
Armstrong replied, “Yes. The only thing that may get in our way is political arbitrariness.”
Plains has an 80,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) condensate stabilizer in Gardendale, Texas, that is being expanded to 120,000 bpd. That stabilizer’s output can move to Corpus Christi or Houston via pipelines that are joint ventures with Enterprise Products Partners, one of the companies that received an approval from the Commerce Department.
Plains’ 310-mile, 200,000 bpd Cactus pipeline, slated to start up in April next year, can move typical light crude, sour crude and condensate from the Permian Basin in Texas - in separate batches - to Gardendale, where it could enter the joint-venture pipelines. (Reporting By Kristen Hays; editing by Gunna Dickson)