CUSHING, Okla. — TransCanada has begun injecting crude oil into its $2.3 billion pipeline between Cushing and the Gulf Coast.
The company says Saturday's development means the 485-mile pipeline is another step closer to commercial operation.
"Over the coming weeks, TransCanada will inject about 3 million barrels of oil into the system, beginning in Cushing," spokesman Shawn Howard said.
The pipeline, called the Gulf Coast Project, is the southern leg of TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada's oil sands and the Bakken Shale in North Dakota to refineries in the Houston area.
In regulatory filings last week, TransCanada said the southern leg from Cushing to Port Arthur, Texas, is expected to become operational Jan. 3.
"We remain focused on completing the construction, testing and commissioning for the Gulf Coast Project," the filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said.
President Barack Obama refused to issue a permit for part of the project last year amid concerns about its potential impact on a large aquifer in Nebraska. The administration is considering another application, but TransCanada has received clearance for the pipeline's southern leg. Construction began in August 2012.
Environmental groups have opposed the pipeline's northern leg from Canada into the U.S. The southern leg doesn't cross an international border and doesn't require presidential approval, although it too has been opposed on environmental grounds.
"The Gulf Coast Project is a significant step forward in the move to transport oil from Cushing to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries," Howard said.
He said the pipeline was built using advanced safety standards featured in no other pipelines in operation. Howard said testing of the pipeline is ongoing. He was unable to provide any details about when it will go into commercial service.
It will carry up to 700,000 barrels of oil a day.