Market Snapshot: Record high crude oil imports from the U.S. push Canadian oil imports to a three year high

Release date: 2016-03-02

Canadian crude oil imports increased 16 per cent in 2015 to 736 thousand barrels per day (Mb/d), reversing a three-year downward trend. The United States (U.S.) was the biggest gainer in the 2015 surge in imports, increasing its share of total imports to 62.4 per cent. Saudi Arabia also increased its market share in 2015 to 11.4 per cent, with all of its volumes received in the Maritimes. Nigeria’s share almost tripled, increasing from 1.6 per cent in 2014 to 5.2 per cent in 2015. Imports from Norway and Algeria increased slightly compared to 2014, after dropping significantly in previous years. Other import sources declined in 2015, with imports from Mexico and Iraq disappearing completely.

Figure Source and Description

Source: Statistics Canada’s Canadian International Merchandise Trade Database (CIMT)

Description: The above chart shows Canadian crude oil imports by country from 2010 to 2015. Crude oil imports decreased from 820 Mb/d in 2010 to 637 Mb/d in 2014, before increasing to 736 Mb/d in 2015. Over the 2010-2015 time period, the U.S. increased its market share from six per cent to 62 per cent. Saudi Arabia also increased its market share, whereas imports from countries such as Algeria, the United Kingdom, Kazakhstan, and Norway decreased.

While marine imports from Texas led the increase in U.S. market share, imports from inland states have also grown significantly. This was enabled by completion of rail offloading terminals on the Canadian East Coast and reversal of the Enbridge Line 9A and Line 9B pipelines in 2013 and 2015, respectively.

Price discounts between North American inland crudesFootnote 1 and international oil prices such as Brent, also reached a four-year low in 2015. This increased the attractiveness of offshore crudes from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, and contributed to their growth in Canadian market share.

Eastern Canada receives almost all of Canada’s crude oil imports. Until reversal of Enbridge Line 9 in December 2015, no Canadian refineries east of Ontario had access via pipeline to western Canadian and U.S. Bakken crude oil. Instead, Quebec and the Maritimes used a combination of marine and rail transportation to receive their crude oil supply. With the Line 9 reversal, offshore crude oil imports and railed volumes into Quebec may be, in part, replaced by lower cost pipeline shipments.

Eastern Canada produced about 175 Mb/d of crude oil in 2015. Over 140 Mb/d of this was exported, including 20 Mb/d to non-USA destinations. The refineries in eastern Canada have opted to run more crude oil from inland North America, while the region’s offshore production is sold to other coastal markets.

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