February 28, 2022

Weekly EconMinute—Canada’s energy imports from Russia

In this week’s EconMinute, we’re talking about Canada’s energy imports from Russia.

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This week, the world was hit with the news that Russia had invaded Ukraine. In response, Canada, along with other governments around the world, are imposing targeted sanctions against Russia, its political leaders, and oligarchs.

One option for Canada that has not yet been actively considered is to ban imports of crude oil and refined petroleum from Russia.

The fact that Canada buys energy from Russia may come as a surprise to some. Thanks in large part to Alberta, Canada is one of the largest net exporters of energy in the world. In 2021, Canada’s trade surplus in crude oil and refined petroleum was nearly $86 billion.

But at the same time, Canada still imported almost $32 billion in oil and oil products last year. Of that, nearly $350m was from Russia. In 2019, imports from Russia were as high as $884m.

Why does Canada import Russian energy? And where else do we import it from?

  • Our largest import sources in 2021 were the United States ($22 billion), Saudi Arabia ($2.2b) and Nigeria ($2.0b).
  • Western Canada exports energy, while eastern Canada is a net importer.
  • There are two main reasons why we don’t just ship Alberta’s oil to eastern provinces
    • A lack of pipeline infrastructure, especially to Canada’s largest refinery in New Brunswick; and
    • Not all refineries in eastern Canada are well-suited for the kind of heavy crude produced in Alberta.

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