(Releads with pipeline cost estimates; adds CEO quote, background; updates share price)
By Nia Williams
Nov 4 (Reuters) - TransCanada Corp, Canada’s No.2 pipeline company, on Tuesday raised estimated capital costs for its controversial Keystone XL project to C$8 billion ($7.02 billion) from an initial projection of C$5.4 billion, citing lengthy delays.
Keystone XL, which would carry as much as 830,000 barrels per day of Alberta oil sands crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast, has been awaiting U.S. presidential permit for more than six years amid bitter opposition from environmental groups.
However, with Republicans expected to make major gains and possibly even recapture the Senate in U.S. mid-term elections on Tuesday, there may be an opportunity for lawmakers in favor of the 830,000 barrel-per-day pipeline to force President Barack Obama to make a call.
TransCanada Chief Executive Officer Russ Girling said he could not predict what effect the election might have on Keystone XL, but he hoped whatever the outcome, a decision on the project could be made quickly.
“Suffice to say that we are supportive of any process that can help advance the decision on the project given that the environmental review is completed and at this point in time we are just sitting and waiting for someone to say go,” he said.
TransCanada last week filed for regulatory approval of its C$12 billion Energy East pipeline, which will take 1.1 million bpd oil sands crude to refineries and export ports in Quebec and New Brunswick.
Some of that oil sands crude is expected to be exported via tanker to the Gulf Coast, North America’s largest refining center, but Girling said Keystone XL remained a more competitive transport option, even with the increased project cost estimate.
The company posted a better-than-expected third-quarter profit on Tuesday, helped by higher earnings from its Keystone and Mexican pipelines.
TransCanada’s existing Keystone pipeline transports 590,000 bpd from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska.
Net income attributable to common shares fell to C$457 million, or 64 Canadian cents per share, in the quarter ended Sept. 30, from C$481 million, or 68 Canadian cents, a year earlier.
Comparable earnings, which exclude most one-time items, rose to C$450 million from C$447 million.
On a per share basis they were flat at 63 Canadian cents, above the average analyst estimate of 61 Canadian cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue rose 11.2 percent to C$2.45 billion.
The company lowered its capital spending forecast for 2014 by C$1 billion to C$4 billion.
TransCanada also said it is moving forward with its Vaughan pipeline project as part of its expansion in eastern Canada.
The company’s shares were down 0.3 percent at C$54.87 on the Toronto Stock Exchange. (1 US dollar = 1.1397 Canadian dollar) (Reporting by Ashutosh Pandey in Bangalore and Scott Haggett in Calgary; Editing by Ted Kerr, Savio D‘Souza and Marguerita Choy)