CALGARY - TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP), which is close to filing a regulatory application for its Energy East oil pipeline to Atlantic Canada, said an asset sale boosted its profits during the second quarter.
The Calgary-based pipeline operator has been busy holding consultations for the $12-billion project, which would carry Alberta crude as far east as Saint John, N.B., using a repurposed natural gas pipe for most of the way.
A formal application to the National Energy Board is on track to be filed in the current quarter, said Alex Pourbaix, the executive who oversees TransCanada's growth plans.
"You can expect to see that filing come in really in just a few weeks from us likely," he said on a conference call.
The company has had about 80 public meetings about Energy East and met with more than 6,000 stakeholders. So far, Pourbaix said the message has been positive.
"Most people recognize that there are very significant benefits to this project and very significant benefits to Canada to be able to market its production inside the country as opposed to importing oil to our domestic refineries."
Opponents of Energy East have said that they think much of the Alberta crude will actually be exported and only some will be used within Canada.
Earlier Thursday, TransCanada said net income was $416 million, or 59 cents per share, up from up from $365 million or 52 cents per share, a year ago.
Revenue grew to $2.23 billion for the quarter, up from $2.01 billion in the second quarter of 2013.
Earlier this year, TransCanada sold its Cancarb Ltd. facility in Medicine Hat, Alta., along with a 41-megawatt power plant that uses waste heat from the manufacturing process, to Japan's Tokai Carbon Co. Ltd. for $190 million.
Cancarb produces a material called "thermal carbon black" which is used to make high-grade rubber, insulation and ceramics.
Excluding the Cancarb sale and a charge related to a restructuring of a natural gas storage contract, TransCanada said it earned a comparable profit of $332 million or 47 cents per share.
The average analyst estimate had been for a profit of 49 cents per share, according to data compiled by Thomson Reuters.
Last year, the pipeline operator and electricity producer posted a second-quarter comparable profit of $357 million or 51 cents per share.
TransCanada said higher earnings from its original Keystone pipeline and its Mexican pipelines were more than offset by lower contributions from its Western power business and the Bruce Power nuclear plant in Ontario.
TransCanada's better-known Keystone XL pipeline is still mired in legal and regulatory proceedings.
"The majority of our business segments performed well over the course of the second quarter and demonstrate the benefits of a diversified and growing portfolio of critical energy infrastructure assets," said TransCanada chief executive Russ Girling.
"Although weak Alberta power prices and maintenance outages at Bruce Power (in Ontario) weighed on second quarter results, both businesses are expected to produce stronger results in the future due to positive Alberta power market fundamentals and higher plant availability at Bruce Power."
A few hours before TransCanada's earnings report, Apache Corp. announced it would be pulling out of a liquefied natural gas project that it had been developing at Kitimat, B.C., alongside Chevron Corp.
Karl Johannson, the executive in charge of TransCanada's gas pipelines, said it's unclear how Apache's decision will affect the company's plans to build a $1.9 billion pipeline to the Kitimat LNG project. Johannson said he had not yet talked to Apache or Chevron about whether plans for the Merrick Mainline Pipeline Project would change.
"Nobody has asked us to slow down our spend or anything on it," he said on the call. "So from our perspective we're still trying to meet our deadlines for the Kitimat project on the Merrick pipeline."
Merrick would run 260 kilometres from Dawson Creek, in B.C.'s resource-rich northeast, to Summit Lake, where Chevron and Apache's Pacific Trail Pipeline begins. Pacific Trail will deliver gas the rest of the way to the coast, where the natural gas will be chilled into a liquid state and exported abroad via tanker.
If the Kitimat LNG partners decided to sell their share in Pacific Trail, there may be an opportunity for TransCanada.
"If they were looking for somebody to take that from them and develop that, we would certainly be interested in it," said Johannson.
TransCanada has been waiting for a permit to build its Keystone XL pipeline for nearly six years. That project would connect 830,000 barrels per day of mostly oilsands crude to Gulf Coast refiners.
Amid the delays, TransCanada has said it would create "rail bridge" to hold its customers over, putting loading and unloading infrastructure in place that would enable crude to move to the desired markets by train.
Paul Miller, president of liquids pipelines, said it's a work in progress.
"We're dealing with a number of parties here to anchor those facilities and it just takes time to corral a number of parties around a common project."
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