Canadian oil producers have really taken the oil downturn on the chin. Due to a combination of rising U.S. oil production, pipeline constraints, and refinery outages in the U.S., the price for Canadian crude is selling for a huge discount to oil produced elsewhere. That’s having an even deeper impact on the cash flow of Canadian producers, which is why Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE)(NYSE:CVE) is looking for more lucrative markets for its oil outside of North America.

Really cheap oil

The price of the global crude oil benchmark, Brent, has been cut in half over the past year, down from around $100 per barrel to less than $50 in recent weeks. However, the price of Canadian crude was selling for as little as $20 per barrel last month. Few oil companies in Canada can actually make money selling oil at that price.

The reason Canadian crude is so cheap is because of the problems getting it shipped and refined by its primary customers, which are U.S. refiners. There simply isn’t enough pipeline capacity to get Canadian oil into the U.S., especially with major export pipelines like the Keystone XL from TransCanada still delayed. Making matters worse, not all U.S. refineries can handle the heavy oil produced out of the oil sands, so when one goes offline it leads to a glut of oil and really weak prices.

Seeking a better price

Because of the problem with price realizations, Cenovus Energy has focused a lot of attention this year on improving its market flexibility. The company has done a couple of important things in order to improve its price realizations.

The first thing that Cenovus did was to acquire a crude-by-rail terminal. The company spent $75 million to acquire a terminal that can move 70,000 barrels of crude per day. This enables the company to bypass the pipeline congestion to get its oil to refineries in the U.S. much quicker.

In addition to that the company has also received an export license to export its oil from the United States. This will enable the company to get a higher price for its oil as it can sell it at the global crude benchmark price instead of the discounted North American benchmark prices. Of course, Cenovus Energy is no stranger to exporting oil overseas as it already does export oil via Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. However, it now has the option of exporting oil from the U.S. Gulf Coast as well, which increases its flexibility, so it can get the best possible market price for its oil.

Investor takeaway

By increasing its market flexibility, Cenovus Energy is able to get a much better price for its oil. Given the difference between the spot price of oil in Canada and the price of the global oil benchmark, this is a really smart move for the company. While oil exports won’t cure all of Cenovus’s ails, it will certainly help the company make more money than it would otherwise, and more than what its landlocked Canadian peers are earnings.

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Fool contributor Matt DiLallo owns shares of Kinder Morgan. Matt DiLallo has the following options: short January 2016 $32.5 puts on Kinder Morgan and long January 2016 $32.5 calls on Kinder Morgan. The Motley Fool owns shares of Kinder Morgan.