Canada’s crude oil imports fell by 20 percent in 2020 due to lower demand in the pandemic, but the United States further cemented its position as top oil supplier to Canada, supplying nearly four out of every five barrels of oil, the Canada Energy Regulator said on Wednesday.
Canada is a major crude oil producer and exports much more oil than it imports, almost exclusively to the United States. Yet, Canada imports oil from abroad to feed refineries in its Atlantic Provinces, Quebec, and Ontario.
“Less than one third of Canadian crude oil is processed by Canadian refineries for a variety of reasons, such as lack of pipeline access to domestic supplies, specific product requirements of refineries, or because it costs less to import,” the regulator said in its analysis.
Last year, total Canadian crude oil imports plunged by 20 percent annually to 555,000 barrels per day (bpd), down from 693,000 bpd in 2019, because the pandemic crushed demand for fuels.
As imports dropped in volumes, the share of imports from the United States jumped to 77 percent of all imports in 2020 from 72 percent in 2019.
The second-biggest oil supplier to Canada was the world’s top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, with a 13-percent share of Canadian oil imports, followed by Nigeria with 4 percent of imports and Norway with 3 percent, the Canada Energy Regulator said.
“The source for Canada’s crude oil imports has changed dramatically over the past decade. The United States has moved from a bit player in 2010 to a major supplier today, with the majority of oil imported into Canada coming from our southern neighbour,” Darren Christie, Chief Economist at the Canada Energy Regulator, said in a statement.
The surge in U.S. crude oil production in recent years was the key driver of the U.S. becoming the top provider—by a wide margin—of foreign oil to Canada.
This year, demand for oil in Canada is returning, and with it, optimism in the Canadian oil sector.
“But the million-dollar question now in terms of what’s going to happen with demand is really what’s going to happen with the pandemic,” Canada Energy Regulator’s Christie told CBC in an interview.