Does Canada have enough refining capacity?

Before we dive into talking about refining capacity, let’s first answer the question… why would the average Canadian care about this?

We’d care because refining is what turns crude oil into products we use every day. So, if you’ve filled your car or camper with gasoline or diesel, played a video game, lit a camping stove, purchased goods in a store or online, you’ve benefitted from refined petroleum products.

“We’ve been refining petroleum products in Canada since 1871 when the first refinery opened in Ontario, near Sarnia,” says Rob Hoffman, the Canadian Fuel Association’s Director of Government and Stakeholder Relations. “Today, we have 16 refineries and they make a vast range of products – much more than just gasoline and diesel.”

Because these products are important to our everyday lives, and to our country’s economic health, some people wonder… does Canada have enough refineries?


Here are a few quick facts on Canada’s refining capacity


  • Canada is self-sufficient in refined petroleum products. In fact, we make enough to supply our own domestic needs, and we export some, primarily to the United States.
  • Refined products include aviation fuel, asphalt for roads, propane and butanes, kerosene and stove oil. Also, they include feedstocks for making plastic, which eventually become medical supplies, household items and much more.
  • Every day, pipelines safely move most of Canada’s refined petroleum products to get them to customers.

Canadian refining capacity

Would refining Canada’s crude oil before shipping it to market help free up pipeline capacity?


It’s not that simple. And, there are a variety of reasons, including…

Different markets need different fuels. For instance, cars in Europe run mostly on diesel, whereas in the U.S., they use relatively little diesel for passenger cars. It would be challenging to refine and tailor the specific amounts and types of fuel needed for various locations. So, we supply refiners with crude oil. That way, they can make the products each market requires.

We must give our customers what they want. Most of Canada’s oil customers want our crude product. Our main customer is the U.S. and they have their own refineries, which, like us, they would like to keep operating at a high rate. And if we didn’t supply them with crude oil, someone else would.


What about emissions from this industry?


“The industry works with governments to improve environmental performance continuously,” says Hoffman. “Our strict codes of practice have had a significant impact on reducing both refining and vehicle fuel emissions.”

Canada’s fuel refining industry supplies us with the energy we rely on to fuel our everyday activities. And there’s more than enough – with the high environmental standards Canadians expect – to meet domestic demand.

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