(Recasts with Keystone XL pipeline update)
By Rod Nickel and Laharee Chatterjee
Aug 2 (Reuters) - Pipeline operator TransCanada Corp is seeing strong interest from oil shippers in locking up the remaining space on Keystone XL and expects it to be fully subscribed, its chief executive said on Thursday.
TransCanada has not yet made a final investment decision on its $8-billion Keystone XL (KXL) expansion, which would boost export capacity from the oil-rich province of Alberta to U.S. refineries. That decision may come late this year or in early 2019, pending some remaining regulatory approvals needed and court challenges, Chief Executive Russ Girling said.
In the meantime, the company is talking with shippers to commit crude volumes on KXL and the existing Keystone system, after announcing in January that it had secured 500,000 barrels per day of crude in 20-year commitments for KXL, about two-thirds of its capacity.
"We expect those discussions will lead to additional take-or-pay commitments and we would anticipate that the pipeline's capacity will be fully subscribed in the coming months," Girling said on a quarterly conference call.
The project has pitted environmentalists worried about spills and global warming against industry advocates who say it will shore up discounted Canadian oil prices and attract investment to Alberta's oil sands. KXL would run from an oil hub at Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would join the existing Keystone pipeline system.
KXL cleared a hurdle on Monday as the Trump administration said in a draft environmental assessment that an alternative route through Nebraska would not do major harm to water and wildlife.
TransCanada reported an 11 percent drop in quarterly profit on Thursday and said it would sell its majority stake in Cartier wind power facilities in Quebec for about C$630 million ($484 million).
The assets, in which TransCanada has a 62 percent stake, include five wind farms with a total generating capacity of 590 megawatts.
The sale to Innergex Renewable Energy Inc is expected to close in the fourth quarter, the company said.
TransCanada's net income fell to C$785 million, or 88 Canadian cents per share, in the second quarter, from C$881 million, or C$1.01 per share, a year earlier.
Total revenue slid to C$3.20 billion from C$3.23 billion.
TransCanada shares rose 0.7 percent in Toronto.
$1 = 1.3021 Canadian dollars Reporting by Laharee Chatterjee in Bengaluru and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Tom Brown