I Want You to (Refine) Me, Part 3 - Eastern Canadian Refineries Shift To More Domestic Slates

Canada, like the U.S., is in the enviable position of having vast crude oil reserves as well as a robust domestic refining sector capable of satisfying national needs for gasoline, diesel, and other petroleum products. Refiners in both countries have also benefited in recent years from increasing oil production within their borders. Growth in the Alberta oil sands in particular has given refineries in both Western and Eastern Canada increased access to domestically sourced bitumen and upgraded synthetic crude oil. Today, we continue our series on Canada’s refining sector with a look at the refineries in the eastern half of the nation, and their increasing use of Canadian oil.

As we discussed in Part 1 of this series, development of immense conventional oil reserves and unconventional bitumen reserves from the oil sands has enabled Canada’s 17 refineries to steadily reduce their dependence on imported crude from faraway sources. In fact, the U.S. is now almost the exclusive provider of Canada’s remaining import needs. In Part 2, we delved into the refineries in Western Canada, which are supplied entirely by in-region crude oil production. This time around we will look more closely at refiners in the eastern half of Canada. The last time we examine this particular market was quite some time ago, in Take a Pipe on the East Side, where we discussed what were then pending pipeline expansions from Western Canada into Ontario and points east and how these were going to benefit refiners in Quebec. Well, a lot has happened since then, so we need to catch up and more fully review the refineries that stretch from southern Ontario to the Atlantic provinces.

Like many refineries located near major demand centers in other parts of the world, many of those in eastern Canada are sited close to some of Canada’s largest cities. Having passed through their own phase of rapid expansion after World War II and eventual consolidation after the demand boom of the 1960s and ‘70s, the region by 2020 had settled down to a set of refineries with a combined capacity of only 1.22 MMb/d (numbered red diamonds in Figure 1). The capacities of the four refineries in Ontario (#10 to #13) total 402 Mb/d, while the two in Quebec (#14 and #15) sum to 372 Mb/d, and the remaining two in Atlantic Canada (#16 and #17) add up to 450 Mb/d — more than in Ontario with its much greater population. Note that our numbering scheme continues on from the nine Western Canada refineries that we discussed in detail in Part 2.

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