CALGARY, Alberta, May 6 (Reuters) - Canadian crude imports from the United States more than doubled in March from the same month a year earlier, Statistics Canada data showed on Tuesday, as cheaper North American crude replaced barrels from Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Canada imported around 7.8 million barrels of crude from its southern neighbour, compared to 3.3 million barrels in March 2013. It was a 13 percent increase from February, when Canada imported 6.88 millions barrels from the United States.
In total, Canada imported 17.3 million barrels, or roughly 558,000 barrels per day, from around the world in March. The United States was the top supplier.
Canada has the world's third-largest crude reserves after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and produces around 4.3 million barrels per day, but still imports crude because of limited pipeline access from the main oil-producing regions in Western Canada to some eastern refineries.
Judith Dwarkin, director of energy research at ITG Investment Research in Calgary, said some Eastern Canadian refineries were now using rail, barge and tankers to receive more crude from the Bakken in North Dakota and Eagle Ford in Texas.
"They are just more attractively priced than the offshore alternatives that are coming from the North Sea, North Africa and the Middle East," Dwarkin said.
Valero Energy Corp said last week it will process 100 percent North American crude at its 265,000 bpd Quebec City refinery by the end of the year. Suncor Energy Inc is also aiming to displace overseas imports at its 137,000 bpd Montreal, Quebec, refinery by 2015.
Statistics Canada data showed 4.6 million barrels of U.S. crude went to the province of Quebec in March, compared to 2.2 million barrels in February and around 800,000 barrels in March last year.
Meanwhile 2.3 million barrels were sent to New Brunswick, home to Canada's largest refinery, the 300,000 barrel per day St John facility owned by Irving Oil. That compares with 4.3 million barrels in February, and just 147,000 barrels in March 2013.
Texas was the No. 1 exporter of crude to Canada in March with 5.5 million barrels, a 10 percent increase on the previous month, followed by North Dakota which sent just over 2 million barrels to Canada. (Editing by Bernadette Baum)