Selling oil to Asia critical: Minister

Railcars, oil tankers sit at a Canadian National Railway (CN) yard in Hamilton, Ontario in this...

Railcars, oil tankers sit at a Canadian National Railway (CN) yard in Hamilton, Ontario in this February 19, 2004 file photo. (REUTERS/Andrew Wallace/Files)

JACKIE L. LARSON, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 2:54 AM ET

EDMONTON -- A new report touting American energy self-sufficiency is sounding the alarm for increasing Asian access for Alberta bitumen.

The London-based International Energy Agency said the province's largest customer, the United States, will be nearly self-sufficient for energy overall by 2035 and a net exporter of natural gas within a decade from now.

Alberta has more reasons than ever to look to Asia to market bitumen, according to Energy Minister Ken Hughes.

"We need to get access to the Pacific Coast, we need to get access to the East Coast and we need to diversify our markets away from the United States," he said. "A lot of things can happen between now and (2035) -- one of those, hopefully, is that we have access to the Pacific Coast, one way or another."

Canadian producers are hopeful a window of opportunity will remain for Canadian oil, explained Mark Pinney, manager of markets and transportation for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

The report suggests America's production of oil could rise from eight million barrels a day now to 9.2 million barrels a day by 2035 and U.S. oil consumption could decline by almost a third, from 17.6 million barrels of oil a day now to 12.6 million barrels a day by 2035.

That still leaves a supply gap of about 3.4 million barrels a day and a margin for market growth for Canada, whose producers currently export two million barrels a day to the States, Pinney said.

Currently, Canada is America's top oil supplier. The U.S. also gets about a fifth of its oil from the Middle East.

Additionally, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline currently awaiting U.S. approval would open access to the world's largest cluster of refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast for Canadian crude, currently hampered by insufficient pipeline access, he said.

That would be a win-win for Americans, with coking capacity still strong on the Gulf Coast while supplies of Mayan (Mexican) and Venezuela crude are tapering off, Pinney said.

The American production boom comes courtesy of new successes at extracting light oil through hydraulic fracking -- but that same technology's good for Canada too, he said.

"We're still very bullish about Canada's opportunity because we're growing our oilsands. We're still seeing growth in the world demand for energy, including crude oil to Asia," Pinney said.


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