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Pipes intended for the Keystone XL pipeline sit in storage in Little Rock, Ark. on May 24, 2012. TC Energy says it plans to begin construction in April to connect the Keystone XL Pipeline from the United States into Canada.Danny Johnston/The Canadian Press

TC Energy Corp. is planning to ramp up activity on Keystone XL pipeline construction next month and commence building the two-kilometre-long U.S.-Canada border segment in April.

The long-delayed project, proposed more than a decade ago, would deliver 830,000 barrels a day of crude from Alberta to refineries in Texas. It has drawn opposition from people who fear it will harm the environment. U.S. President Donald Trump issued a federal permit for the expansion project in 2017, after it was rejected by the Obama administration.

TC Energy’s aggressive timeline for the pipeline was included in a status report filed by the company with the District Court of Montana on Tuesday. But, the company said, work hinges on two licences – a right-of-way grant and a temporary use permit from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Ultimately, TC Energy wants to start building pumping stations along the entire route in June, and pipeline segments in Montana and South Dakota in August.

To support that goal, the Calgary-based company plans to start mobilizing heavy construction equipment to planned worker camps and pipeline storage yards in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska in February, and begin felling trees in South Dakota.

Come March, TC Energy aims to start moving equipment and staff to the U.S.-Canada border and – as long as it gets the required authorizations – mow the right-of-way at the border crossing. To deter migratory bird nesting, it will also mow land earmarked for storage and work camps. It also wants to install water tanks in Montana and South Dakota.

Beginning in April, the company plans to use trains and trucks to start moving pipe for Keystone XL to storage yards, and prepare 10 work camps in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney called the update “very encouraging news” on Twitter. “We need to get this pipeline built,” he wrote.

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in a statement that geopolitical instability in the past weeks has highlighted Canada’s role as a stable oil producing country. She said the pipeline’s construction would create thousands of jobs in Canada and provide 830,000 barrels a day of much-needed pipeline capacity.

Congested pipelines have recently hit Canadian oil prices hard, limiting the sector’s ability to get crude to market. In 2018, Alberta’s provincial government ordered production curtailments to deal with the resulting price differential.

A rupture on the existing Keystone pipeline in North Dakota late last year leaked an estimated 1.5 million litres of crude oil in North Dakota, helping drag Alberta crude prices down to about US$34 a barrel, compared with US$56.54 for West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for oil.

Shipments on the existing line account for up to 18 per cent of Canada’s oil exports to the United States.

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