CER analysis shows the U.S. continues to be major supplier of oil to Canada while imports dropped in 2020

The United States supplied nearly four out of every five barrels of oil imported into Canada in 2020 while crude imports fell 20 per cent due to lower demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the latest analysis from the Canada Energy Regulator (CER).

Imports of crude oil decreased to 555,000 barrels per day (b/d), down from 693,000 b/d in 2019 with 77 per cent of total crude imports coming from the U.S. in 2020, up from 72 per cent in 2019. Of the remaining crude imports, 13 per cent came from Saudi Arabia, four per cent from Nigeria, three per cent from Norway, and the remainder from several other countries.

While Canada exports nearly 6.5 times more oil than it imports, it still relies on oil imports to feed refineries in the Atlantic Provinces, Quebec, and Ontario. Less than one third of Canadian crude oil is processed by Canadian refineries for a variety of reasons, such as lack of pipeline access to domestic supplies, specific product requirements of refineries, or because it costs less to import.

Most of the oil Canada imports is transported by marine tanker and pipeline, with small volumes being imported by rail.

The CER produces neutral and fact-based energy analysis to inform the energy conversation in Canada. Market Snapshots are part of a portfolio of publications on energy supply, demand and infrastructure that the CER publishes regularly as part of its ongoing market monitoring.

Quick Facts

  • The total cost of imported oil fell 40 per cent over the previous year to $11.5 billion, reflecting the lower volumes and decline in global crude prices.
  • Imports into Newfoundland and Labrador decreased from 106 Mb/d to 29 Mb/d in 2020, and all came from the U.S. while costs decreased to $77.87 per barrel.
  • Imports into New Brunswick decreased in 2020 to 245 Mb/d from 278 Mb/d, half of which came from the U.S. while costs decreased to $58.89 per barrel.
  • Imports into Quebec decreased from 203 Mb/d to 153 Mb/d in 2020, and all came from the U.S. while costs decreased to $52.92 per barrel.
  • Imports into Ontario decreased from 97 Mb/d to 43 Mb/d, and all came from the U.S. in 2020. Costs decreased to $53.37 per barrel.

The source for Canada’s crude oil imports has changed dramatically over the past decade,” said Darren Christie, chief economist, CER. “The United States has moved from a bit player in 2010 to a major supplier today, with the majority of oil imported into Canada coming from our southern neighbour.”

The Canada Energy Regulator (CER) works to keep energy moving safely across the country. We review energy development projects and share energy information, all while enforcing some of the strictest safety and environmental standards in the world. To find out how the CER is working for you visit us online or connect on social media.

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