Houston — TransCanada will take an investment decision this "November or December" on its long-proposed Keystone XL pipeline, with two key processes being completed within that timeframe, the president of its liquids pipelines unit, Paul Miller, said Friday.
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The Nebraska Public Service Commission is reviewing the company's regulatory application on the final route and the next hearing is in August, Miller said on an earnings call.
The commission is due to take a decision by November, he said, on the 1,179-mile, 36-inch-diameter pipeline that will ship 830,000 b/d of crude from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City in Nebraska.
Also by November, TransCanada will assess shipper commitments for a binding open season now under way for Keystone XL and the existing Keystone pipeline, he said.
The 600,000 b/d Keystone pipeline -- often referred to as the southern leg of Keystone XL -- gives Western Canadian producers an option to ship their crude directly to the US Gulf Coast from Hardisty.
The Keystone pipeline will take Canadian barrels from Nebraska to Cushing, Oklahoma, from where it can be shipped to Nederland, Texas.
"These are the last two items we are left with," Miller said.
Based on talks with potential shippers, TransCanada is hopeful of taking a positive investment decision for Keystone XL later this year as "we see a growing demand" for Canadian heavy crude in the USGC, he said.
"We've had good discussions with the existing shippers and new entrants," Miller. "Today we have the support of our legacy shippers and that gave us a good base to launch the open season."
Related Capitol Crude podcast: How is Keystone XL a part of the conversation around US sanctions on Venezuela and Russia? Learn more in this early episode.
The open season, launched Thursday and due to close September 28, came with TransCanada reporting commitments of 540,000 b/d last quarter on Keystone. The commitments were a combination of 20-year, long haul and higher-volume, short term contracts.
"About 90% of our volumes have been contracted [for Keystone], and for Keystone XL, legacy shippers are coming back and we are providing them with details of our cost-effective market access option," Miller said, without stating the planned tariff to ship a barrel from Alberta to the USGC.
Albertan oil sands producer Suncor Energy will use Keystone XL to ship barrels, CEO Steve Williams said Thursday on an earnings call.
"We are already shippers on their southern leg and will be shippers on Keystone XL," he said, without indicating any volumes.
Suncor is due to produce first oil in late 2017 from its new 194,000 b/d Fort Hills oil sands project in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
Following an investment decision, TransCanada will need six to nine months for the staging of crews and another two years after that to build the pipeline, Miller said.
Danilo Juvenic, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets, said Friday, that Canadian producers will have a choice between either Keystone XL or Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
"If ground is broken in early September as planned by Kinder Morgan, the response to TransCanada's open season will likely be dampened," Juvenic said.
TransCanada was not immediately available for comment on this.
The Trans Mountain expansion will offer producers to ship 590,000 b/d to the Canadian Pacific Coast from Alberta.
--Ashok Dutta, firstname.lastname@example.org
--Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, email@example.com