A look at Canada's refining capacity and how we compare to the rest of the world
In 2015, Canada imported about 300,000 barrels per day (bbl/day) of refined products, mostly from the US. Despite producing over 4 million bbl/day of crude oil, Canada's refining capacity is only 2 million bbl/day, just shy of the 2.3 million bbl/day consumed throughout the country.
But oil companies aren't rushing to add capacity or build new refineries. Far from it. The number of operating refineries in Canada peaked at 45 in 1958 and has steadily declined ever since.
Paradoxally, peak refining capacity was reached in 1979 at 2.23 million bbl/day. Although the number of operating refineries is on a downward trend, refining capacity has held steady over the past 20 years and has even improved slightly over the last decade as companies move to expand and debottleneck existing operations.
That actually follows a similar trend seen around the world. Smaller, simpler refineries in developed nations are shutting down as oil consumption stagnates in places like Europe, Japan and even the US. Energy majors are building and expanding large complex facilities in developing countries to handle a wider mix of feedstock.
Overall, global refining capacity has been steadily increasing to keep pace with growing global consumption. But the picture looks different for individual countries.
So where are the world's newest refineries being built? Mostly China and, to a much lesser extent, India, Russia, Brazil and the Middle East.
And where are refineries being shutdown? You guessed it - Europe and Japan, two regions with stagnant economies, aging populations, declining gas consumption, high labour costs, complex regulations and old refineries that are far less profitable.
So overall, the world's refining capacity is shifting from developed countries to emerging markets.
Fortunately for Canada, major refining hubs in Asia and the Middle-East are too far to make gasoline imports profitable (at least on the East Coast). And an abundant supply of crude oil, light and heavy from both sides of the border, will likely prevent a major decline in North America's refining capacity.
More details on the capacity and location of Canada's 17 oil refineries can be found on the "Projects" menu.