Market Snapshot: Canada’s crude oil exports kept pace with production over the last decade

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Release date: 2021-07-28

Canadian crude oil export volumes have increased at a similar pace to production over the past decade. Figure 1 shows the volumes of crude oil produced and exported from Canada (mostly from the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin). Since 2015, the volume of crude oil exported from Canada has been about 80% of yearly production.Footnote1 From 2015 to 2020, Canada’s crude oil production increased by 16%, or 0.61 million barrels per day (MMb/d), and exports increased by 21% or 0.63 MMb/d. Since 2010, the proportion of exports to production has also increased. The volume of crude oil exported was 69% of production in 2010, 79% in 2015, and 82% in 2020.

Figure 1: The Growth of Canada’s Crude Oil Production and Exports from 2010 to 2020

Source and Description

Source: Provincial crude oil production compiled by the CER, CER’s Commodity Statistics

Description: The graph has two lines showing Canada’s crude oil production and export volumes from January 2010 to December 2020. In 2010, crude oil production reached 3.03 MMb/d (480.98 thousand cubic metres per day (103m3/d)) in November, with crude oil exports at 69% of production. In 2015, crude oil production reached 4.11 MMb/d (653.33 103m3/d) in August, with crude oil exports at 78% of production. In 2020, crude oil exports reached 5.03 MMb/d (798.92 103m3/d) in February, with crude oil exports at 82% of production.

Production has increased over the years because of improved technologies like steam assisted gravity drainage in the oil sands and horizontal wells in conventional fields. In 2020, despite the impact of COVID 19, Canada exported almost 3.7 MMb/d, which was around 82% of the 4.5 MMb/d of crude oil it produced.

Since 2010, exports from Canada have increased to the U.S. Midwest (PADD 2) and Gulf Coast (PADD 3) regions.Footnote2 PADD 2 is currently the largest market for Canada’s crude oil, taking 58% of exports in 2020. Meanwhile, increased refinery capacity for heavy crude oil and lower production from other global heavy oil producers has increased the demand for Canadian heavy oil in PADD 3. Exports from Canada to PADD 3 have grown from 13% of total crude oil exports in 2015 to 20% in 2020. PADD 3 can process approximately 9.9 MMb/dFootnote3 of oil, mainly heavy oil types, and is the largest refining market in the U.S.

stacked yellow and green oil barrels

Around 17% of the crude oil produced in Canada in 2020 was refined domestically. Additionally, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador imported additional quantities of crude oil to meet their demand for refined petroleum products. In 2020, those provinces imported just over 0.55 million barrels per day of crude oil.

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