The Keystone XL pipeline edges closer to construction after TransCanada Corp. said it had secured around 500,000 barrels per day of firm, 20-year commitments, positioning the proposed project to proceed. TransCanada says it will look to continue to secure additional long-term contracted volumes.

In March, the U.S. Department of State signed and issued a Presidential Permit to construct the pipeline.

The Keystone Pipeline System was commissioned in 2010 and runs from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in Alberta to refineries in Illinois and Texas, and also to oil tank farms and an oil pipeline distribution center in Cushing, Oklahoma.

A planned fourth phase, Keystone XL, drew environmental protest and in 2015 was rejected by then President Barack Obama.

Three phases of the project are in operation. They are:

  • The Keystone Pipeline (Phase I), delivering oil from Hardisty, Alberta, over 3,456 kilometres (2,147 mi) to the junction at Steele City, Neb., and on to Wood River Refinery in Roxana, Illinois, and Patoka Oil Terminal Hub north of Patoka, Illinois, completed in June 2010.
  • The Keystone-Cushing extension (Phase II), running 468 kilometres (291 mi) from Steele City to storage and distribution facilities at Cushing, completed in February 2011.
  • The Gulf Coast Extension (Phase III), running 784 kilometres (487 mi) from Cushing to refineries at Port Arthur, Texas, was completed in January 2014.

In November, the Nebraska Public Service Commission approved the Keystone XL route through the state. The five-member commission was barred from factoring pipeline safety or the risk of spills into its decision because pipeline safety is a federal responsibility. Thus, it did not take into account a spill of 210,000 gallons of oil on the existing Keystone pipeline in South Dakota days before issuing its decision.

Commissioners approved an alternative route that would run farther north than TransCanada's preferred route.

TransCanada says it is working with landowners in an "open and transparent way" to obtain easements for the approved route. Construction preparation has begun and primary construction is expected to begin in 2019.