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Energy statistics, May 2020

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Released: 2020-08-04

May saw a continued decline in energy production. Crude oil and equivalents products were down 12.8%, the second consecutive monthly year-over-year decrease, and stood almost one-fifth lower than prior to the pandemic. Kerosene-type jet fuel production was down by four-fifths year over year, while coal production decreased by one-third. Electricity (-1.7%) and natural gas (-1.0%) production were also down, while solar and wind generation rose.

Nevertheless, May marked the beginning of a gradual reopening of several sectors of the economy, a slight increase in demand for various energy products and some gains in energy prices. However, on a year-over-year basis, energy production decreased as physical distancing measures and travel restrictions remained in place.

For more information on energy in Canada, please visit the Canadian Energy Information Portal. For regular updates on the Canadian Centre for Energy Information initiative, please visit the Canadian Centre for Energy Information website and follow #energynews on social media.

Crude oil production falls to its lowest level in over three years

Canada produced 19.6 million cubic metres (123.3 million barrels) of crude oil and equivalent products in May, down 12.8% from May 2019. This followed a 10.7% decline in April. The decrease in May was attributable to voluntary production cuts imposed by producers in response to reduced economic activity during the pandemic. Despite an uptick in demand for crude oil attributable to the gradual re-opening of various economies around the world, May production was the lowest since April 2017.

The main contributor to the year-over-year decrease was crude bitumen production, down 22.8% to 6.7 million cubic metres. In May, crude bitumen output fell by over one-quarter (-26.1%) compared with pre-pandemic levels (March 2020). Extraction of heavy crude oil decreased by over one-third (-34.9%) year over year to its lowest level since the beginning of this series in 2016. Light and medium crude oil (-12.2%) and equivalent products (-2.9%) were also down year over year in May, mainly due to declines in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Synthetic crude oil production increased 8.0% year over year, as most upgraders maintained regular production levels and postponed usual spring maintenance work to maintain physical distancing guidelines.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Production of crude oil and equivalents, by type of product
Production of crude oil and equivalents, by type of product

Crude oil and equivalent products exports fell 10.5% to 17.0 million cubic metres in May, the second consecutive monthly year-over-year decline and the largest since February 2005 (-11.9%). The decrease was due to sustained lower demand for crude oil from refineries in the United States.

Exports to the United States by pipeline were the main contributor to the overall decrease, down 9.8% to 14.5 million cubic metres, accounting for 85.4% of total crude oil exports. Exports to the United States by other means (rail, truck and marine) continued their downward trend, as demand for additional transport capacity to supplement pipelines remained low during the month. Exports to other countries were also down in May.

Following a 21.7% decline in April, imports of crude oil and equivalent products fell another 40.7% year over year to 2.4 million cubic metres in May. The decline was mainly attributable to imports by refineries (-44.3%), as lower imported crude oil volumes were required by Canadian refineries. According to the Monthly Survey of Manufacturing, capacity utilization in the petroleum and coal products industry, which includes refineries, stood at 67.4% in May, down from 85.3% in May 2019.

Crude oil and motor gasoline prices rebound in May as the economy begins to reopen

While physical distancing measures and travel restrictions imposed by governments to slow the spread of COVID-19 remained in place in May, a gradual re-opening of economic activity energized certain energy sectors.

Global demand for crude oil increased in May as the price of crude oil continued to recover from historically low levels in April. The Raw Materials Price Index increased 16.4% from April to May, after four consecutive monthly declines. The growth was mainly due to higher prices for crude energy products (+73.5%), with crude oil (+81.8%) posting its largest monthly increase on record.

The Industrial Product Price Index rose 1.2% from April to May, the first increase in 2020. The growth was partially attributable to higher prices for energy and petroleum products (+4.6%), following strong declines in March (-18.1%) and April (-22.3%). Motor gasoline prices increased 36.8% in May on renewed demand, following the gradual easing of lockdown measures. Nevertheless, gasoline prices remain 43.6% below May 2019 levels.

Refineries produce less fuel year over year due to lower demand

Following widespread shutdowns in April, refineries continued to operate at reduced capacity in May, in response to low demand for petroleum products. Input of crude oil to Canadian refineries fell for the third consecutive month, down 18.6% to 6.8 million cubic metres.

Net production of motor gasoline (including blending components and ethanol fuel) decreased 18.1% year over year to 3.0 million cubic metres, while jet fuel production fell 81.9%. Diesel fuel oil production was up slightly (+2.8%) in May.

The demand for transportation fuels remained low in May. Domestic consumption of motor gasoline fell by one-third (-33.1%) year over year and diesel fuel oil was down 10.3%.

