Canada’s oil sands producers are now able to export to Asian countries via a Gulf Coast link. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Canada’s oil sands producers are now able to export to Asian countries via a Gulf Coast link. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Canada’s oil sands producers were able to export a record amount of crude to overseas markets thanks to a new link to the US Gulf Coast.

The recent reversal of Marathon Pipe Line’s Capline pipeline is sending oil sands crude produced in landlocked Alberta to export terminals on the Gulf Coast where it can be shipped to other countries. Exports to Asia were at their highest level, with India the leading destination by far, followed by China and then South Korea, according to oil analytics firm Kpler. 

The development marks a sea change for Canada’s oil industry. The country holds the third highest crude reserves in the world, but exports to markets beyond the US have been limited due to a lack of infrastructure.  Canada has faced severe opposition from activists for building pipelines from the oil sands region to British Columbia’s Pacific Coast. Additionally, the Biden administration in 2021 blocked the Keystone XL pipeline, effectively shutting Canada’s crude out of the global market.

“Looking ahead, Canadian crude exports out of the US Gulf should continue to show strength,” said Matt Smith, oil analyst at Kpler. “With Venezuelan crude exports having tanked in recent years, and now with the prospect of Mexican crude being taken off the market, Canadian crude appears to be one of the leading beneficiaries of these changing dynamics.”

Shipments of heavy crude jumped to more than 266,000 barrels a day in December after averaging over 180,000 through the year, according to Kpler. Canadian crude exports from the US Gulf Coast averaged just 25,000 barrels a day in 2018, before rising to average around 70,000 in both 2019 and 2020.

In October, overall Canadian shipments of oil to the US jumped to more than 4-million barrels a day, the highest volume since the start of the year thanks in part to the start-up of a long-delayed Canadian pipeline.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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