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Heavy imbalance between supply and shipping capacity shown in new NEB report

Western Canada is producing significantly more oil than transportation networks can handle at present, according to the NEB.
Western Canada is producing significantly more oil than transportation networks can handle at present, according to the NEB. Flickr user wilsonhui; image used under Creative Commons license

Western Canada's oil supply is 365,000 barrels above the amount of oil flowing daily in existing pipelines, according to a new report on Western Canadian Crude Oil Supply, Markets, and Pipeline Capacity released by the National Energy Board (NEB). 

This report gives insight into the imbalance between supply and capacity to move crude oil to markets and factors that have contributed to a wider discount (known as a differential) for Canadian crude oil; it also describes how space is allocated on pipelines in Canada. 

"As Canada grapples with discounted oil prices and pipeline capacity not keeping pace with growth in oil production, the National Energy Board appreciates the opportunity to share our expertise with the Minister. We will examine current energy infrastructure to see if efficiencies can be gained in existing systems," explained Jean-Denis Charlebois, Chief Economist, National Energy Board.

Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi recently asked the NEB for advice on how to optimize oil transportation capacity on existing pipelines and rail. This report will serve as background information while the NEB prepares its advice to the Minister in February 2019, after consulting with a number of industry participants. 

The Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) is the major crude oil producing region in Canada and includes conventional crude oil and oilsands. 

Available takeaway capacity on existing pipeline systems is currently estimated at 3.95 million barrels per day (b/d). A supply of 4.153 million b/d of oil was available for export from the WCSB, but only an estimated 3.788 million b/d flowed in pipelines. 

Canada's crude oil is shipped primarily through pipeline systems but also moves by rail and truck. Crude-by-rail exports have hit a series of record highs in 2018 with the trend continuing in October 2018 at 327, 229 b/d, nearly 2.4 times higher than a year ago.

The NEB publishes a portfolio of products on energy supply, demand and infrastructure regularly as part of its ongoing market monitoring. 

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