ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) and NuStar Energy L.P. (NYSE: NS) announced on Wednesday that the two companies are loading what they believe to be the first export shipment of U.S. crude in 40 years. The export ban was lifted on December 18 as part of the deal to pass a fiscal year 2016 federal budget.
The customer for the shipment is Switzerland-based commodities trading house Vitol, which also has been named as the buyer for a second export shipment of 600,000 barrels that is being loaded by Enterprise Products Partners L.P. (NYSE: EPD). Conoco and NuStar are loading their shipment in Corpus Christi, while Enterprise is loading in Houston. Both shipments contain light crude from the Eagle Ford play in south Texas.
Thursday’s posted price from Enterprise for Eagle Ford crude is $33 a barrel. Last Saturday the posted price was $33.90. Since the export ban was lifted, the posted price of a barrel of Eagle Ford crude has risen by $1.87 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate has risen by the same amount, and North Dakota Light Sweet crude has risen by $2.30 a barrel. The moral of this litany: the price of crude does not appear to have much to do with proximity to a port where crude can be loaded for export.
That may all change as time passes, but any large near-term impact on crude prices really doesn’t look like it’s in the cards. The horse race to load and ship the first cargo is mainly a race for bragging rights. At this point, Conoco and NuStar appear to be leading into the backstretch.