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Oil Exports, Illegal for Decades, Now Fuel a Texas Port Boom


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CORPUS CHRISTI, Tex. — In a twist that would have been unthinkable only two years ago, the oil tanker that arrives in China today may be carrying crude that left the South Texas port of Corpus Christi instead of Saudi Arabia.

Chinese drivers most certainly don’t care where their fuel comes from, but the export of American crude oil to dozens of countries over the last year is the latest chapter in a remarkable turnaround for the American oil and gas industry, about the only good news in three years of plummeting commodity prices, bankruptcies and layoffs.

For 40 years it was virtually impossible to sell American oil to any country except Canada because of an export ban that was a bedrock of United States energy policy. The Obama administration slowly loosened the ban and Congress finally ended it in late 2015 in a compromise that also extended tax credits for renewable energy.

Oil exports grew slowly through most of 2016, but this year there has been a surge reaching 1.3 million barrels a day — roughly 15 percent of domestic production — which even at today’s depressed prices is worth more than $1.5 billion a month.

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That may be only the beginning. In a test a few weeks ago, the French-flagged supertanker Anne, empty but capable of holding more than two million barrels of oil, docked safely at Occidental Petroleum’s year-old export terminal here. The docking of the 1,093-foot vessel, larger than any tanker to come into port previously in the Gulf of Mexico, is seen as the herald of an export boom, lifting the spirits of American oil executives despondent over the crumbling price of crude and sending ripples across global energy markets.

“This is our chance, this is our turn to prosper,” said Khalid A. Muslih, executive vice president of Buckeye Partners, a pipeline and terminal operator in the midst of a major export expansion. “We’re working our way toward energy independence. We’re grabbing market share, and we’re doing our part to rectify our imbalance of trade.”


Making exporting great again.

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