TORONTO, April 2 (Reuters) - TransCanada Corp said on Tuesday it has begun to seek commitments from parties interested in transporting crude oil from Western Canada to Eastern Canadian markets, as it moves to convert an existing natural gas pipeline.
Calgary, Alberta-based TransCanada said its Energy East Pipeline will have the capacity to transport as much as 850,000 barrels of crude oil per day, greatly enhancing producer access to markets in Eastern Canada.
The project could eliminate Canada's reliance on higher priced crude oil currently imported to supply east coast refineries. In 2012, Canada imported more than 600,000 barrels per day to supply its Eastern refineries.
Earlier this year, TransCanada Chief Executive Russ Girling said TransCanada would soon hold an open season, or a call for commercial support for the project, and stressed that he expects a "very favorable response" from oil producers and refiners.
TransCanada said it intends to proceed with the necessary regulatory applications for approvals to construct and operate the required facilities after the open season ends. The line could come into service in late 2017.