According to the US department of energy, Canada is listed as the worlds 15th largest net exporter of oil.
You would think that since we are such a large exporter of oil that we wouldn’t need imports to satisfy our oil needs. Unfortunately that isn’t the case. A large portion of the eastern half of Canada uses oil imported from other countries. Several refineries including the refineries in Saint John, New Brunswick, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and several in Quebec rely heavily (if not exclusively) on imported crude oil.
From Stats Canada, for 2006 : Total crude oil supply was 103,974.1 thousand cubic meters with 49,284.9 or over 47% of that being imported. Wow! Large imports of crude were purchased from Algeria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Venezuela, the UK and Norway. With the proposed Irving refinery in production, that import figure would be well over 50%. There is a case to be made that a fraction of those oil imports are refined in Canada and subsequently exported to the United States. In effect this reduces the US’s listed OPEC imports and reliance on Middle East oil.
Missing pipeline links
The chief reason for these imports of oil while there is a large amount of crude out west is lack of transportation. There is currently no pipeline connecting Western and Central Canada to Eastern Canada as all of the pipelines are currently used to transport oil and other products south to the major markets of the US.
Because of this fact, we are at the whims of world markets and supply and demand. If war was to break out and international shipments of crude were halted (or diverted to another neighbouring country), we would have some serious issues.
One way to overcome this problem is to build an oil pipeline into eastern Canada. Not only would this give us energy security if a crisis were to ever occur, but it would also allow us to keep our dollars in Canada. An east-west pipeline connection could also alleviate some supply issues which can and do occur. I realize that due to the relatively small size of the eastern market, the cost of the pipeline would not be financially viable but if we examine it from a national security and risk management perspective, it could be justified. It also allows Canada to be truly independent with regards to oil and petroleum supply.
This east west oil supply issue has been around for a long time as can be seen in this 1974 article from Time magazine. More recent articles have also been written on the subject. I I don’t expect anything to happen in the short term with regards to this issue since the West is having enough problems getting pipeline capacity to export oil to the US. Hopefully it won’t come to a crisis point for people to realize how dependent we are on foreign oil.