A U.S. government office has the power to approve exports of an abundant type of petroleum and help energy companies begin to partially bypass a 40-year ban on crude exports, according to a report released on Tuesday by Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The ban on crude exports the government put in place after the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s includes a prohibition on exports of unprocessed condensate, a light petroleum that appears in oil reservoirs as a gas, but condenses to a liquid when it leaves the well.
The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), an office of the Department of Commerce, can simply modernize its definition of crude to exclude the condensates from the ban, according to the report called "License to Trade: Commerce Department Authority to Allow Condensate Exports." BIS has changed definitions of other types of petroleum for decades, it said.
"The definition of crude oil could simply be updated, aligning the regulatory architecture with the new supply mix made possible by technological advances," the report said.
"The Commerce Department has often modified its regulations without either congressional intervention or presidential finding, during both Republican and Democratic administrations," it said.
Thanks to advanced techniques, including horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, the United States is suddenly one of the world's top three oil producers, along with Russia and Saudi Arabia, a development energy experts did not think was possible a few years ago.
(Read more: Louisiana terminal gets OK to export natgas)