Welcome to Canada, land of the $63 barrel of oil

The price oil sands producers receive fell to more than $45 a barrel below the international benchmark on Thursday as US crude sank to fresh 2013 lows.

US benchmark Nymex West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil fell below $90 in afternoon trade, while at the same time the US crude discount to the global oil price in the form of North Sea Brent widened to $20.80.

The spread between WTI and Western Canada Select – a blend of heavy oil sands crude and conventional oil – improved to $25.75, due to an upgrader outage but still translated to an effective price for bitumen-derived oil of only $63.35 a barrel.

The WCS discount has narrowed substantially since hitting a multi-year high of $42.50 a barrel in December.

The premium for Syncrude – a light oil made from oil sands after undergoing an expensive upgrading process – also improved to $6.10 above WTI.

The reason Canada's oil is being sold at close to breakeven point for high-cost bitumen producers is because its only customer, the US, is awash with oil.

US Energy Information Administration data released Friday showed American oil inventories and domestic production reaching 30- and 20-year respectively.

The approval last week by the US State Department of the Keystone pipeline as environmentally sound, should relieve some of the pipeline pressure, but in order to receive international prices – which on Monday trade above $110 a barrel – Canada needs access to fast growing economies in Asia.