DCP Midstream Partners, LP 10-K 2011
Documents found in this filing:
UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
For the fiscal year ended: December 31, 2010
For the transition period from to
Commission file number: 001-32678
DCP MIDSTREAM PARTNERS, LP
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
Registrants telephone number, including area code: 303-633-2900
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, or the Act. Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes ¨ No x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Act during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). Yes ¨ No ¨
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrants knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer or a smaller reporting company. See definition of large accelerated filer, accelerated filer and smaller reporting company in Rule 12b-2 of the Act. (Check one):
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes ¨ No x
The aggregate market value of common units held by non-affiliates of the registrant on June 30, 2010, was approximately $724,943,000. The aggregate market value was computed by reference to the last sale price of the registrants common units on the New York Stock Exchange on June 30, 2010.
As of February 25, 2011, there were outstanding 40,486,782 common units.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE:
FORM 10-K FOR THE YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2010
TABLE OF CONTENTS
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
The following is a list of certain industry terms used throughout this report:
CAUTIONARY STATEMENT ABOUT FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
Our reports, filings and other public announcements may from time to time contain statements that do not directly or exclusively relate to historical facts. Such statements are forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. You can typically identify forward-looking statements by the use of forward-looking words, such as may, could, project, believe, anticipate, expect, estimate, potential, plan, forecast and other similar words.
All statements that are not statements of historical facts, including statements regarding our future financial position, business strategy, budgets, projected costs and plans and objectives of management for future operations, are forward-looking statements.
These forward-looking statements reflect our intentions, plans, expectations, assumptions and beliefs about future events and are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors, many of which are outside our control. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from the expectations expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements include known and unknown risks. Known risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, the risks set forth in Item 1A. Risk Factors as well as the following risks and uncertainties:
In light of these risks, uncertainties and assumptions, the events described in the forward-looking statements might not occur or might occur to a different extent or at a different time than we have described. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
DCP Midstream Partners, LP along with its consolidated subsidiaries, or we, us, our, or the partnership, is a Delaware limited partnership formed in August 2005 by DCP Midstream, LLC to own, operate, acquire and develop a diversified portfolio of complementary midstream energy assets. We completed our initial public offering on December 7, 2005. We are currently engaged in the business of gathering, compressing, treating, processing, transporting, storing and selling natural gas; transporting, storing and selling propane in wholesale markets; and producing, fractionating, transporting, storing and selling NGLs and condensate. Supported by our relationship with DCP Midstream, LLC and its parents, Spectra Energy Corp, or Spectra Energy, and ConocoPhillips, we have a management team dedicated to executing our growth strategy by acquiring and constructing additional assets.
Our operations are organized into three business segments, Natural Gas Services, Wholesale Propane Logistics and NGL Logistics. A map representing the geographic location and type of our assets for all segments is set forth below. Additional maps detailing the individual assets can be found on our website at www.dcppartners.com. Our website and the information contained on that site, or connected to that site, are not incorporated by reference into this report. For more information on our segments, see the Our Operating Segments discussion below.
OVERVIEW AND STRATEGIES
Our Business Strategies
Our primary business objectives are to have sustained company profitability, a strong balance sheet and profitable growth thereby increasing our cash distribution per unit over time. We intend to accomplish these objectives by executing the following business strategies:
Acquire: pursue strategic and accretive acquisitions. We pursue strategic and accretive acquisition opportunities within the midstream energy industry, both in new and existing lines of business, and geographic areas of operation. We believe there will continue to be acquisition opportunities as energy companies continue to divest their midstream assets. We intend to pursue acquisition opportunities both independently and jointly with DCP Midstream, LLC and its parents, Spectra Energy and ConocoPhillips, and we may also acquire assets directly from them, which we believe will provide us with a broader array of growth opportunities than those available to many of our competitors. We plan to execute and fund our growth partially through co-investing with DCP Midstream, LLC, including the pursuit of acquisitions
with or from DCP Midstream, LLC and through formation of additional joint ventures with it. In partnering with DCP Midstream, LLC in this manner, we aim to accomplish our individual growth initiatives while expanding the reach of both entities.
Build: capitalize on organic expansion opportunities. We continually evaluate economically attractive organic expansion opportunities to construct midstream systems in new or existing operating areas. For example, we believe there are opportunities to expand several of our gas gathering systems to attach increased volumes of natural gas produced in the areas of our operations. We believe there are opportunities to expand our NGL Logistics business via the expansion of NGL pipelines and storage. We also believe that we can continue to expand our wholesale propane logistics business via the construction of new propane terminals.
