Canadian Refinery Overview 2018 – Energy Market Assessment

Executive Summary

Canada is the world’s seventh largest crude oil producerFootnote 1 and has the world’s third largest crude oil reserves. It has a strong refining industry, ranking 11th in the world in capacity. Despite being a top ten producer of crude oil, and having a strong refining industry, Canada processes only a fraction of its own crude oil production. 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. Canadian refineries have imported significant volumes of crude oil, mostly light, because not all refineries have had access to western Canadian crude oil.

Refineries, including those in Canada, are generally located on major waterways, near crude oil production or near major population centres. Location is important because it determines both where a refinery sources its crude, and the type of crude oil it processes.

Canada has 14 full refineries and 2 asphalt refineries. Canada’s total refining capacity is 295 thousand cubic metres per day (103m3/d) or 1.9 million barrels per day (MMb/d) (Figure 3). 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).

Canadian refineries produce refined petroleum products (RPPs) including gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, heating oil and others. Canada’s RPP production is primarily for domestic consumption, with some exports mainly from the Atlantic refineries.

Refineries east of the Prairie Provinces process primarily conventional light crude oil. Refineries in western Canada process more oil sands crude than refineries in eastern Canada. The reversal of Enbridge Line 9, back to its original eastward flow, has connected western Canadian crude oil supply with Montreal refineries and allowed more to flow to Ontario. This was an important market development for both crude oil producers and refiners. It gave producers an additional market for their production and it gave refiners pipeline access to relatively less expensive western Canadian crude oil.

Although Canadian refineries are processing more Canadian crude than ever before, eastern Canadian refineries will still import crude oil to meet their refining needs. This will expose them to the international crude oil market, more so than refineries in western Canada.

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