Canada may be the fourth largest producer and third largest exporter of oil in the world, but it has one sole customer of its oil—the United States.
At the end of last month, Canada took a step toward ensuring that its oil would have an export outlet to the world’s fastest-growing energy market, Asia.
Analysts believe that the federal government stepping in to save the Trans Mountain expansion project has boosted the chances that the pipeline will be built and give Canada an export outlet from the Pacific Coast to the Asian markets. The industry is cautiously optimistic, but some companies say that Canada must do more to level the playing field for its oil.
Last year, Canada’s crude oil exports increased by 6.5 percent annually to 3.3 million bpd. Of those, exports to destinations other than the U.S. accounted for just 0.8 percent of all, according to data by the National Energy Board (NEB).
Due to congested takeaway capacity and lack of enough pipelines to either the Pacific or the Atlantic Coasts, Canada’s oil is currently priced at a huge discount to the U.S. benchmark. The discount at which Western Canadian Select (WCS)—the benchmark price of oil from Canada’s oil sands delivered at Hardisty, Alberta—trades relative to West Texas Intermediate (WTI) has been US$20, and at times US$30 a barrel this year.
Fierce opposition in British Columbia has forced Kinder Morgan to reconsider its commitment to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline that would increase the daily capacity of the pipeline to 890,000 bpd from 300,000 bpd. So the Government of Canada reached an agreement with Kinder Morgan last month to buy the Trans Mountain Expansion Project and related pipeline and terminal assets for US$3.5 billion (C$4.5 billion).
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