Canada's oil industry became slightly less dependent on the United States last year

According to Statistics Canada, Canadian oil producers made a small dent in their near-total dependence on the American market after a surge of shipments flowed to China and the United Kingdom last year.

Canadian oil companies and Alberta’s government have pushed to ship more crude to Asia and markets other than the U.S., arguing that the country would get a better price for its crude with more customers. Canadian crude prices plunged last year relative to world benchmarks amid a glut caused by too few pipelines, a situation that grew so dire that Alberta’s government imposed mandatory production curtailments.

Canada has the world’s third-largest crude reserves and sent 3.43 million barrels each day, or 96.4 percent of its oil exports, to the United States last year, representing the smallest percentage in data stretching back to 1988. Shipments to China nearly doubled to 20,000 barrels a day and exports to the United Kingdom nearly tripled to 31,500 barrels a day.

The exports to Europe rose after production increased from Exxon Mobil Corp.’s new Hebron platform off the Newfoundland coast and tankers left the Vancouver area for China in the second half of the year. The surge in exports occurred even as the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, a key export project to the Pacific coast, faced new delays after a court ruling forced the federal government to reopen the regulatory process, pushing back the project by at least a year.