No hurry to lift oil export ban, federal data chief says

The head of the Energy Information Administration said the United States should be in no rush to lift the ban on exporting crude oil.

Adam Sieminski told Bloomberg Business that slowing domestic production of light tight oil — which has been the main product at the center of the recent domestic oil boom — is giving oil refiners more time to adjust and process that kind of oil.

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Refiners are better equipped to handle the heavy crude oil that had been imported prior to the recent domestic boom. Sieminski said that slowing production delays a possible “wall” at which refiners could not handle more light oil.

“If there was a wall that light tight oil production is going to hit in refining capacity ability to process — that’s one of the theories — the pace that production was approaching that wall, the speed, has slowed down,” Sieminski said Wednesday at CeraWeek, an oil and natural gas conference in Houston.

“From that standpoint, it probably means it might not be as critical for a policy maker to decide immediately to do something about that.”

Lawmakers, led by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), have been pushing to end the 40-year-old ban on exporting crude, arguing, among other reasons, that refiners cannot handle the light oil being produced domestically.

Sieminski’s office cannot change any export policies itself, although lawmakers are likely to use its data in making such decisions.