Research Brief

Refining Margins in British Columbia

February, 2015


  • Since 2010, refinery margins in British Columbia have risen well above the Canadian average and are well above margins in other global markets.
  • Higher than average refining margins have cost BC consumers roughly $2.7 billion since 2010. In contrast, the cost impact of the RLCFRR is likely 30 times smaller.
  • Furthermore, the RLCFRR increased the supply of transportation energy during a period when pipeline capacity and refinery outages were pushing fuel prices higher.

This report is Navius Research’s second installment in a series of analyses exploring British Columbia’s (BC) Renewable and Low Carbon Fuel Regulation Requirement (RLCFRR). In our first report, we provided an overview of how the regulation works, its impact on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as its acceptance by the citizens of BC. In this document, we explain how analysing the net-revenue for petroleum refining (i.e. the refinery margin) in BC provides insights into the economic impact of the RLCFRR. Specifically, we discuss:

  • The relative impact of the RLCFRR on the financial viability of petroleum refining for the BC market.
  • The cost impact of the RLCFRR on refiners relative to the cost impact of refinery margins on consumers.
  • The potential for the RLCFRR to improve the competition in the market for transportation energy, resulting in lower energy costs for consumers.

This figure shows that between 2010 and 2014 annual average refinery margins for gasoline rose faster in Vancouver relative to the rest of Canada.

To learn more about this research, please contact Michael Wolinetz.

Other Publications

Journal Articles

Melton, N., J. Axsen & S. Goldberg. 2017. Evaluating plug-in electric vehicle policies in the context of long-term greenhouse gas reduction goals: Comparing 10 Canadian provinces using the PEV policy report card. Energy Policy, 107, 381-393.

Bataille, C. & N. Melton. 2017. Energy efficiency and economic growth: A retrospective CGE analysis for Canada from 2002 to 2012Energy Economics, 64, 118-130.

Wolinetz & Axsen. 2017. How policy can build the plug-in electric vehicle market: Insights from the REspondent-based Preference And Constraints (REPAC) model. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 117: 238-250.

Melton, N., J. Axsen & D. Sperling. 2016. Moving beyond alternative fuel hype to decarbonize transportationNature Energy, 1, 16013. Learn More ➥

Bataille, C., N. Melton & M. Jaccard. 2015. Policy uncertainty and diffusion of carbon capture and storage in an optimal region. Climate Policy, 15(5): 565-582.

Jaccard, M., N. Melton & J. Nyboer. 2011. Institutions and Processes for Scaling Up Renewables: Run-of-River Hydropower in British Columbia. Energy Policy, 39(7): 4042-4050.

Peters, J., C. Bataille, N. Rivers, & M. Jaccard. 2010. Taxing Emissions, Not Income: How to Moderate the Regional Impact of Federal Environment Policy. C.D. Howe Institute, 314: Toronto, ON.