Pioneer Natural Resources said it received a similar ruling from the
U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security. Other
companies said that means they may now also be able to export
Enterprise has infrastructure that can export processed condensate
from its massive Houston storage facility and docks in nearby Texas
City and Freeport, spokesman Rick Rainey said. He declined to say
when exports would begin.
The condensate in question has long been run through equipment known
as stabilizers that shave off volatile natural gas liquids and
remove contaminants like hydrogen sulfide in order to meet pipeline
Industry executives said the ability to export processed condensate
would lift sagging prices and ease a domestic condensate glut.
"This will change the whole condensate marketing landscape," said
Josh Weber, senior vice president at Howard Energy Partners, a Texas
company building a 10,000 barrels-per-day stabilizer in the Eagle
Ford shale near Corpus Christi.
Most refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast are built to run heavier
crudes from Canada or Venezuela. Several refiners have added special
units to increase light-crude processing, but most have not.
Consultancy RBN Energy says U.S. condensate production grew to 1
million barrels per day last year from 300,000 barrels per day (bpd)
in 2010, and is projected to rise by another 600,000 bpd in the next
More than half of that output comes from the Eagle Ford, where crude
production is forecast to reach 1.43 million bpd in April, says the
U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Dozens of stabilizers dot the Eagle Ford. The tall, cylindrical
towers range in size from 500 bpd to an 80,000 bpd tower near
Gardendale, Texas, owned by Plains All American Plains is
expanding that stabilizer to 120,000 bpd.
STABILIZERS VS. SPLITTERS
Stabilizers are simpler and cheaper to build than condensate
splitters, which split the oil into components like naphtha and
distillates that can be freely exported under U.S. laws that
otherwise prohibit crude exports without a license.
Analysts said the Commerce Department's actions may have made
splitters obsolete before they even start up.
[to top of second column]
"It makes the investment case for a greenfield condensate splitter
much less compelling," said Clarkson Capital Markets analyst Matthew
Several companies have been building or planning new splitters along
the Texas Gulf Coast, often for customers that have already agreed
to buy all the output.
That includes Kinder Morgan Energy Partners' 100,000 bpd
splitter slated to start up in November. BP Plc is under
contract to take all output from the $370 million project.
Splitter components include jet fuel, which BP supplies to the U.S.
military, and blendstocks that refiners at home and abroad use for
Magellan Midstream Partners may end up exporting condensate from
stabilizers and its own splitter.
It has a long-term contract with Trafigura for a 50,000 bpd splitter
in Corpus Christi slated to open in 2016.
In addition, Magellan's 100,000 bpd Double Eagle condensate
pipeline, a joint venture with Kinder Morgan, moves stabilized
condensate to the company's Corpus Christi terminal.
"With the terminal's multiple existing ship berths that can
accommodate large vessels, we are positioned to serve the export
market if it develops," spokesman Bruce Heine said.
(Additional reporting by Swetha Gopinath in Bangalore and Tim
Gardner in Washington; Editing by Terry Wade and David Gregorio)
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