The northern portion of the project may still be awaiting approval from the American government, but a section of the Keystone XL pipeline between Cushing, Oklahoma and the Texas gulf coast is half complete.

That’s according to Transcanada Pipelines which says nearly 4,000 workers are laying down and welding a 485 mile section of the multi-billion dollar pipeline.

If the project avoids setbacks, that portion of the pipeline could be moving oil by the end of the year.

Another portion of the pipeline, which would move Alberta bitumen through Canada and across the northern United States, still awaits approval from the U.S. State Department.  Transcanada first applied for a permit to build that part of the pipeline five years ago.

A company spokesman says because the gulf coast segment of the pipeline doesn’t cross an international border, the approval process is much more simple, and as a result work began last August.

The southern portion of the project has received much less media attention than the proposed northern system.  But it still has its critics.  A spokesperson for Transcanada says protest activity, previously confined to Texas, has now moved to Oklahoma.  There have been two recent incidents in which activists locked themselves to construction equipment, resulting in ten arrests.

Meantime, Alberta Premier Alison Redford is in Washington this weekend to lobby for project saying she remains confident it will be approved.