Investors in TransCanada (TRP) stock got some much welcome news over the weekend. The much-maligned Keystone XL pipeline expansion received a positive environmental study review from the State Department.
That environmental review is seen as a critical step in the approval process to finally getting the pipeline built and running.
The Keystone XL pipeline will ultimately link Canada’s vast tar sands in Alberta with refineries along the coast of Texas and Louisiana. Unfortunately, the border-crossing piece has proved problematic for TRP stock as it requires Presidential approval — and the President has refused to grant a permit if the project has a negative effect on the environment.
So you’d think the State Department’s positive review would be the greenlight for the Keystone XL and TRP stock? Well … it’s not so simple. There are some pretty good indications that the project may get canceled after all, putting TRP shares’ recent rise at risk. Yet, if things go according to plan, TransCanada shares could surge on the news.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons for TRP stock and the Keystone XL.
TRP Stock Pros
A safer way to ship oil sands crude: The main environmental argument against TRP’s Keystone XL is that the pipeline would spur rising oil sands production. But the State Department’s findings showed that higher production from the region is coming — whether or not the Keystone XL is built. Ultimately, that crude oil would be delivered via railway if the TRP’s pipeline isn’t built. With some high profile crude-by-rail accidents occurring lately, the Keystone XL might actually be the safer alternative for the oil sands. That puts TRP stock in a prime driving seat to be the premier logistics play on Canada’s vast oil sands reserves.
Immediately accreditive cash flows: Pipelines are great for one thing — steady and stable cash flows. After all, it’s the volume of oil, not the price that matters to the pipeline owner. The approval of the Keystone XL would be great for TRP stock cash flows and its dividend — especially considering the long, drawn-out approval process has actually been a big “win” for TransCanada shares. As Obama has placed the approval for the pipeline on the back burner, TransCanada has basically been able to save up enough cash to fund and build the Keystone outright. That means, any cash flows from the Keystone XL will be immediately accreditive to the bottom line of TRP stock and master limited partnership (MLP) subsidiary TC PipeLines (TCP).
The approval is just a superficial gesture: While the State Department’s positive environmental review is nice a gesture for TRP stock, TransCanada has already begun construction on the various southern legs of the project that don’t require presidential approval. These pieces of the pipeline expansion are set to begin transporting oil in 2015. As for the critical border crossing, TRP stock has that set in motion as well. TransCanada recently announced that it has made plans to use a combination of rail and pipeline. Border-crossing rail lines don’t require presidential approval and can be built rather quickly. Either way, TRP stock is set to profit from the Keystone XL.
But on the flip side…