03/05/2014 11:05 EST | Updated 05/05/2014 05:59 EDT

TransCanada west-east pipeline in first stage of approval

TransCanada Corp. has taken an initial step toward obtaining regulatory approval for its proposed $12-billion, 4,600-kilometre Energy East oil pipeline by filing a project description with the National Energy Board Tuesday.

The Calgary-based company wants to convert 3,000 kilometres of existing natural gas pipeline and build about 1,600 kilometres of new pipeline in Quebec and New Brunswick. It is expected the west-east pipeline would transport 1.1 million barrels a day of crude oil from Alberta to the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John.

Also planned are new pumping stations, oil storage terminals and a joint venture with Irving for new $300-million
deep-water marine terminal.

The route has been narrowed down based on public consultation and engineering and environmental field work since early in 2013, says project spokesperson Philippe Cannon.

TransCanada has held meetings about the project in 500 communities and has met with 5,500 landowners in the six provinces through which the proposed pipeline will run — New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Of the 155 First Nations and Métis communities consulted, TransCanada says 56 have signed letters of agreement so far.

"TransCanada is proud of the relationship we've built over the years with 60,000 landowners across North America on our oil and natural gas pipeline network. And we plan to keep that strong relationship with the new landowners on the Energy East pipeline project," said Cannon Tuesday.

"Landowners have been and will continue to be informed and consulted. Not only throughout the regulatory process, but also with an open and transparent process throughout the whole project."

The company expects to proceed with a regulatory application in mid-2014, he said.

The document describes the environmental assessment process and provides preliminary information about the scope of activities and the process.

Cannon expects the pipeline to be in service in late 2018 for deliveries in New Brunswick and earlier that year in Quebec.