Ottawa, industry celebrate as oilsands victory in EU made official

Oilsands crude can now be sent to Europe without a “dirty oil” label, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a parade of bitumen-filled tankers will be crossing the Atlantic any time soon.

CALGARY — Oilsands crude can now be sent to Europe without a “dirty oil” label, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a parade of bitumen-filled tankers will be crossing the Atlantic any time soon.

In December, oilsands exporters won a narrow victory in the European Parliament over its fuel quality directive. On Friday, it became official.

The original version of the directive singled out oilsands crude as more carbon intensive, but the revised one voted on in December didn’t include that stigma. As of Friday, the measure has been accepted by the European Union without any amendments.

The matter was the target of a well-funded Canadian lobbying campaign for more than two years.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford told a news conference in Calgary that he “couldn’t be more pleased.”

“From where we’re standing, this represents an incredible opportunity to significantly increase volume of crude to the European markets,” he said.

Tim McMillan, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said he’s glad the EU — an 18-million barrel a day market — won’t be discriminating against oilsands crude.

But since most refineries in Europe are geared to handle light crude rather than the heavy stuff that comes out of the oilsands, it’s not likely Canada will supply a large chunk of that in the short term.

“But we think that this is a very good signal worldwide as we look to expand our markets,” said McMillan.

Tankers of Canadian crude have been landing on European shores, but so far it’s been in small amounts.

TransCanada Corp. is proposing a pipeline, called Energy East, that would send more than a million barrels a day across Canada to the East Coast, enabling tanker shipments across the Atlantic.

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