The state of Nebraska has approved the Keystone XL pipeline for bringing heavy oil from Canada to refineries in the US, but has insisted on an alternative route, creating scope for additional delays.

Nebraska’s Public Service Commission on Monday morning voted in favour of allowing the pipeline to pass through the state but selected the “alternative mainline route”, which runs to the east of the preferred route proposed by Transcanada, the company behind the project.

The decision from Nebraska had been seen as one of the final hurdles for the project — which was first proposed to regulators back in 2008 — but the change of route could open it up to challenges from landowners on its path.

If the project goes ahead, Keystone XL will open an important new export route for crude from the oil sands of western Canada, fulfilling a long-sought objective of US Republicans.

During last year’s campaign, President Donald Trump talked about his support for the project but suggested there would be conditions attached, saying: “I want it built, but I want a piece of the profits.”

Signing an order to advance the project in his first week in office, Mr Trump also talked about plans to “renegotiate some of the terms” of Canada’s oil exports to the US, but no further details have emerged.

The project was blocked in 2015 by President Barack Obama on the grounds that approving a large piece of oil infrastructure would have undercut US attempts to encourage global agreement on addressing the threat of global warming caused by emissions from fossil fuels.

Transcanada shares were up about 2 per cent in Monday trading.

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