Moving it to Market

Traveling along with Alberta’s natural gas, oil, and coal in 2016

Alberta’s energy resources—oil, natural gas, and coal—are in demand. Our biggest customer continues to be the United States, though markets in Alberta, across Canada, and in Asia and Europe are also thirsty for these products.

Total Oil

In 2016, 83 per cent of total oil (including bitumen and crude) produced in Alberta was destined for the United States, an increase of 6 per cent over 2015; 17 per cent was sent across Canada.

Natural Gas

Alberta’s demand for natural gas accounted for 51 per cent of the province’s production in 2016, up 2 per cent from the previous year, while the remaining 49 per cent was shipped across Canada and to the United States.


Alberta produces three types of coal:

  1. subbituminous – used to generate electricity in Alberta,
  2. metallurgical bituminous – used to make steel, and
  3. thermal bituminous – used to fuel electrical generators overseas.

All of Alberta’s subbituminous coal remains in the province. Nearly 100 per cent is used to generate electricity in Alberta and less than one per cent is used for residential heating and industrial purposes.

At 66 per cent, Asia and British Columbia had the biggest appetite for Alberta’s bituminous coal (both metallurgical and thermal), followed by 22 per cent in the United States and South America, and 12 per cent in Europe.


Fast Facts
  • Last spring’s Fort McMurray wildfires resulted in an estimated loss of 30 million barrels of oil production.
  • In 2016, the Government of Canada approved two major oil pipelines—the Trans Mountain Expansion Project and the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Project.
  • In 2016, the Government of Canada granted conditional approval to construct a liquefied natural gas facility, the Pacific NorthWest LNG Project, in British Columbia to ship Canadian gas overseas.

Comments 1 - 2 (2)
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Resource Editor
Hi Bruce -- You're right, both types of coal are used to generate electricity. The difference is, thermal bituminous coal requires processing before it’s used to generate electricity, while subbituminous coal does not. If you'd like to learn more about Alberta's coal, visit
Bruce Greenfield
Thanks for some interesting factoids. I was wondering about the 3 grades of coal. Subbituminous is used to generate electricity, while thermal bituminous is used to fuel electric generators. What is the difference?