Updated May 2022
Figure S3.7 shows the historical and forecast of Alberta's demand and disposition of marketable bitumen.
The five operating refineries in Alberta had a total processing capacity of 86.1 thousand cubic metres per day (103 m3/d) or 541.8 thousand barrels per day (103 bbl/d) in 2021. Their combined utilization rate was 95 per cent, handling an estimated daily average of
- 52.4 103 m3/d (329.7 103 bbl/d) of upgraded bitumen,
- 10.8 103 m3/d (67.7 103 bbl/d) of nonupgraded bitumen,
- 17.9 103 m3/d (112.7 103 bbl/d) of crude oil, and
- 0.9 103 m3/d (5.6 103 bbl/d) of pentanes plus.
The total estimated Alberta demand in 2021 for upgraded and nonupgraded bitumen (which includes upgraded bitumen use and sales from upgrading and mines) was 70.8 103 m3/d (445.5 103 bbl/d), a 5.4 per cent increase from 2020. The Sturgeon refinery started processing diluted bitumen in 2020, with 2021 marking its first full year of production. The refinery is now moving away from processing upgraded bitumen.
Forecast for 2022 to 2031
Alberta demand for upgraded and nonupgraded bitumen is forecast to increase to 77.5 103 m3/d (487.8 103 bbl/d) by 2031. Most of the growth in demand will happen in the first years of the forecast. Increased throughput at the Sturgeon refinery and a return to historical utilization levels at other refineries accounts for most of the 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.
The breakdown of total oil removals in 2021 was as follows:
- 22 per cent was upgraded bitumen (122.0 103 m3/d or 767.7 103 bbl/d)
- 49 per cent was nonupgraded bitumen (274.7 103 m3/d or 1728.7 103 bbl/d)
- 9 per cent was crude oil (51.6 103 m3/d or 325.0 103 bbl/d)
- 20 per cent was pentanes plus as diluent (110.8 103 m3/d or 697.3 103 bbl/d)
Upgraded bitumen removals increased by 5.3 per cent as synthetic crude oil production in the province bounced back from the decline experienced in 2020. Nonupgraded removals increased by 12.2 per cent compared with 2020. This increase was driven by the significant recovery in nonupgraded bitumen production in 2021 and partially offset by higher domestic demand due to increased activity at the Sturgeon refinery.
Forecast for 2022 to 2031
Upgraded and nonupgraded removals are expected to increase by 2031, alongside production and pipeline capacity over the forecast period, while Alberta's demand remains relatively stable.
The following are the forecasted removals in 2031 and their per cent changes relative to 2021 levels:
- upgraded bitumen 138.7 103 m3/d (873.1 103 bbl/d) (14 per cent increase)
- nonupgraded bitumen 371.8 103 m3/d (2339.6 103 bbl/d) (35 per cent increase)
- crude oil 57.9 103 m3/d (364.4 103 bbl/d) (12 per cent increase)
- pentanes plus as diluent 150.0 103 m3/d (943.9 103 bbl/d) (35 per cent increase)
Upgraded and nonupgraded bitumen will continue to account for most of Alberta's 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.