Optimize: maximize the profitability of existing assets. We intend to optimize the profitability of our existing assets by maintaining existing volumes and adding new volumes to enhance utilization, improve operating efficiencies and capture marketing opportunities when available. Our facilities, terminals and pipelines have excess capacity, which allows us to connect or contract for new supplies of natural gas and NGLs at minimal incremental cost. Our wholesale propane logistics business has diversified supply options that allow us to capture lower cost supply to lock in our margin, while providing reliable supplies to our customers.
Our Competitive Strengths
We believe that we are well positioned to execute our business strategies and achieve one of our primary business objectives of increasing our cash distribution per unit because of the following competitive strengths:
Affiliation with DCP Midstream, LLC and its parents. Our relationship with DCP Midstream, LLC and its parents, Spectra Energy and ConocoPhillips, should continue to provide us with significant business opportunities. DCP Midstream, LLC is one of the largest gatherers of natural gas (based on wellhead volume), and one of the largest producers and marketers of NGLs in North America. This relationship also provides us with access to a significant pool of management talent. We believe our strong relationships throughout the energy industry, including with major producers of natural gas and NGLs in the United States, will help facilitate the implementation of our strategies. Additionally, we believe DCP Midstream, LLC, which operates most of our assets on our behalf, has established a reputation in the midstream business as a reliable and cost-effective supplier of services to our customers, and has a track record of safe, efficient and environmentally responsible operation of our facilities.
We believe we are an important growth vehicle and a key source of funding for DCP Midstream, LLC to pursue the acquisition, expansion, and organic construction of midstream natural gas, wholesale propane, NGL and other complementary energy businesses and assets. DCP Midstream, LLC has also provided us with growth opportunities through acquisitions directly from it or joint ventures with it. We believe we will have future opportunities to make additional acquisitions with or directly from DCP Midstream, LLC as well as form joint ventures with it; however, we cannot say with any certainty which, if any, of these opportunities may be made available to us, or if we will choose to pursue any such opportunity. In addition, through our relationship with DCP Midstream, LLC and its parents, we believe we have strong commercial relationships throughout the energy industry and access to DCP Midstream, LLCs broad operational, commercial, technical, risk management and administrative infrastructure.
DCP Midstream, LLC has a significant interest in us through its approximately 1% general partner interest in us, its ownership of our incentive distribution rights and an approximately 29% limited partner interest in us. We have entered into an omnibus agreement, or the Omnibus Agreement, with DCP Midstream, LLC and some of its affiliates that governs our relationship with them regarding the operation of most of our assets, as well as certain reimbursement and other matters.
Strategically located assets. Each of our business segments has assets that are strategically located in areas with the potential for increasing each of our business segments volume throughput and cash flow generation. Our Natural Gas Services segment has a strategic presence in several active natural gas producing areas including Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming and the Gulf of
Mexico. These natural gas gathering systems provide a variety of services to our customers including natural gas gathering, compression, treating, processing, fractionation, storage and transportation services. The strategic location of our assets, coupled with their geographic diversity, presents us continuing opportunities to provide competitive natural gas services to our customers and opportunities to attract new natural gas production. Our NGL Logistics segment has strategically located NGL transportation pipelines in Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana and Texas, which are major NGL producing regions, and an NGL storage facility in Michigan. Our NGL pipelines connect to various natural gas processing plants and transport the NGLs to large fractionation facilities, a petrochemical plant or an underground NGL storage facility along the Gulf Coast. Our NGL storage facility is strategically adjacent to the Sarnia refinery and petrochemical corridor. Our Wholesale Propane Logistics Segment has terminals in the mid-atlantic, northeastern and upper midwestern states that are strategically located to receive and deliver propane to some of the largest demand areas for propane in the United States.
Stable cash flows. Our operations consist of a favorable mix of fee-based and commodity-based services, which together with our derivative activities, generate relatively stable cash flows. While certain of our gathering and processing contracts subject us to commodity price risk, we have mitigated a portion of our currently anticipated natural gas, NGL and condensate commodity price risk associated with the equity volumes from our gathering and processing operations through 2015 with fixed price commodity swaps and collar arrangements.
Integrated package of midstream services. We provide an integrated package of services to natural gas producers, including gathering, compressing, treating, processing, transporting, storing and selling natural gas, as well as producing, fractionating, transporting, storing and selling NGLs and condensate. We believe our ability to provide all of these services gives us an advantage in competing for new supplies of natural gas because we can provide substantially all services that producers, marketers and others require to move natural gas and NGLs from wellhead to market on a cost-effective basis.
