TransCanada bets expansion plan will help Keystone

Thu Dec 15, 2011 2:24pm EST
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By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Buoyed by renewed pledges of customer support, TransCanada Corp said on Thursday it not only wants to proceed with its stalled Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline but to undertake a $600 million expansion and extension.

The company is betting its proposed expansion of the original $7 billion plan to carry Alberta oil sands crude to the Gulf Coast will hammer home Keystone's economic benefits to politicians and trump the environmental worries that have prompted a lengthy delay in its U.S. approval process.

TransCanada said shippers for Keystone XL, target of vocal protests by green groups and Hollywood celebrities for much of 2011, have backed a 19 percent increase in capacity as well as plans to build an extension to Houston-area refineries.

The move, which is subject to the delayed regulatory approval, would boost capacity for the oil sands crude to 830,000 barrels a day from 700,000.

It would also double the refining capacity on the Gulf Coast accessible by Keystone XL, the Calgary-based company said. It expanded the proposal after an "open season" in which customers made conditional shipping commitments.

The beefed-up proposal has no bearing on the U.S. State Department's deliberations on approving the project, TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said.

Last month, the State Department, after studying the project for more than three years, pushed off its decision well into 2013, past the U.S. presidential election next November.

"There's still a process to be followed with the Department of State and getting approval," Cunha said. "But what it does outline is we continue to get strong support from the shippers to build this project and deliver crude oil into the U.S. Gulf Coast."   Continued...