UPDATE 2-TransCanada's Eastern oil plan gathers steam
* West-East pipeline could start up in 2017
* Keystone XL approval now seen in first half
* Comparable earnings fall 13 pct to C$318 mln
* Raises quarterly dividend by 5 percent
By Jeffrey Jones
CALGARY, Alberta, Feb 12 (Reuters) - TransCanada Corp's plan to ship Alberta oil to Eastern Canada through a converted natural gas pipeline is quickly gaining traction, executives said on Tuesday, as the company's wait for a U.S. decision on its long-delayed Keystone XL project drags on.
TransCanada, which reported a 19 percent drop in fourth-quarter profit, expects to file an application by the end of this year for its mainline conversion project, which could allow up to one million barrels a day of oil sands-derived crude to flow to Quebec and the Atlantic provinces by 2017.
Last week, the premiers of Alberta and New Brunswick made an enthusiastic show of support for the made-in-Canada concept, partly as a way to avoid the cross-border regulatory delays that have engulfed the $5.3 billion Keystone XL project.
Chief Executive Russ Girling said TransCanada will hold an open season, or call for commercial support, for the as-yet unnamed West-East project shortly, and stressed he expects a "very favorable response" from oil producers and refiners. Continued...