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TransCanada acquiring land in Nebraska for Keystone XL oil pipeline: spokesman

Houston — TransCanada is now acquiring land in Nebraska for its planned Keystone XLoil pipeline, aimed at shipping incremental volumes of Western Canadianbarrels to the US Gulf Coast for local refining and also providing options forexports, spokesman Terry Cunha said Wednesday.

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"The process [of land acquisition] just started last week," Cunha said inan email, adding that it's still early stages but "overall those discussionswith landowners are going well."

The need to acquire new "easements" -- handing over long-term access toland without transfer of ownership -- came after the Nebraska Public ServiceCommission decision, which approved an alternate route, he said.

In November, the NPSC upheld its decision to allow TransCanada to buildthe 830,000 b/d Keystone XL pipeline system on an alternate route.

The Nebraska regulators approved the 'mainline alternative,' which headseast sooner towards the existing Keystone pipeline and parallels it for 96miles.

A final investment decision is widely due for the Keystone XL system thatwill ship crude from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska, and link upwith the Keystone pipeline that runs through Cushing, Oklahoma, to the USGC.

Cunha didn't indicate a timeline for a FID on Keystone XL, but TransCanada said in January it has sufficient customer support to go aheadwith construction of the pipeline in 2019.

Following an open season, the Keystone XL pipeline system drew 500,000b/d in firm 20-year commitments from shippers, it said then.

Land-locked Western Canadian producers are slowing down oil sandsprojects and putting on the back burner FIDs for new facilities until newpipeline takeaway capacity is added.

Leading oil sands producer Cenovus Energy said Wednesday investmentdecisions for two of its growth projects -- the 130,000 b/d Narrows Lake andthe 50,000 b/d Foster Creek phase G -- will have to wait until new pipelinesget built that will improve netbacks and make those investments commerciallyviable.

Keystone XL is one of the three pipelines planned to be built from theWestern Canadian Sedimentary Basin to provide additional markets access in theUS and also break into Asia. The others are the 590,000 b/d Trans MountainExpansion by Kinder Morgan for which it has set a deadline of May 31 to take afinal call on whether to proceed with the project; and Enbridge's 390,000 b/dLine 3 Replacement project for which a final decision is due in June from theMinnesota Public Utilities Commission.

Lack of market access will impact investor confidence, which in turn maymake some other producers more hesitant to move ahead with adding new heavyoil production capacity in Alberta, Mark Oberstoetter, a Wood Mackenzieanalyst, said in an email Wednesday.

-- Ashok Dutta, ashok.dutta@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Geetha Narayanasamy, newsdesk@spglobal.com