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>> The good news for the US oil business, record shipments of an estimated two to three million barrels a day. The not so good news, a lack of infrastructure to keep that level sustainable. US crude exports have boomed since the decades old ban was lifted less than two years ago.
But shippers and traders fear a bottleneck is to come, not just in storage and loading capacity but in pipeline connectivity and shipping traffic. Reuters energy markets team leader Jessica Resnick-Ault visited a port in New Orleans for the story.>> I think that the level of chaos that has surrounded this oil boom is really interesting.
Because you have a port down there that has literally chickens and coffee and sugar coming in and out every day on these enormous container ships. And it simply isn't set up to have the kind of oil tankers that we now need.>> Analysts believe operators will start to run into problems if exports rise to 3.5 to four million barrels a day.
Some say even less. Turns out pinpointing the exact numbers is a difficult task.>> The crude infrastructure that is there is not controlled in that case by the Port of New Orleans. And in other cases, by the public ports. It's generally controlled by individual oil companies. So the data on how much is being exported and where it's going is pretty murky.
>> Ports across Texas and Louisiana, among others, are said to be pumping crude at a rate of 9.5 million total US barrels a day. Meaning export capacity could soon be significantly tested. If exports do hit a bottleneck, that could put a cap on how much oil leaves the country and a serious damper on US crude prices.
Several operators like Houston's SemGroup Corp are eyeing expansion plans by building additional docks. But the time and cost of building out pipelines and super tankers is throwing future export capacity into serious question.