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US crude imports fall while Canada’s import supply share rises

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Although overall US crude oil imports have been declining since 2005, crude oil imports from Canada have been increasing. As of August, Canada provided 45% of all crude oil imports to the US, almost three times as much as all Persian Gulf countries combined, according to the EIA.

The US has been the primary destination for Canada's crude oil exports since the early 2000s. Based on data through the first half of this year from Canada's National Energy Board, 99% of Canada's crude oil exports were sent to the US. More than half of these volumes went to petroleum refineries in the Midwest (Petroleum Administration for Defense District, PADD 2).

Import data from the US Department of Commerce specify the nearest port of entry but not the mode of transit used to import this crude oil. Based on entry port data and pipeline locations, it is reasonable to expect that most of these imports came through pipeline systems such as Enbridge Mainline, Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain, Spectra Express, and TransCanada Keystone. A smaller portion, about 3%, was transported by rail.

Within the US, the regional destination of crude oil sent by rail is different from other modes of shipping crude oil. While about 65% of Canadian crude oil imports by pipeline and other modes not including rail are shipped to refineries in the US Midwest (PADD 2), imports from Canada by rail go primarily to Gulf Coast (PADD 3) and East Coast (PADD 1) refineries.

The US first imported crude oil by rail from Canada in October 2010, with the first full year of shipments by rail totaling 2000 bpd in 2011. Rail shipments continued to increase through 2014, when they reached 140 000 bpd, but they have decreased in 2015. Because transporting crude oil by rail is generally more expensive than transporting it by pipeline, rail is used only when appropriate cost differentials exist or where pipeline infrastructure is insufficient.

Adapted from press release by Rosalie Starling

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