Fuels and country of origin labelling at the pump

Which gas stations sell Canadian gasoline exclusively? What percentage of the gasoline I buy is made from Canadian crude? Why don’t you label or brand Canadian fuel at gas stations? Why can’t we say Made in Canada?
These are good, straightforward questions. Much like how people want to know where their food comes from, consumers are beginning to show interest in where their energy comes from. And just like with food, the answer isn’t always…straightforward.
In general, Canadians can take comfort in knowing that most of the gasoline that they purchase is Canadian, in one way or another.
What does this mean?
Let’s consider how “Made in Canada” and “Product of Canada” differ when it comes to food and then look at fuels through the same lens. This, from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)[1]:
  • “A "Made in Canada" claim with a qualifying statement can be used on a food product when the last substantial transformation of the product occurred in Canada, even if some ingredients are from other countries. When a food contains both domestic and imported ingredients, the label would state "Made in Canada from domestic and imported ingredients". This claim may be used on a product that contains a mixture of imported and domestic ingredients, regardless of the level of Canadian content in the product.”
  • “A food product may use the claim "Product of Canada" when all or virtually all major ingredients, processing, and labour used to make the food product are Canadian. This means that all the significant ingredients in a food product are Canadian in origin and that non-Canadian material is negligible. Generally, products that are exported and re-imported into Canada would not be able to make a "Product of Canada" claim.”
Now, back to how this relates to fuels.
To start, Canada’s refining production exceeds our demand for refined petroleum products. We make more gasoline than we need – we are net exporters. Given this, you might think that all gasoline sold in Canada should be Canadian, right? Not so fast.
Crude oil and refined petroleum products, like gasoline, trade openly between Canada, the U.S. and even globally. Notice in the trade flow map below how much gasoline we send South of the border, but also note that a small amount is also imported into Canada.
Canada US RPP Trade Flow
Another consideration is infrastructure. Getting crude or refined product to the East Coast via pipeline isn’t an option. This means that some eastern refineries rely on imported crude oil. And, because refineries differ in the products they make and because product demand varies across the country, some regions import certain products, like jet fuel for example, while others export gasoline.   All of this is driven by the need to balance supply with demand as economically as possible.
To get a sense of how things work, have a look at the refined product movement map between Canada and the U.S., below.
Canadian RPP Product Flow
So, let’s get back to the pump and labelling.
With all of the above in mind, let’s look at a couple examples using the food labelling terms as reference points. Keep in mind that these are just examples.
Made in Canada: You’re at a gas station in Atlantic Canada, and you’re filling your car; most likely you’re buying Made in Canada gasoline, refined in Canada using imported crude.
Product of Canada: You’re at a gas station filling your car somewhere west of Sudbury.  Here you’re most likely filling your car with a Product of Canada, made in Canada from Canadian crude.
In the end, even if industry is unable to label products with 100% certainty in terms of country of origin, you can take pride in knowing that Canadian refineries are some of the best in the world, producing high quality fuels that reliably get you where you need to go, 24/7.

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