Market Snapshot: Rail is the main way to transport Canadian propane to markets

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Release date: 2020-06-17

Canada relies mainly on rail to get propane to domestic and export markets. In 2019, western Canada produced 309 thousand barrels per day (Mb/d) of propane from gas plants and refineries (97% of total Canadian supply). However, western Canada consumed only 85 Mb/d of propane, leaving a substantial surplus. There are no pipelines shipping consumer-grade propane out of western Canada, so propane is mainly shipped by rail or truck to the Unites States (U.S.) and eastern Canadian destinations where Sarnia, Ontario is the main hub. Sarnia has a fractionatorFootnote 1 and refineries producing propane and can also receive propane from the U.S. by rail and pipelineFootnote 2. From Sarnia, propane is delivered by rail, truck, and pipeline to locations in Ontario, Quebec, and other eastern Canadian provinces, and to export markets in the U.S. Midwest and East Coast.

Figure 1. Canada’s Propane Infrastructure

Canada’s Propane Infrastructure
Source and Description

Source: CER, Enbridge, Plains Midstream, Pembina, Inter Pipeline, CERI, RBN Energy, Keyera

Description:This map shows the main propane production, storage and transportation facilities. Major facilities on the map are located around Edmonton and Ft. Saskatchewan in Alberta, near Sarnia in Ontario, and the propane marine terminal projects near the Prince Rupert, B.C. area.

Rail, pipeline, and truck are not the only ways to export Canadian propane. Since May 2019 propane is being railed to a new marine export terminal in Prince Rupert, British Columbia for export by ship to Asian markets. In 2019, marine accounted for 12% of the 187 Mb/d of Canadian propane exports, second only to rail (76%), and followed by pipeline (7%) and truck (5%).

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