More Canadian crude than ever is heading overseas

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But many of the crude oil tankers aren’t leaving from Canada’s shores

Deborah JaremkoCanada’s relationship with the United States, as virtually its only customer for oil exports, has finally begun to break, according to a leading energy analyst.

More volumes than ever of Canadian oil are heading overseas, but many of the tankers aren’t leaving from Canada’s shores. The oil is being “re-exported,” that is, sent to the U.S. by pipeline or rail and then loaded for international markets from terminals on the U.S. Gulf Coast. 

“It looks like Canada’s crude oil exports are finally showing off their stuff and stepping out on the town,” wrote Martin King, senior analyst with RBN Energy, in a recent report.

“This year, much stronger international demand has sent re-export volumes to record highs.”

Canadian crude oil
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Since the 1950s, Canada has been exporting crude oil to overseas markets through the Trans Mountain pipeline, but King notes those volumes have generally been “very modest” at under 100,000 barrels per day.

That’s expected to change with the completion of the Trans Mountain Expansion, adding up to 500,000 barrels per day of additional international export capacity, King said.

This will give Canadian oil producers something they’ve long been waiting for – options for sending their crude to growing markets overseas.

Citing U.S. Census Bureau data, King said that an average 130,000 barrels per day of Canadian heavy oil was re-exported from the U.S. Gulf Coast last year.

So far this year, re-exports averaged 200,000 barrels per day, topping 300,000 barrels per day in March, underlining strong demand from customers outside the U.S., including China, India and Spain. 

The rise in Gulf Coast re-exports is thanks to increased pipeline access following the completion of Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Project in 2021, as well as additional access on other Enbridge and TC Energy pipelines, King said.

The Russia/Ukraine war and OPEC+ crude production cuts have also caused importing countries like China to “look further afield” for oil, he said.

According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), total American oil exports have surged amid the shifting oil flows.

In 2021, the United States exported an average of 2.9 million barrels of oil per day. In 2022 this increased to 3.6 million barrels per day, and so far this year has averaged nearly four million barrels per day.

Despite increased investment in renewable energy sources, world oil consumption this year is at a record 102 million barrels per day, according to the International Energy Agency.

Deborah Jaremko is director of content for the Canadian Energy Centre, a Troy Media Editorial Content Provider Partner.

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By Deborah Jaremko

Deborah Jaremko leads content development for the Canadian Energy Centre, an independent provincial corporation that is primarily supported by the Government of Alberta’s industry-funded Technology, Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) fund. Deborah is the former editor of jwnenergy.com and oilsands editor for the Daily Oil Bulletin. She was editor of Oilsands Review magazine from its founding in 2006 to its close in 2017.

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