Storage tanks are shown at the Marathon Petroleum Corp. refinery in Detroit on April 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Paul Sancya

Storage tanks are shown at the Marathon Petroleum Corp. refinery in Detroit on April 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Paul Sancya

U.S. oil comprised 77 per cent of Canada’s foreign oil imports last year: regulator

U.S. absorbed 96 per cent of Canadian oil exports last year

WASHINGTON — Canada is growing ever more reliant on imported American oil, a new report from the country’s energy regulator suggests, putting a counter-intuitive spin on the fierce debate about cross-border pipelines and energy independence.

The United States provided nearly four out of every five barrels of imported crude in 2020, a year when global demand for fossil fuels was badly dented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest data from the Canada Energy Regulator shows.

Some 77 per cent of Canadian imports came from the U.S., up from 72 per cent in 2019 and a paltry six per cent in 2010, before a dramatic spike in domestic American oil and gas production over the last decade.

“We do often think of the pipeline relationship between the two countries as being one of, ‘Canada produces and exports to the U.S.,’” said Darren Christie, the regulator’s chief economist.

“This is specifically showing that there is another side to that coin, which is that we also import production from the U.S.”

Close observers of Canada-U.S. trade flows, particularly those in the energy sector, might not be overly surprised by how much American crude oil has been travelling north in recent years.

The U.S. absorbed a whopping 96 per cent of Canadian oil exports last year, the bulk of it heavy crude, more than half of it to the U.S. Midwest, which has been ground zero for pipeline disputes for much of the last 15 years.

But a massive surge in U.S. oil and gas production, fuelled in part by new extraction technology like fracking and horizontal drilling, has made it a convenient source of feedstock for refineries in both countries, Christie said.

“Their crude oil production has more than doubled in the last 10 years, which is quite a remarkable increase,” he said.

“That creates a massive supply push out of the U.S. And if we are just north and had previously been importing some crudes from around the world, it’s a natural market for a lot of that increased production out of the U.S.”

While foreign oil has long been a part of the Canadian energy mix, the latest numbers — along with the proportion of imports from the U.S. — casts the ongoing controversy over pipeline links between the two countries in a surprising new light.

On his first day in the Oval Office, President Joe Biden cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline expansion, which would have ferried an additional 800,000 barrels a day of Alberta oilsands bitumen to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Michigan is currently in court with Enbridge Inc. over Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s efforts to shut down Line 5, a vital cross-border energy link that crosses the Great Lakes beneath the ecologically sensitive Straits of Mackinac.

The pipeline is widely billed by its defenders as a critical piece of infrastructure that feeds key refineries in Sarnia, Ont., and provides more than half of the propane needed to heat homes in Michigan alone, to say nothing of neighbouring states.

Canada has vowed to strenuously defend Line 5, with Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan insisting last month that its operation is “non-negotiable.” Ottawa has yet to say if it will take part in the ongoing court case.

Protesters in Minnesota are also doing their best to disrupt Enbridge’s ongoing $10-billion upgrade of Line 3, another key link in the cross-border chain that connects to Line 5 at a facility in Superior, Wisc.

The dependence on U.S. oil is especially high in Atlantic Canada, a region of the country where pipelines are often not an option. Imports to refineries there have increased tenfold over the last decade.

While Canada’s energy exports to the U.S. are more than six times what moves in the other direction, the interdependence between the two countries is dramatic, both from the standpoint of energy supply and economic impact, the American Petroleum Institute said in a report last week.

Over the past 10 years, the value of petroleum liquids traded between the two has measured as high as 20 per cent of all Canada-U.S. trade. Up to 90 per cent of oil refined in Eastern Canada travelled either through or from the U.S., the API said.

“Trade volumes in both directions are dominated by crude oil,” it said.

“Crude oil trade growth has been primarily driven by heavy crude oil shipped from Western Canada to the U.S. Midwest and Gulf Coast by pipeline and rail, and light crude oil from North Dakota and Texas shipped to Eastern Canada by pipeline and marine vessel.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2021.

Albertaoil and gasUnited States

Just Posted

Ella Stoner, five, is ready to cut off her hair and donate it to A Child’s Voice Foundation. (Photo by Lauren Stoner Photography)
Central Alberta girl to donate her ‘princess hair’ to A Child’s Voice Foundation

A five-year-old girl from Rimbey has never had a haircut before. Now,… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr
Central Alberta MLAs comment on UCP members kicked out of caucus

A pair of central Alberta MLAs have commented on the two United… Continue reading

Contributed photo
Johanna Hannaford: Central Alberta designer offers inclusive clothing

By Stephanie Rhodes Local designer Johanna Hannaford’s inclusive clothing creations are smashing… Continue reading

Red life-ring with splash
Started from the bottom: How a family business started and grew in central Alberta

By Carina Moran We started our business in the basement of our… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Zack MacEwen (71), Travis Boyd (72) and Jimmy Vesey (24) celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during third period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 15, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Big third period lifts Vancouver Canucks to 4-1 victory over Edmonton Oilers

Canucks 4 Oilers 1 EDMONTON — Matthew Highmore scored twice in the… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy
Canada’s vaccine rollout operation won’t miss a beat with new military leader: expert

DARTMOUTH — The sudden departure of the senior military officer in charge… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec premier argues province has power to amend constitution in letter to Trudeau

MONTREAL — Quebec Premier François Legault has written a letter to Prime… Continue reading

A demonstrator stands in front of riot police officers during a banned protest in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in Paris, Saturday, May, 15, 2021. Marches in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were being held Saturday in a dozen French cities, but the focus was on Paris where riot police countered organizers who said they would defy a ban on the protest, ordered on the grounds that it risked turning violent. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
Police fire tear gas on banned Palestinian march in Paris

PARIS (AP) — French riot police fired tear gas and used water… Continue reading

Photo by The Associated Press
NYC Pride parade bans police; Gay officers ‘disheartened’

NEW YORK (AP) — Organizers of New York City’s Pride events said… Continue reading

Welcoming cowboy boots at the historic and colourful Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne near Drumheller, Alta., on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. The bar and hotel are up for sale. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘It was a going concern’: Remaining bar and hotel in Alberta coal ghost town for sale

WAYNE, Alta. — Built during the First World War, it survived the… Continue reading

A letter from a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 is shown in an undated handout photo. A team of researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to solve the mystery of whether a letter in a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 was indeed from a young victim of Titanic shipwreck or simply a hoax. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, N. Beaudry, UQAR *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Real or hoax? Quebec scholars probe mystery letter allegedly from Titanic passenger

MONTREAL — Researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to… Continue reading

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau takes part in a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication between the federal Transport Department and the Canadian Transportation Agency regarding passenger refunds throws into question the independence of the CTA, an arm’s-length body. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Emails reveal close communication between government, transport regulator on refunds

OTTAWA — Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication… Continue reading

Most Read