Comprehensive propane logistics systems. We have multiple propane supply sources and terminal locations for wholesale propane delivery. We believe our diversity of supply source and logistics capabilities along with our propane storage assets and services allow us to provide our customers with reliable supplies of propane during periods of tight supply. These capabilities also allow us to moderate the effects of commodity price volatility and reduce significant fluctuations in our sales volumes.
Experienced management team. Our senior management team and board of directors include some of the most senior officers of DCP Midstream, LLC and former senior officers from other energy companies who have extensive experience in the midstream industry. We believe our management team has a proven track record of enhancing value through the acquisition, optimization and integration of midstream assets.
Midstream Natural Gas Industry Overview
The midstream natural gas industry is the link between exploration and production of natural gas and the delivery of its components to end-use markets, and consists of the gathering, compression, treating, processing, transporting, storing and selling of natural gas, and the production, fractionating, transporting, storing and selling of NGLs.
Once natural gas is produced from wells, producers then seek to deliver the natural gas and its components to end-use markets. The following diagram illustrates the natural gas gathering, processing, fractionation, storage and transportation process, which ultimately results in natural gas and its components being delivered to end-users.
Natural Gas Gathering
The natural gas gathering process begins with the drilling of wells into gas-bearing rock formations. Once the well is completed, the well is connected to a gathering system. Onshore gathering systems generally consist of a network of small diameter pipelines that collect natural gas from points near producing wells and transport it to larger pipelines for further transmission.
Natural Gas Compression
Gathering systems are generally operated at design pressures that will maximize the total throughput from all connected wells. Since wells produce at progressively lower field pressures as they deplete, it becomes increasingly difficult to deliver the remaining lower pressure production from the well against the prevailing gathering system pressures. Natural gas compression is a mechanical process in which a volume of wellhead gas is compressed to a desired higher pressure, allowing gas to flow into a higher pressure downstream pipeline to be brought to market. Field compression is typically used to lower the pressure of a gathering system to operate at a lower pressure or provide sufficient pressure to deliver gas into a higher pressure downstream pipeline. If field compression is not installed, then the remaining natural gas in the ground will not be produced because it cannot overcome the higher gathering system pressure. In contrast, if field compression is installed, then a well can continue delivering production that otherwise would not be produced.
Natural Gas Processing
The principal component of natural gas is methane, but most natural gas produced at the wellhead also contains varying amounts of NGLs including ethane, propane, normal butane, isobutane and natural gasoline. NGLs have economic value and are utilized as a feedstock in the petrochemical and oil refining industries or directly as heating, engine or industrial fuels. Long-haul natural gas pipelines have residue natural gas specifications as to the maximum NGL content of the gas to be shipped. In order to meet quality standards for long-haul pipeline transportation, natural gas collected at the wellhead through a gathering system may need to be processed to separate hydrocarbon liquids from the natural gas that can have higher values as NGLs. NGLs are typically recovered by cooling the natural gas until the NGLs become separated through condensation. Cryogenic recovery methods are processes where this is accomplished at temperatures lower than minus 150°F. These methods provide higher NGL recovery yields.
In addition to NGLs, natural gas collected at the wellhead through a gathering system may also contain impurities, such as water, sulfur compounds, nitrogen or helium, which must also be removed to meet the quality standards for long-haul pipeline transportation. As a result, gathering systems and natural gas processing plants will typically provide ancillary services prior to processing such as dehydration, treating to remove impurities and condensate separation. Dehydration removes water from the natural gas stream, which can form ice when combined with natural gas and cause corrosion when combined with carbon dioxide or hydrogen sulfide. Natural gas with a carbon dioxide or hydrogen sulfide content higher than permitted by pipeline quality standards requires treatment with chemicals called amines at a separate treatment plant prior to processing. Condensate separation involves the removal of liquefied hydrocarbons from the natural gas stream. Once the condensate has been removed, it may be stabilized for transportation away from the processing plant via truck, rail or pipeline.
Natural Gas and NGL Transportation and Storage
After gas collected through a gathering system is processed to meet quality standards required for transportation and NGLs have been extracted from natural gas, the residue natural gas is shipped on long-haul pipelines. The NGLs are typically transported via NGL pipelines or trucks to a fractionator for separation of the NGLs into their individual component parts. Natural gas and NGLs can also be held in storage facilities to meet future seasonal and customer demands. Storage facilities can include marine, pipeline and rail terminals, and underground facilities consisting of salt caverns and aquifers, used for storage of natural gas and various liquefied petroleum gas products including propane, mixed butane, and normal butane. Rail, truck and pipeline connections provide varying ways of transporting natural gas and NGLs to and from storage facilities.
