Sunday, November 27, 2011

Should Keystone reach farther east? (Energy Bulletin)

Why isn't the Keystone pipeline extension going to eastern Canada?

by Kurt Cobb

So much of the discussion surrounding an extension of the existing Keystone oil pipeline system which spans Canada and the United States assumes that the growing production of bitumen (it's not really oil) from the Canadian tar sands is either going to the United States or to China. But the following question ought to be an obvious one to anyone who knows that Canadaimports 43 percent of the oil it consumes: Why isn't there any discussion of a new pipeline to eastern Canada where most of the oil consumed is imported?

Perhaps I should back up a bit for those who are scratching their heads because they know that Canada is a large oil exporter. Canada is indeed a large oil exporter. First, let's note that Canada's total petroleum production was 2.9 million barrels per day in 2010. Canadians consumed only about 1.8 million barrels per day that year. So, how is it possible that 43 percent of their needs had to be imported? (The number was 65 percent for the provinces from Ontario eastward.) The answer is straightforward once you get a glimpse of the North American oil pipeline system. Notice that the one lone pipeline going from Montreal to Sarnia is flowing away from eastern Canada. (Click on the map to see a larger version.)

Source: National Energy Board (Canada)

Most of Canada's oil wealth is found in the western part of the country. And, nearly all of the pipelines run north/south, exporting much of that oil into the United States. When one asks why this is so, the answer given is that this is what has proven to be most economical. Western Canada exports its oil to the United States. Eastern Canada imports most of its oil from abroad. That works fine until there is a disruption in supply. This year, in particular, ought to give Canadians cause for worry given all the social unrest in the Middle East and the civil war in Libya which resulted in substantial output losses.


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