Canadian Manufacturing

Canada has strong refining sector yet processes a fraction of its own crude: NEB

National Energy Board's first-ever Canadian refinery market assessment says despite Canadian crude oil production, Central and Eastern Canadian refineries import crude oil to meet their refining needs

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Suncor Energy Inc.’s Montreal oil refinery. PHOTO Suncor

CALGARY—Canada has a strong refining industry but processes only a fraction of its own crude oil production, according to the National Energy Board’s (NEB) inaugural Canadian Refinery Overview–Energy Market Assessment report.

The refinery overview states that only 30 per cent of Canadian crude oil is processed by Canadian refineries. This is mainly due to the size of Canada’s refining industry compared to the resource size, the location of its refineries and the lack of cross-country pipeline connectivity.

Most of the refineries in Canada, built when there were abundant supplies of light crude oil, were not configured to process growing volumes of heavy crude oil from the oil sands. As a result, significant volumes of crude oil, mostly light, is imported to Central and Eastern Canadian refineries.

Canada’s production of refined petroleum products, which includes gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and home heating oil, is primarily for domestic consumption, with some exports mainly from Atlantic Canadian refineries.

Although Canadian refineries are processing more Canadian crude than ever before, Central and Eastern Canadian refineries will still import crude oil to meet their refining needs.

  • Canada is the world’s seventh largest crude oil producer, has the world’s third largest crude oil reserves, and its refining industry ranks 11th in the world in capacity.
  • Canada has 14 full refineries and two asphalt refineries with a total refining capacity of 295 thousand cubic metres per day (103m3/d) or 1.9 million barrels per day (MMb/d).
  • Quebec and Atlantic Canada have the most refining capacity at 124 103m3/d (782 thousand barrels per day (Mb/d)), followed by Western Canada at 109 103m3/d (683 Mb/d) and Ontario at 62 103m3/d (390 Mb/d).
  • Western Canadian refineries process more oil sands crude than refineries in Eastern Canada. Eastern Canadian refineries process primarily conventional light crude oil.

The National Energy Board is an independent federal regulator of several parts of Canada’s energy industry.

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