Domestic consumption of jet fuel fell 91.1% year over year, as travel restrictions imposed in March and April continued to intensely affect domestic and international flights. According to Monthly civil aviation statistics for May, the number of flying hours for the seven largest Canadian passenger air carriers fell 92.7%, the largest year-over-year monthly decline on record.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Domestic consumption of motor gasoline, diesel fuel and kerosene-type jet fuel
Domestic consumption of motor gasoline, diesel fuel and kerosene-type jet fuel

Natural gas production down on lower demand

Canadian marketable natural gas production decreased for the third consecutive month, down 1.0% year over year to 573.8 million gigajoules in May. The vast majority of natural gas production was concentrated in Alberta (68.7%) and British Columbia (29.6%).

Total deliveries of natural gas to Canadian consumers fell 4.3% year over year to 321.9 million gigajoules in May—the lowest level for the month of May since 2017. The decrease was primarily due to lower demand from industrial (-3.0%) and commercial and institutional (-14.8%) consumers, as economic activities in these sectors continued to be affected by lockdown measures. Deliveries to the residential sector (-2.2%) declined mainly on lower consumer demand in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Canadian monthly natural gas deliveries to industrial consumers
Canadian monthly natural gas deliveries to industrial consumers

Following large year-over-year declines in March (-13.4%) and April (-13.1%), exports of natural gas by pipeline to the United States fell another 14.2% to 203.9 million gigajoules in May. This was the largest decrease since April 2019 (-14.5%). Demand for Canadian natural gas remained at historically low levels in the United States.

Imports of natural gas from the United States by pipeline were down 11.1% to 82.7 million gigajoules, the fourth consecutive monthly year-over-year decline. The decrease was attributable to lower demand for imported natural gas in Ontario, where the vast majority (93.6%) of these volumes were received.

Electricity generation and consumption continue to decline

Electricity generation continued on its downward trend, declining 1.7% year over year to 46.9 million megawatt-hours (MWh) in May. The decrease was led by electricity generated from combustible fuels, down 16.9% to 7.8 million MWh. This was the largest monthly year-over-year decrease of electricity from combustible fuels since the beginning of this data series in January 2016, and was mainly due to sharp declines in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The overall decrease in electricity generation was partially offset by renewable generation (including hydro, wind, solar, tidal and other sources), up 4.0% year over year to 32.2 million MWh, and nuclear generation, up 3.3% to 7.5 million MWh.

Following a 4.9% decrease in April, electricity consumption in Canada fell another 6.3% in May, the fifth consecutive monthly year-over-year decline. Alberta, Ontario and Quebec led the decrease in demand for electricity, as lockdown measures imposed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 continued to impact industrial and commercial activity.

Chart 4  Chart 4: Electricity consumption, year-over-year change
Electricity consumption, year-over-year change

Electricity exports to the United States rose 38.0% year over year to 6.2 million MWh in May, the highest level since August 2019. Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba were the main exporting provinces. Imports of electricity from the United States continued to decline year over year, down 24.9% to 0.9 million MWh, with the majority of electricity imported to British Columbia.

Coal production falls by almost one-third

Coal production declined 31.6% year over year to 3.1 million tonnes in May. This was the lowest production level on record, as some mines continued to remain closed due to COVID-19. Coke production decreased 11.7% to 189.3 thousand tonnes.

Chart 5  Chart 5: Coal production
Coal production

  Note to readers

The survey programs that support the energy statistics release include the following:

  • crude oil and natural gas, supply and disposition (survey number 2198, tables 25-10-0036-01, 25-10-0055-01 and 25-10-0063-01)—data from October 2019 to April 2020 have been revised.
  • energy transportation and storage (survey number 5300, tables 25-10-0075-01 and 25-10-0077-01).
  • natural gas transmission, storage and distribution (survey numbers 2149, 5210 and 5215, tables 25-10-0057-01, 25-10-0058-01 and 25-10-0059-01).
  • supply and disposition of refined petroleum products (survey number 2150, table 25-10-0076-01)—data from January 2019 to April 2020 have been revised.
  • electric power statistics (survey number 2151, tables 25-10-0015-01 and 25-10-0016-01)—data for April 2020 have been revised.
  • coal and coke statistics (survey numbers 2147 and 2003, tables 25-10-0045-01 and 25-10-0046-01).

Data are subject to revisions. Definitions, data sources and methods for each survey program remain available by accessing each survey's respective number.

As of reference month January 2020, the questionnaire for the Monthly Canadian Pipeline Transport of Oil and Other Liquid Petroleum Products Survey has been redesigned. The new survey (named Monthly Energy Transportation and Storage Survey) content has changed to reflect the evolving petroleum industry. In addition to pipeline companies, rail and marine transportation are now included in the sample. New variables have been added, while other variables have been discontinued. Due to the change in methodology, the current estimates may not be comparable with the estimates available in the published tables prior to January 2020.

As of reference month January 2019, the Monthly Refined Petroleum Products Survey has been redesigned. The questionnaire content has changed to reflect the evolving refined petroleum industry. Upgraders and petroleum terminals are now included in the survey frame. New variables have been added, while other variables have been discontinued. Because of the change in methodology, the current estimates may not be comparable with the estimates available prior to January 2019.

The energy statistics program uses respondent and administrative data.

Data in this release are not seasonally adjusted.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca).

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