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US oil shipment navigates around decades-old ban

The Overseas Santorini tanker sails under the Harbor Bridge into the Port of Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Eddie Seal | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The Overseas Santorini tanker sails under the Harbor Bridge into the Port of Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi, Texas.

United States oil production has boomed in recent years, and now a loophole in a long-standing law has allowed the first export of unrefined American oil in decades.

A tanker left Texas for South Korea with a $40 million shipment of unrefined oil on Wednesday night in the first unrestricted export since the 1970s, The Wall Street Journal reported. Companies have increased their efforts to legally export as U.S. oil production has grown about 48 percent since the end of 2011.

Under the law, which was passed after the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s, American companies can sell refined fuels such as gasoline and diesel abroad, but not unrefined oil, except in special cases that require a license, the Journal wrote. After a review of regulations, oil producers found that oil refined with an alternative to the traditional process would fit under the existing law.

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Enterprise Product Partners sold the oil to GS Caltex, a South Korean refiner, the Journal said. The U.S. Commerce Department has cleared Enterprise and Pioneer Natural Resources to export, while as many as 10 other companies have sought rulings on the ability to export, the Journal wrote.

Read the Journal's full story here.

—By CNBC staff

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