UPDATE 1-Kinder Morgan launches open season on crude pipeline

HOUSTON, April 2 Tue Apr 2, 2013 4:12pm EDT

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HOUSTON, April 2 (Reuters) - Kinder Morgan Energy Partners on Tuesday launched a binding open season to gauge shipper interest in a pipeline that would move cheap U.S. crude from Texas to import-dependent California refineries.

Dubbed the Freedom Pipeline, the project would involve converting a natural gas pipeline to move crude oil from the Permian Basin as well as construction of new crude pipeline and pumping stations.

In January, Kinder Morgan Chief Executive Richard Kinder told analysts that the potentially $2 billion project could move up to 400,000 barrels per day, but would be profitable at 250,000 bpd.

On Tuesday, the company said it would have an initial capacity of 277,000 bpd.

Kinder Morgan would build 22 miles of new pipeline for interconnections in California, and 200 miles of pipeline between Wink and El Paso in West Texas. The company also would build tank facilities in the receipt area of Wink and Midland, Texas, and at delivery points in California.

If enough shippers express interest and regulators approve, construction would start by June 2015 with startup slated for the latter part of the fourth quarter 2016.

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