Why does Canada export crude oil?

In a world where close to one billion people still have no access to electricity, Canada’s abundant oil and gas resources allow us to access affordable energy to fuel our everyday lives, and to earn export revenues that benefit all Canadians.

Just consider the bounty of our crude oil… Canada has the third largest crude oil reserves on the planet. We are the fourth largest producer of oil in the world. And, we are the world’s fourth largest exporter of oil.

The primary reason we export crude oil is… we produce more oil than we consume.

Canada produced 4.6 million barrels per day of crude oil in 2018. In that same year, we exported 3.6 million barrels per day. And, we consumed about 1.5 million barrels per day. Source: Natural Resources Canada. (Note: A little more than one-third of the oil consumed domestically comes from foreign sources.)

In this week’s blog post, we look at Canada’s oil exports.


Five things to know about Canadian oil exports


1. Our main customer is the United States.

96 per cent of Canada’s oil exports go to the U.S. In 2018, the total value of Canadian oil exports to the U.S. was $86.7 billion. Canadian crude amounted to 48 per cent of total U.S. crude oil imports, which made us their largest foreign supplier of crude oil that year.

2. Some U.S. companies operating in Canada have refineries at home with high demand for product.

Canadian crude oil accounted for 22 per cent of all the oil processed in U.S. refineries in 2018. Source: Natural Resources Canada.

3. Proximity of midwestern states to Canadian oil supplies.

The U.S. Midwest is the largest and most easily accessible market for Canada’s oil. U.S. refineries have the capability to process the heavy crude oil that Canada exports.

4. Canada needs more pipelines to export our oil (and gas).

Canadian crude oil is abundant, but largely landlocked. Having the U.S. as our primary customer, with no other place to sell our oil, leaves Canadian crude oil selling at a large discount against North American benchmark crude. That’s why the country needs more pipeline infrastructure. New pipeline projects to tidewater will enable us to access markets in Asia Pacific, where we can earn a higher price for every barrel of oil.

5. Canada also exports refined petroleum products to the U.S.

According to the Canadian Fuels Association, Canada’s most heavily exported refined product to the U.S. is gasoline, which accounted for 65.7 million barrels in 2016. Gasoline exports from Canada’s eastern refiners generally feed the transportation energy demands of the U.S. North East economy.


All Canadians benefit from the export of Canadian oil… whether it’s funding for health care, education, or a variety of other important services that give us one of the highest living standards in the world. That’s why it’s so important that we continue building pipelines to export our oil (and gas).

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