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Updated June 2021

 

Figure S3.7 shows the historical and forecast of Alberta’s demand and disposition of marketable bitumen.

Demand

In 2020

The five operating refineries in Alberta had a total processing capacity of 86.1 thousand cubic metres per day (103 m3/d), or 542 thousand barrels per day (103 bbl/d) in 2020. Together, their utilization rate was 93.7 per cent, handling an estimated daily average of

  • 51.5 103 m3/d (324.2 103 bbl/d) of upgraded bitumen,
  • 8.2 103 m3/d (51.9 103 bbl/d) of nonupgraded bitumen,
  • 17.4 103 m3/d (109.2 103 bbl/d) of crude oil, and
  • 3.6 103 m3/d (22.5 103 bbl/d) of pentanes plus

The total estimated Alberta demand for upgraded and nonupgraded bitumen (which includes upgraded bitumen use and sales from upgrading and mining sites) was 67.2 103 m3/d (422.8 103 bbl/d) in 2020, a 3 per cent decline from 2019. Sturgeon started processing diluted bitumen in 2020. The heavy oil units became operational, and the refinery is now moving away from processing upgraded bitumen.

Forecast for 2021 to 2030

Alberta demand for upgraded and nonupgraded bitumen is forecast to increase to 77.5 103 m3/d (487.6 103 bbl/d) by 2030. Most of the growth in demand happens in the first years of the forecast. Increased throughput at the Sturgeon refinery and a return to historical utilization levels at other refineries account for the majority of demand growth. Upgraded bitumen is expected to continue to account for most of the total bitumen demand in the province.

Learn more about refineries in Alberta in the Plants and Facilities section.

Removals

In 2020

Of total oil removals in 2020,

  • 23 per cent was upgraded bitumen (115.8 103 m3/d or 729.0 103 bbl/d),
  • 48 per cent was nonupgraded bitumen (243.9 103 m3/d or 1534.6 103 bbl/d),
  • 10 per cent was crude oil (50.1 103 m3/d or 315.0 103 bbl/d), and
  • 19 per cent was pentanes plus (96.9 103 m3/d or 609.5 103 bbl/d).

Upgraded bitumen removals increased by 4 per cent despite lower production levels. The decline in Alberta demand was greater than the decline in production, leaving more upgraded volumes available for export. Nonupgraded removals declined by 7 per cent compared to a year earlier. This was driven by lower production levels and lower utilization at U.S. refineries, in addition to increased demand at the Sturgeon refinery.

Forecast for 2021 to 2030

Upgraded and nonupgraded removals are anticipated to increase by 2030, alongside production and pipeline capacity over the forecast period, while Alberta demand remains relatively stable.

The forecasted removals are

  • 14 per cent increase for upgraded bitumen, to 131.5 103 m3/d (827.7 103 bbl/d),
  • 53 per cent increase for nonupgraded bitumen, to 372.8 103 m3/d (2345.7 103 bbl/d),
  • 3 per cent increase for crude oil, to 51.6 103 m3/d (324.7 103 bbl/d), and
  • 59 per cent increase for pentanes plus, to 154.1 103 m3/d (969.5 103 bbl/d).

Upgraded and nonupgraded bitumen will continue to account for the majority of Alberta oil removals. Alberta’s crude bitumen removals are primarily sent to the U.S. by pipeline and rail.

Learn more about petroleum pipelines and rail transportation in Alberta in the Pipelines and Other Infrastructure section.

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