TransCanada Asks for Delay on New Pipeline Projects

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TransCanada Corp. (NYSE: TRP) has asked Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) for a 30-day suspension of its applications on two pipeline projects targeted to deliver crude oil from western Alberta’s oil sands to the east coast of Canada. The delay comes just six weeks after the company initiated an open season seeking additional customers for its Keystone XL pipeline project to transport crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The stated reason for the delay on the Energy East and Eastern Mainline projects is to give TransCanada time to review changes the NEB recently requested “regarding the list of issues and environmental assessment factors of the projects while understanding how these changes impact the projects’ costs, schedules and viability.”

The Energy East and Eastern Mainline projects were proposed as paths to move oil from Alberta to shipping points on Canada’s east coast if and when the Keystone XL was rejected. When President Trump made it one of his first orders to lift President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL, the two eastbound projects became less critical.

The July announcement of an open season seeking “additional binding commitments” to transport crude on the Keystone XL pipeline indicates that there may also be a lack of interest from oil sands producers in moving oil through the proposed pipeline. The Keystone XL could also be endangered, not by environmentalists but by shippers.

But the long delay in getting approval for the Keystone XL combined with low (and stagnant oil prices) cooled shippers’ enthusiasm for entering long-term binding agreements to ship on the pipeline. Canada’s federal government also recently had approved the Kinder Morgan Inc. (NYSE: KMI) Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to transport oil sands crude to the British Columbia.

According to a report at Reuters, the NEB last month expanded the scope of its review of the Energy East project by saying it plans to take into consideration the indirect greenhouse gas emissions related to the pipeline’s construction. TransCanada opposes that decision and has called it “completely redundant and unnecessary.”

If TransCanada decides to abandon its plans for the two eastbound projects, “the carrying value of its investment in the projects as well as its ability to recover development costs incurred to date would be negatively impacted.” That is, the company will have to write down its investment to date.

Opposition to the Keystone XL, Trans Mountain and Energy East pipelines no longer makes headlines, but it remains firm in its goal to stifle further extraction from the oil sands.

TransCanada stock closed at $51.43 on Thursday and was down fractionally on Friday to $51.30. The stock’s 52-week range is $42.69 to $51.81, and the 12-month consensus price target is $57.61.