Authored by Dr. Larry Hughes, an energy security analyst at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Dr. Hughes’ study entitled “Eastern Canadian crude oil supply and its implications for regional energy security” was recently published in Energy Policy (Jan. 2010, 8 pgs).

The text of Hughes’ new study is clear and concise and is supplemented by eight tables and six figures which illustrate the various points.  Most notable is Figure 5:

This graph clearly illustrates the stunning decrease in imports from the North Sea (UK and Norway), which provided almost two-thirds of eastern Canadian supply in 2000.  North Sea decline has forced eastern Canada to increasingly rely on Algeria, Angola and Iraq to fill the gap, all countries with political stability risks.

Hughes’ analysis of the drop in export capacity of key “safe suppliers” fits nicely with the work of Jeff Brown, Robert Hirsch, Jeff Rubin, and Paul Stevens, all of whom have addressed the impending threat of oil export decline.  Hughes’ analysis appears to be unique insofar as he has applied the export decline syndrome to the energy security of a specific import-dependent region.

In the case of eastern Canada, there is the obvious solution of supplying this region from western Canada.  Hughes examines this and other options, and points out certain complications, including the decline in crude production in Atlantic Canada, the lack of pipeline infrastructure from western Canada to Atlantic Canada, and Canada’s commitment to exporting crude oil to the United States under the terms of the North American Free trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Other import-dependent regions are facing similar problems and would do well to undertake a similar analysis of their own supply of imports, how their supply sources may be changing, and the prognosis for future long-term import supply.

Meanwhile, the overriding warning is clear: we cannot all be importers.

As this excellent study reveals, export-import dynamics are changing rapidly, and there is little room for complacency, even in the land of the tar sands.

With the impending closure of Shell’s refinery in Montreal, eastern Canadian energy security appears destined to become even more tenuous.

An earlier version of Dr. Hughes’ analysis may be found here.

Larry Hughes has done excellent work on energy security issues for his region before, including his thorough and insightful examination of how home heating emergencies might be planned for and managed (March 2009).

This two-part study is available here.