The Department of Commerce granted two licenses to export crude to the UK in January and two more for exports to Italy, Reuters reported Tuesday.
The news agency said in an exclusive report that it obtained the data through a Freedom of Information Act request.
“One application for German exports was filed in January and is awaiting a decision by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), which is responsible for reviewing requests to export crude under a 1975 law that bans most shipments with a few exceptions, including sales to Canada and re-exports,” Reuters said.
The permits for shipments to the UK are the first since at least 2000 “and the first to any European country since 2008, according to data from the BIS,” Reuters said.
The two approved UK permits were for shipments with a total maximum value of $1.8 billion, while those to Italy were valued at $3.12 billion.
The pending application for German exports was worth $2.6 billion, according to the report.
About 90% of the 120 export licenses approved since January 2013 were for sales to Canada, according to the report.
The permits for overseas shipments come amid debate in Washington about lifting the crude export ban that’s been in place since the Arab oil embargo during the 1970s.
But U.S. oil production, with growth driven by fracking at shale sites across the country, is at a 25-year high.
Pro-export Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said last week the Commerce Department has the authority to relax export limits. She said she’ll introduce legislation if the administration doesn’t act.
Opponents argue that lifting the ban could drive up prices and hurt consumers.
Reuters said exports exports of crude to Canada reached about 200,000 barrels of oil a day in November, the highest volume since 1999, according to Department of Energy data.
“But European countries have rarely appeared on the list. Two permit applications filed in 2011 for exports to Switzerland and one for exports to the Netherlands were not approved,” Reuters said.
Reuters said European refiners would welcome ultra light, low-sulfur Bakken crude.