2.7 Energy trade


Energy exports have increased by 67.8% over the past 20 years (by energy content). These exports, which are far more substantial in size than imports, also differ in their composition. At 60.7% of the total, crude oil exports dominate and have more than tripled over the past 20 years, while natural gas exports have recently decreased subsequent to a production boost in the United States. The evolution of these trends is highly uncertain for the near future. Notably, the drastic drop in crude prices following the COVID-19 crisis, and its effect on American tight-oil production, could impact Canada’s exports in ways that are difficult to foresee at this time. 

Figure 2.2 also highlights the small amount of electricity exports in comparison to fossil fuels, despite a 34.4% increase in the former since 1999, even when accounting for the sudden 2018 decrease following unusually high levels in 2016 and 2017. After a slump, coal exports have now returned to 1999 levels.

Figure 2.3 – Energy exports #

Source: Statistics Canada 2021a; NRCAN 2021

Figure 2.4 – Energy imports #

Despite Canada’s sizeable energy production and exports, geographic constraints and variations in demand and costs mean that a substantial share of Canada’s energy needs are met through imports. Historically, imports have primarily gone to the central and eastern provinces, but changes in recent years have seen production in the western provinces absorb a much larger share of oil used in Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. This shift has considerably reduced the diversity of energy providers, especially as most of the recent imports have come from the United States (74% of energy imports in terms of value). In 2019, these imports amounted to 26% of Canadian consumption of crude-oil, 22% of natural gas consumption, 20% of coal consumption and 6% of petroleum products used in Canada (NRCAN 2021).

Natural gas has been the main driver of the 41.8% increase in imports since 1999, which have climbed from almost 0% to 30.2% of total imports. The import of refined petroleum products has significantly increased as well (+87.4%). Crude oil imports have fluctuated but have mainly remained stable during this period. However, coal’s share decreased from 18.6% to 5.7% of total imports. 

Finally, Table 2.5 provides trading numbers on biofuels. In spite of its land and agricultural sector, Canada is largely dependent on the US for 40 % of its needs. While no ethanol production is exported, geographical drivers for biodiesel demand have led to some trade as federal and provincial blending mandates are less demanding for this fuel.