Pioneer Natural Resources to Double Its Exports of Ultra-Light Oil

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By Florence Tan

SINGAPORE -- Pioneer Natural Resources plans to double its U.S. exports of condensate, an ultra-light oil, to 50,000 barrels per day next year, its chief executive said on Monday.

The U.S. shale resources explorer, along with Enterprise Product Partners LP, received the green light from the U.S. government in March to ship the ultra-light crude as the country softened a 40-year ban on oil exports.

"We operate 50,000 bpd and we're selling probably about 20,000 to 25,000 bpd, but eventually we'll get up to 50,000 bpd," Scott Sheffield told Reuters, saying this would happen next year.

Pioneer sells processed condensate from its Eagle Ford shale site to Enterprise, which markets the oil to foreign buyers. Sheffield said a third cargo was on its way to Singapore after the first two cargoes went to South Korea and Europe.

The cargoes are currently sold on a spot basis, but Pioneer and Enterprise are evaluating offers for one-year contracts for next year's supplies, said Sheffield.

"We want to get it on bigger ships that will lower our transportation costs," Sheffield said, adding that he hoped larger shipments could happen by the end of this year.

Pioneer has benefited from improved pricing as a result of its ability to sell the oil outside the United States, Sheffield said earlier this month.

Producers are pushing to export more condensate as output of the light oil from major shale basins across the country has outpaced local refining capacity to process it, even though some groups are lobbying against allowing the overseas sales.

"After the elections, I see a lot more companies having the same agreement with the Commerce Department," he said.

Another 20 to 25 companies are seeking approval to export U.S. condensate, Sheffield said.

"So we'll see a lot more exports of condensate starting maybe late this year, early next year," he said. Condensate production in the Eagle Ford basin is about 600,000 bpd, he said.

Chances that the United States government would lift its ban on crude oil exports next year were slim at 20 percent due to the upcoming November elections, Sheffield said earlier at a lecture at a local university. But pressure from the rest of the world is growing as Asia needs oil to replace lost Iranian supply due to Western sanctions and as Europe seeks more oil and gas supplies from the U.S. in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.

"How can we ask countries like Japan and South Korea not to take Iranian crude and we won't ship them crude? And also with what's happening in Ukraine, Europe is asking ... for LNG, but that's going to take time, but they can get help today from oil versus importing it from Russia," Sheffield said.

Sheffield expects the U.S. to lift its crude oil export ban in 2017.

Pioneer produces 161,000 bpd of oil equivalent from its shale assets in Eagle Ford and Permian Basin in south Texas.

(Reporting by Florence Tan; Editing by Joseph Radford and Tom Hogue)

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