Market Snapshot: Canadian Crude Oil Imports Decline

Release date: 2014-11-13

Despite being a major producer and exporter of crude oil, Canada also imports oil from abroad, largely into eastern Canada. This is largely because there has been little infrastructure connecting Western Canadian oil supplies to eastern Canadian markets.

Canadian crude oil imports have decreased since 2010 at an average rate of five per cent per year. In the first eight months of 2014, total crude oil imports averaged 634 thousand barrels per day (101 thousand cubic metres per day), down from over 800 thousand barrels per day (127 thousand cubic metres per day) in 2010.

While the closure of refineries in Quebec and Nova Scotia are partially responsible for decreased imports, much of the decline is because light crude oil imported into Eastern Canada from offshore is being replaced by less expensive Western Canadian crude oil. With improvements to infrastructure and the recent commissioning of rail offloading facilities at Eastern Canadian refineries, the downward trend in oil imports is likely to continue in the near future.

Figure Sources and Description

Sources: Canadian International Merchandise Database, NEB calculations

Description: This stacked bar chart shows crude oil imports into Canada by region. Total imports declined steadily from 2010 to 2014. Imports from the North Sea, North Africa, West Africa, Mexico, Central Asia and other regions generally decline over the period shown. Imports from the Middle East stay relatively flat. Imports from the United States increase rapidly, from about five per cent of imports in 2010 to nearly half of all imports in the first eight months of 2014.

Not only have crude oil imports decreased, but the source of imports is changing. In 2013, the U.S. displaced Algeria as the main source of Canadian crude oil imports. This has been driven by the growing availability of tight oil production from North Dakota, Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. Currently, crude from the U.S. is relatively less expensive compared to offshore crudes. As a result, imports from the U.S. increased sharply in the first eight months of 2014 and now represent nearly half of all crude oil imports into Canada.

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