Oil shipments to begin in Keystone XL's southern leg

Oil will be shipped through the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline starting in late January, developer TransCanada said on Tuesday.

In a notice to its customers, TransCanada said oil deliveries to Gulf Coast refineries are expected to begin on Jan. 22.

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"This is another important milestone for TransCanada, our shippers and the refiners on the U.S. Gulf Coast who have been waiting for this product to arrive," TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said in an email. 

"Providing this notice gives our customers time to ensure that they have the appropriate volumes of oil to move into our system when the pipeline is ready to go into full commercial operation," he said.

The shipments will begin despite the delay by President Obama in considering whether to approve the controversial northern part of the project.

The northern leg, which will carry crude from the oil sands in Alberta to refineries in the Gulf Coast, requires approval from the president. 

The southern leg will run from Cushing, Okla., to Nederland, Texas, and shipped through lines to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

In a recent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission filing, TransCanada estimated that once full operation is underway, the pipeline would ship 520,000 barrels of oil per day at a minimum through the southern leg.