CALGARY, Alberta, Dec 17 (Reuters) - TransCanada Corp expects its new 700,000-barrel-per-day Gulf Coast oil pipeline to begin service on Jan. 22, Chief Executive Russ Girling said in an interview on Tuesday.
The company is currently filling the Cushing, Oklahoma, to Port Arthur, Texas, pipeline with the 3 million barrels of crude oil needed before it can be placed into normal operation.
Initial testing is showing no issues with the line and shippers were told of the planned in-service date on Monday.
"We need to make sure that we continue to test things as we load the pipeline with oil," Girling said. "Based on our current estimates, January 22 is what we've told our shippers for start-up."
The Gulf Coast line is the southern leg of TransCanada's controversial Keystone XL project, which, more than five years after the initial filing, is still awaiting a final decision from the Obama Administration.
The start-up of the Gulf Coast project will give Canada's oil sands producers their first large-scale access to the refining hub on Texas' Gulf Coast. It could also help alleviate steep discounts on Canadian crude, which dropped to more than $40 per barrel below the West Texas Intermediate benchmark last month.
Girling said much of the oil on the line will come from shippers on the company's existing 590,000 bpd Keystone pipeline, which takes crude from Hardisty in central Alberta to Cushing.
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