Bitumen blends derived from the Alberta oil sands are
becoming a significant feedstock for North American refiners.
In 2009, Canada produced about 1.5 million bpd of raw bitumen
with about 0.46 million bpd of bitumen blends exported to the
US.1,2 This export figure becomes even larger when
considering bitumen blends that are commingled with
conventional heavy oil and are, therefore, classified as
conventional heavy oil, such as Western Canadian Select (WCS).
The steep production decline from Mexicos Cantarell field
and Venezuelas recent shift toward non-US markets, such
as China, could make securing supplies from Canada more
attractive.3 Many US refineries in the Gulf Coast
area are already configured to process heavy oil and a pipeline
network is already established to transport oil sands
production to refineries located within Canada as well as in
the US West, Midwest and Gulf Coast areas.1
Additional pipeline capacity has been recently completed to the
US Midwest with additional proposals for other areas, including
the Gulf Coast, indicating that more refiners will have access
to feedstocks containing bitumen.