Market Snapshot: B.C. is now the second largest exporter of propane behind Alberta

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Release date: 2020-05-20

The location of propane exports in Canada is changing. Increasingly, more volumes of propane are exported from British Columbia (B.C.). In January 2020, 64 872 barrels per day (b/d) of propane were exported through B.C.’s borders, while 83 354 b/d of propane were exported from Alberta’s borders.

Exports from B.C.’s border points were primarily by marine (35 293 b/d) followed by rail (27 232 b/d) in January 2020.Footnote 1 B.C. is now the second largest exporting province for propane after Alberta. Behind this growth in exports from B.C.’s borders are two marine export terminals – one in B.C., and the other in the U.S. Natural gas production in western Canada has increased in recent years, allowing for increased propane production from natural gas processing.

AltaGas’ 40 000 b/d Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal (RIPET), located near Prince Rupert, B.C., is the first propane export terminal on Canada’s West Coast. RIPET saw its first cargo destined for Japan depart on the marine vessel Sumire Gas on 23 May 2019.Footnote 2 Canadian propane is also exported from B.C. to the U.S. by rail for future export to Asia from Petrogas’ 30 000 b/d marine terminal in Ferndale, Washington.Footnote 3 Ferndale has been steadily exporting western Canadian-produced propane to Asian markets since 2014.

Figure 1. Canada’s propane exports for each mode of transport between 2013 and 2020

Source and Description

Source: CER

Description: The line chart displays Canada’s propane exports for each mode of transport: railway, marine, pipeline, and truck. Rail exports are the largest, and highly seasonal. Rail exports reached an average of 199 664 b/d in January 2019, and 110 762 b/d in July 2019. Marine exports the second highest amount, at 35 292 b/d in January 2020. Truck and pipeline exports were 11 953 b/d and 12 762 b/d in November 2019.

Rail is the primary mode of transportation for propane leaving Canadian borders. Propane by rail is able to scale up in the fall and winter months as needed to meet agricultural and heating demand outside of the producing region of western Canada. Truck exports, primarily from Ontario, are highly seasonal. Exports by truck increase in the fall and winter months to help meet peak demand in states such as New York and Michigan. Pipeline exports are almost entirely from Ontario. The Eastern Delivery System and Genesis pipelines transport propane from the fractionation and petrochemical hub of Sarnia, Ontario into Michigan.

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