One-third of natural gas burned in Canada used to produce oil

Nearly one-third of the natural gas burned in Canada in 2016, was used to produce oil from oil sands, according to the National Energy Board (NEB).

The country’s primary energy regulator said roughly 2.38 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) — a record 29% of purchased natural gas was used for oil sands production in northern Alberta Province in 2016.

That compared with 730 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d), or 12% of total demand in 2005, Kallanish Energy reports.

Overall, Canadian natural gas demand increased last year by 34%, to an estimated 8.27 Bcf/d, from 6.17 Bcf/d in 2015.

Natural gas is largely used in the oil sands to generate steam to inject into underground formations to thin the heavy bitumen crude and allow it to be pumped to the surface. The growth in so-called "thermal" projects is the main driver behind increased oil sands demand for natural gas, NEB said.

Environmentalists said using natural gas in the oil sands industry is a waste of a cleaner-burning resource that would be better used to heat homes, generate electricity or create plastics.