Canadian natural gas liquids (NGL) exports increased by 80% over the past five years as unconventional drilling tapped geological formations rich with the byproducts in Alberta and British Columbia (BC).

The volume of Canadian propane and butane sales into the United States rose to 201,533 b/d in 2018 from the 2014 average of 111,370 b/d, according to records compiled by the National Energy Board (NEB).

The trade’s value also climbed as volume growth offset prices that dropped with oil after 2014. Canadian NGL export revenues of C$2.85 billion ($2.14 billion) in 2018 were up by 39% from C$2.04 billion ($1.53 billion) in 2014.

Canada’s gas liquids export capacity is growing by 20% this spring. Shipments are starting from a 40,000 b/d propane tanker terminal that AltaGas Ltd. built for about C$500 million ($375 million) on BC’s northern Pacific coast at Ridley Island, near the Prince Rupert seaport.

The project gives Canadian propane a global profile, with half the new terminal’s output sold to international trader Astomos Energy Corp.

The AltaGas propane dock boasts a 10-day tanker sailing time to Asia, less than half the length of voyages from the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The Canadian Energy Research Institute last fall predicted 12% growth in NGL output during the 2020s to 1.06 million b/d from 946,000 b/d. The NEB, in a longer range forecast, projected Canadian NGL production of 1.7 million b/d as of 2040, a 75% increase from current performance.

Resource appraisals by federal, Alberta and BC government earth sciences agencies indicate shale and tight gas development has only begun to tap the Canadian endowment of liquid byproducts.

The potential of the Montney formation, straddling 130,000 square kilometers (50,180 square miles) of northern Alberta and BC, in 2013 was estimated to hold 449 Tcf of gas, 14.5 billion bbl of liquid byproducts and 1.1 billion bbl of oil.

The Duvernay formation, also sprawling across 130,000 square kilometers (50,180 square miles) but chiefly in Alberta, most recently was estimated to contain 77 Tcf, 6.3 billion bbl of NGLs and 3.4 billion bbl of oil.