Canada Makes a Tiny Dent in Its Oil Dependence on America

Mar 9, 2019, by Robert Tuttle

Canada’s oil producers made a small dent in their near-total dependence on the U.S. market after a surge of shipments flowed to China and the U.K. last year.

The holder of the world’s third-largest crude reserves sent 3.43 million barrels a day, or 96.4 percent of its oil exports, to its southern neighbor, the smallest percentage in data stretching back to 1988, according to Statistics Canada. Shipments to China almost doubled to a still-minuscule 20,000 barrels a day and crude bound for the U.K. nearly tripled to 31,500 barrels a day.

Exports to Europe rose after production ramped up from Exxon Mobil Corp.’s new Hebron platform off the Newfoundland coast and tankers left the Vancouver area for China in the second half of the year. Canadian oil companies and Alberta’s government have pushed to ship more crude to Asia and markets other than the U.S., arguing that the country would get a better price for its crude with more customers.

Canadian crude prices plunged last year relative to world benchmarks amid a glut caused by too few pipelines, a situation that grew so dire that Alberta’s government imposed mandatory production curtailments.

The surge in exports happened even as the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, a key export project to the Pacific coast, faced new delays after a court ruling forced the federal government to reopen the regulatory process, pushing back the project by at least a year.

“You are going to need some more pipeline capacity to the water” to make further gains in breaking Canada’s dependence on the U.S., Sandy Fielden, director of oil and products research at Morningstar, said by phone from Austin, Texas.

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