Houston — TC Energy's hope to start construction on the 830,000 b/d Keystone XL heavy oil pipeline in 2020 took a step forward Friday with a favorable ruling from the Nebraska Supreme Court, one of the final legal obstacles facing the project after US President Trump granted a permit.
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The court ruled a 2017 approval by the Nebraska Public Service Commission was in the public interest. Construction of the pipeline still faces legal obstacles in Montana and at the federal level, where a lawsuit challenges Trump's March executive order that issued a new permit allowing Keystone XL to cross the US border from Canada.
"The Supreme Court decision is another important step as we advance towards building this vital energy infrastructure project," Russ Girling, TC Energy's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement Friday.
TC Energy plans to start construction "as early in 2020 as possible" if it receives all US federal approvals, lawyers for the company said in a court filing in July.
Alberta oil producers are hoping the long-delayed project will help alleviate pipeline constraints that have hemmed in production and led to provincial officials implementing a mandatory cap on output. Alberta's energy minister this week said the province would extend its authority to maintain the cap until December 2020 from December 2019 to prevent production from exceeding pipeline takeaway capacity by around 150,000 b/d.
Also on the horizon is construction of Enbridge's 370,000 b/d Line 3 expansion to the US Midwest and the Canadian federal government's 590,000 b/d Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to British Columbia -- to increase takeaway capacity for their heavy crude and shrink a discount to WTI.
S&P Global Platts assessed Western Canadian Select crude at Hardisty at a $13/b discount to WTI crude Thursday. Before Alberta's production restriction took effect in January, differentials had widened to below WTI CMA minus $50/b in October.
S&P Global Platts Analytics expects Enbridge's Line 3 expansion to begin moving crude into the US Midwest in mid-2021 and Keystone XL and/or the Trans Mountain expansion to be completed by late 2022.
TransCanada, which changed its name to TC Energy earlier this year, first applied to build Keystone XL from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast more than a decade ago. Its southern section from Nebraska to Texas entered service in 2014.
--Pat Harrington, firstname.lastname@example.org
--Edited by Jason Lindquist, email@example.com
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