CALGARY – TransCanada Corp. says it’s still pursuing its plans to get into the oil-by-rail business, despite the fact that crude prices are expected to remain at depressed levels for some time.
Paul Miller, TransCanada’s (TSX:TRP) president of liquid pipelines, says rail transportation would help oil producers get product to market while they await approval of the company’s Keystone XL pipeline, which has been mired in legal and regulatory delays for six years.
In the latest setback, the company agreed to a temporary injunction this week preventing it from expropriating land in northern Nebraska for the controversial project.
TransCanada said it agreed to the injunction, issued in response to a lawsuit by a group of landowners, in the hopes of getting an accelerated trial schedule.
Alexander Pourbaix, TransCanada’s executive vice-president, said he expects the legal process to be concluded in about a year.
“Because the only issue at stake is this issue of constitutionality, it should be able to be concluded very quickly,” Pourbaix told investors during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call Friday.
Meanwhile, Miller says rail transport will be needed even after new pipelines are built.
“We do believe rail will be a permanent part of the producer’s transportation solution, in part to access niche markets and in part to manage around the lumpiness, if you wish, of pipeline implementation,” Miller said.
The pipeline company reported fourth-quarter earnings of $458 million or 65 cents per share Friday, up from $420 million or 59 cents per share a year earlier. Revenue increased to $2.62 billion from $2.33 billion a year ago.
TransCanada also announced it is raising its dividend by eight per cent. The dividend will increase to 52 cents per share with the April 30 payment, up from 48 cents.
The company also announced Friday that it’s seeking regulatory approvals for the shorter, $600-million Upland pipeline between Saskatchewan and North Dakota, that the company expects to be in service in 2018.