01/16/2015 02:11 EST | Updated 03/18/2015 05:59 EDT

Greg Rickford Cheers Opening Of Canada-U.S. Pipelines, Says New Markets Needed

CALGARY - Canada's Natural Resources Minister is in Texas to celebrate the opening of two new pipelines that will increase the flow of Alberta crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

But even as the taps open on the Flanagan South and newly expanded Seaway pipelines, Greg Rickford stressed the importance of finding new customers for Canadian crude outside of North America.

Rickford acknowledges the role huge production growth from U.S. shale deposits in the Bakken and in Texas have had in making the United States more self-sufficient, but says Canadian crude will continue to flow south of the border.

But he says diversifying Canada's market reach beyond the United States, which buys virtually all of Canada's exported crude, is an imperative.

Finance Minister Joe Oliver, speaking to a Calgary business crowd a day earlier, cautioned that the U.S. will need Canada "less and less" as it develops its domestic resources and that if Canada can't access new markets outside of North America, its economy will suffer a major decline.

The Flanagan South and Seaway expansion are starting up as Keystone XL, a controversial proposal that would help connect Canadian crude to the Gulf, drags into its seventh year of regulatory limbo.

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