In Canada, transportation of oil and natural gas is completed through a network involving all modes of transportation: pipelines, rail, marine and trucks.
Pipelines are a critical part of Canada’s oil and natural gas transportation infrastructure. Pipelines transport is the safest and most efficient way to move large volumes of oil and natural gas from development areas to refineries, petrochemical plants and even to our homes and businesses for use. For export, natural gas can be turned into liquefied natural gas (LNG) and transported by ships to overseas markets.
Each year, almost 580 million barrels of oil are safely transported along Canada’s east and west coasts via tanker. Oil tankers currently represent about 2% of total ship traffic visiting Port Metro Vancouver.
Transport Canada 2016
Asia’s fast-growing economies require new sources of energy. Asian markets are an 8-to-11-day sail from proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals on Canada’s West Coast – at least 2 days closer than most of our international competitors.
All ships are regularly inspected against strict international standards. In Canada, all oil tankers are double-hulled — the bottom and sides have two complete layers of water-tight hull surface.
Transport Canada, 2016
Large single-hulled tankers were prohibited in 2010 and can no longer operate in Canadian waters.
Rail is an important piece of the oil transportation network, allowing producers the flexibility to move products to different markets in response to demand. Rail also complements pipeline transport capacity and provides an alternative for markets without pipeline connections.
In recent years, rail transport of oil has grown as an alternative mode of transportation to accommodate oil production growth that has exceeded available pipeline capacity.
- In first half of 2019, about 237,000 barrels per day (b/d) of oil was moved by rail.
- The highest monthly average rate since 2018 was 354,000 b/d, compared with 156,000 b/d in 2017. (Source: Canadian Energy Regulator)
However, this is not a long-term solution to Canada’s transportation infrastructure and pipeline challenges, because rail transport is more expensive than pipelines, and Canada has a limited number of oil tanker rail cars to move product to market.