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U.S. needs Canada's oil as its own output rises: IEA

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The United States will still need to import crude as production from the Bakken and other domestic shale oil regions rises, and Canada is a big potential source of such supplies, the International Energy Agency's chief economist said on Monday.

However, Canada should keep pursuing Asia as the next major market for its growing supplies of oil sands-derived crude, the IEA's Fatih Birol said.

In its annual forecast this month, the IEA said the United States could come close to energy self-sufficiency by 2035, and much of that is because of the boom in development of unconventional light oil resources.

Canada is the largest foreign oil supplier to the United States, and the forecast created some fears in the country that fast-rising U.S. output could mean the biggest export market for the oil sands would shrink.

"The United States and Canada have been great energy partners for many years and I expect that this partnership will improve in the next years to come because the U.S. will still need Canadian oil," Birol told an audience in Ottawa.

In its forecast, the IEA said Canadian oil sands production is expected to nearly triple to 4.3 million barrels a day by 2035, assuming environmental concerns about development can be addressed.

Meanwhile, it estimated that total U.S. unconventional crude output from regions such as the Bakken in North Dakota and Eagle Ford in Texas would climb to 3.2 million barrels a day by 2025 from less than 1 million in 2012, and that such volume would be maintained for another five years.

Canada's gains means it will have to keep seeking new markets, especially those across the Pacific, as a way to improve the Canadian economy, Birol said.

Pipeline proposals to get oil sands crude to the country's West Coast, led by Enbridge Inc's $6 billion Northern Gateway pipeline, face opposition from environmentalists and some native groups who warn of risks of oil spills on land and in coastal waters.

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