Is it finally time for Houston to bump Cushing as U.S. oil hub?

Houston is set to get its own oil futures, a sign of the city’s growing importance as the U.S. sends more crude abroad.

Intercontinental Exchange Inc.ICE, +0.66%  is planning a new crude futures contract with physical delivery in Houston, the company said Tuesday. The contract will provide traders with direct access to Houston prices. The exchange is aiming to launch this quarter, subject to regulatory review.

For decades, the benchmark for U.S. oil pricesCLU8, +0.15%  has been in Cushing, Okla., because of its accessibility through major pipelines and extensive storage space. However, with the U.S. on track to become a major energy exporter, some analysts say that pricing power is shifting to the Gulf Coast, where oil gets loaded onto tankers and shipped overseas.

U.S. exports of crude oil have surged since a 40-year-old ban was lifted in 2015. In June, crude exports reached a record high of 3 million barrels a day, and have since stayed at about 2 million barrels a day. Meanwhile, U.S. shale companies are producing at record levels of 10.9 million barrels a day.

Right now, those who want to trade Houston prices use futures that track Cushing prices and contracts that track the difference between the two locations. An outright Houston contract could help streamline the process for traders and companies looking to lock in prices for their crude.

An expanded version of this report appears on

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