WASHINGTON, Oct 6 (Reuters) - The U.S. government has asked energy companies to fill out a one-page questionnaire about their plans to export oil, in a first step toward resolving some two dozen pending requests to ship lightly processed crude overseas, sources said.
The U.S. Commerce Department sent the survey around this summer to help it decide whether to further ease the four-decade old ban on crude exports, according to the five industry and legal sources.
In August, the Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) sent nine questions to companies that had requested rulings on whether they could export an ultra-light oil called condensate, people who had seen the questionnaire told Reuters. Those requests have been "held without action" since July, effectively removing any time frame for a decision, Reuters has reported.
The survey included basic questions about the type of oil used for feedstock, the distillation process required to transform it from raw crude into oil products, and the specific characteristics of the output, they said.
"It's an attempt to get the same information from everyone so they are operating on the same basis," said one source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the applications are private. "It goes to how the (petroleum) products are produced and what products result."
The document arrived more than a month after Pioneer Natural Resources and Enterprise Product Partners confirmed that the BIS said they could export condensate overseas after it had been lightly processed.
That news created a storm of confusion and generated questions from Washington to Houston, putting the BIS under scrutiny as speculation rose that the administration was changing the ban on crude exports. As the office dealt with the uproar over condensate, it was also tied up with work on new sanctions on Russia's oil sector, sources said.
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