CALGARY - The CEO of TransCanada Corp. sees opportunities to build new oil pipelines in Mexico, which is poised to end its government's monopoly on energy development and open its oilfields up to foreign players.

To the extent that Mexico, already a crude exporter, is able to ramp up its flagging production as a result of the changes, it will likely be eager to send more of its crude to lucrative Asian markets — much as has been the case in Canada in recent years, Russ Girling said.

"That's where companies like us can come in with our capital and our expertise and build the infrastructure necessary to get it to a place where they can export from," he said in an interview.

TransCanada already has two natural gas pipelines in Mexico. The Guadalajara pipeline to the Pacific Coast and the Tamazunchale line in the east-central part of the country.

Oil pipelines could be TransCanada's next move in Mexico.

"That's a market that we enjoy working in, one that we could see is above board and objective," said Girling.

"What we bring to the table is obviously our capital, but probably more importantly is our expertise in some of the more difficult terrain and remote terrain in Mexico."

In its Mexican gas pipeline business, Girling said the company has had to deal with "startling topography."

"There's not many companies with the expertise we have over our mountain ranges and those kinds of things."

TransCanada is awaiting U.S. government approval to build its US$5.4 billion Keystone XL pipeline more than five years after it first applied for a permit. That 830,000-barrel-a-day line would connect to an existing system that delivers crude to the U.S. Midwest and Cushing, Okla. Girling expects a decision from the U.S. State Department in the first quarter of 2014.

A US$2.3 billion line between Cushing and Texas refineries — part of an earlier iteration of Keystone XL before the project was broken up into two — is expected to start shipping crude on Jan. 22. TransCanada was able to go ahead with the Gulf Coast segment first because it doesn't cross an international border.

One of the main drivers behind Keystone XL has been to ship heavy oilsands crude to Gulf Coast refiners to displace declining imports from Mexico and Venezuela.

Girling said he doesn't see a potential ramp up from Mexico as a threat to Keystone XL.

Gulf Coast refiners import 4.5 million barrels from overseas and Keystone XL, if approved, wouldn't come close to supplanting that, he said.

"I think the market's big enough for everybody," Girling said.

"There's room for Mexico to come on. I believe that Mexico is smart as well. They're not going to be dependent on one market either. They'll build pipeline access to their West Coast. The biggest growth market for crude oil in the world is the Asian market. India, China are going to drive the growth."

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  • <em>From Getty:</em> SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 25: Protestors against the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline hold signs and stand on a Keith Haring sculpture as they demonstrate outside of the W Hotel before the arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama on October 25, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Hundreds of protestors from a wide variety of activist groups staged protests outside of the W Hotel where President Obama was holding a $7,500 per person fundraiser. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • <em>From Getty:</em> SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 25: A protestor against the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline climbs on a Keith Haring sculpture as he demonstrates outside of the W Hotel where U.S. President Barack Obama was holding a fundraiser on October 25, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Hundreds of protestors from a wide variety of activist groups staged protests outside of the W Hotel where President Obama was holding a $7,500 per person fundraiser. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • <em>From Getty:</em> Demonstrators listen to speakers in Lafayette Park across from the White House in Washington, DC November 6, 2011. Thousands of people are descending on the White House to join hands with one another and stand up to the Keystone XL pipeline. (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • <em>From Getty:</em> Demonstrators listen to speakers in Lafayette Park across from the White House in Washington, DC November 6, 2011. Thousands of people are descending on the White House to join hands with one another and stand up to the Keystone XL pipeline. (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • <em>From Getty:</em> A demonstrator waves signs in Lafayette Park across from the White House in Washington, DC November 6, 2011. Thousands of people are descending on the White House to join hands with one another and stand up to the Keystone XL pipeline.

  • <em>From Getty:</em> A demonstrator dressed as an oil soaked bird in Lafayette Park across from the White House in Washington, DC November 6, 2011. Thousands of people are descending on the White House to join hands with one another and stand up to the Keystone XL pipeline.

  • <em>From Getty:</em> Demonstrators listen to speakers in Lafayette Park across from the White House in Washington, DC November 6, 2011. Thousands of people are descending on the White House to join hands with one another and stand up to the Keystone XL pipeline.

  • <em>From Getty:</em> A demonstrator holds signs in front of the White House in Washington, DC November 6, 2011. Thousands of people are descending on the White House to join hands with one another and stand up to the Keystone XL pipeline.

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  • <em>From Getty:</em> Children demonstrate in front of the White House in Washington, DC November 6, 2011. Thousands of people are descending on the White House to join hands with one another and stand up to the Keystone XL pipeline. AFP PHOTO / Karen BLEIER

  • <em>From Getty:</em> Demonstrators hold up a banner in front of the White House in Washington, DC November 6, 2011. Thousands of people are descending on the White House to join hands with one another and stand up to the Keystone XL pipeline. AFP PHOTO / Karen BLEIER

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  • <em>From Getty:</em> Demonstrators in front of the White House in Washington, DC November 6, 2011. Thousands of people are descending on the White House to join hands with one another and stand up to the Keystone XL pipeline.

  • <em>From Getty:</em> Demonstrators line up in front of the White House in Washington, DC November 6, 2011. Thousands of people are descending on the White House to join hands with one another and stand up to the Keystone XL pipeline.

  • <em>From Getty:</em> A sign is seen in Lafayette Park across from the White House in Washington, DC November 6, 2011 during a protest. Thousands of people are descending on the White House to join hands with one another and stand up to the Keystone XL pipeline.

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