The southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline began moving oil out of Cushing on Wednesday.
Developer TransCanada Corp. bills the $2.3 billion project as the “safest pipeline built in America to date,” while opponents insist it is an accident waiting to happen, citing previous pipeline spills involving oil from Canada's oil sands.
The 487-mile pipeline between Cushing and refineries near Houston is expected to relieve the glut of oil stored at the hub where West Texas Intermediate crude is priced.
“The completion of the pipeline does provide a safe and direct connection between an important oil hub, probably the most important oil hub on this continent, in Cushing, Oklahoma, and the world's most efficient refiners in the U.S. Gulf Coast,” TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said Wednesday at a news conference in Calgary.
The pipeline, dubbed the Gulf Coast Project by TransCanada, was built over the past 18 months after the Obama administration refused to grant a permit for the full Keystone XL line.
Keystone XL needs a presidential permit since it would cross the boundary between the United States and Canada. It would move crude from Canada's oil sands and the Bakken formation in North Dakota and Montana to refiners along the Gulf Coast.
TransCanada has renewed its application for the full transcontinental pipeline, but the State Department has not made a decision on it.
While that project remains on hold, Girling hailed the completion of the Gulf Coast pipeline.
“It's an import milestone for Canada. It's an important milestone for customers and the workers and companies that helped us build this project, but it's also very important as a milestone for all Americans who will benefit from enhanced energy security and enhanced reliability of that supply,” he said.