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US oil export ban repeal unlikely before 2017: Goldman Sachs

[WASHINGTON] The likelihood of the United States lifting its oil export ban outright before 2017 is low, in view of the upcoming presidential elections and political sensitivity regarding any policy that could affect gasoline prices, according to Goldman Sachs.

However, the ban is likely to pose fewer constraints in the future given the increasing flexibility in the implementation of the law, which could be loosened further, the investment bank said in a research note on Tuesday.

In case it is lifted, refining margins will improve globally with access to discounted US crude, but the move could also lead to Gulf Coast and East Coast refiners facing pressure from greater international competition and tighter spreads, the bank said.

That scenario would see the Brent-WTI spread tighten to US$4 per barrel and an additional US$3.5-12 billion investment in infrastructure, it said.

However, if the United States does not lift the 40-year-old ban on crude exports, Iran could soon be competing in global markets that would be mostly shut to US oil companies, a report prepared for the head of the Senate energy committee said on Tuesday.

The United States is in the midst of a six-year oil boom, but Washington has banned most crude exports since the Arab oil embargo of the early 1970s sparked fears of shortages.