Wholesale Propane Logistics Overview
Wholesale propane logistics covers the receipt of propane from processing plants, fractionation facilities and crude oil refineries, the transportation of that propane by pipeline, rail or ship to terminals and storage facilities, the storage of propane and the delivery of propane to retail distributors.
Production of Propane
Propane is extracted from the natural gas stream at processing plants, separated from NGLs at fractionation facilities or separated from crude oil during the refining process. Most of the propane that is consumed in the United States is produced at processing plants, fractionation facilities and refineries located in the United States or in foreign locations, particularly Canada, the North Sea, East Africa and the Middle East. There are limited processing plants, fractionation facilities and propane production in the northeastern United States.
Propane demand is typically highest in suburban and rural areas where natural gas is not readily available, such as the northeastern United States. Propane is supplied by wholesalers to retailers to be sold to residential and commercial consumers primarily for heating and industrial applications. Propane demand is typically highest in the winter heating season months of October through April.
Transportation and Storage
Due to the regions limited propane production and relatively high demand, the mid-atlantic and northeastern United States are importers of propane. These areas rely almost exclusively on pipeline, marine and rail sources for incoming supplies from both domestic and foreign locations. Independent terminal operators and wholesale distributors, own, lease or have access to propane storage facilities that receive supplies via pipeline, ship or rail. Generally, inventories in the propane storage facilities increase during the spring and summer months for delivery to customers during the fall and winter heating season when demand is typically at its peak.
Often, upon receipt of propane at marine, rail and pipeline terminals, product is delivered to customer trucks or is stored in tanks located at the terminals or in off-site bulk storage facilities for future delivery to customers. Most terminals and storage facilities have a tanker truck loading facility commonly referred to as a rack. Typically independent retailers will rely on independent trucking companies to pick up propane at the propane wholesalers rack and transport it to the retailer at its location.
OUR OPERATING SEGMENTS
Natural Gas Services Segment
Our Natural Gas Services segment consists of a geographically diverse complement of assets and ownership interests that provide a varying array of wellhead to market services for our producer customers. These services include gathering, compressing, treating, processing, fractionating, transporting and storing natural gas; however, we do not offer all services at every location. These assets are positioned in areas with active drilling programs and opportunities for both organic growth and readily integrated acquisitions. Our Natural Gas Services Segment operates in seven states in the continental United States: Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming. The assets in these states include our Northern Louisiana system (including the Minden, Ada and Pelico systems), our Southern Oklahoma system (Lindsay system), our 40% equity interest in the Discovery system located off and onshore in Southern Louisiana, our 50.1% operating interest in the East Texas system, our 75% operating interest in our Colorado system (Collbran system), our Wyoming system (Douglas system), our Michigan system, and from January 2011, our 33.33% equity interest in the Southeast Texas system. The East Texas and Southeast Texas systems provide operating synergies and opportunities for growth in conjunction with DCP Midstream, LLC. This geographic diversity helps to mitigate our natural gas supply risk in that we are not tied to one natural gas resource type or producing area. We believe our current geographic mix of assets will be an important factor for maintaining overall volumes and cash flow for this segment.
Our Natural Gas Services segment consists of approximately 5,300 miles of pipe, seven processing plants, five treating plants, two natural gas storage facilities and two NGL fractionation facilities. The seven processing plants that service our natural gas gathering systems include six cryogenic facilities with approximately 873 MMcf/d of processing capacity and one refrigeration facility with approximately 45 MMcf/d of processing
capacity. Further, our Minden and Discovery processing facilities both have ethane rejection capabilities that serve to optimize the value of the gas stream. The natural gas storage facilities include 850 MMcf of leased storage on our Pelico system, and our 33.33% interest in the Southeast Texas systems 9 Bcf salt dome storage facility.
During 2010, the volume throughput on our assets was in excess of 1.1 Bcf/d, originating from a diversified mix of natural gas producing companies. Our systems each have significant customer acreage dedications that will continue to provide opportunities for growth as those customers execute their drilling plans over time. Our gathering systems also attract new natural gas volumes through numerous smaller acreage dedications and also by contracting with undedicated producers who are operating in or around our gathering footprint. During 2010, the combined NGL production from our processing facilities was in excess of 33,500 Bbls/d and was delivered and sold into various NGL takeaway pipelines or transported by truck.
Our natural gas gathering systems have the ability to deliver gas into numerous downstream transportation pipelines and markets. Many of our outlets transport gas to premium markets in the eastern United States, further enhancing the competitiveness of our commercial efforts in and around our natural gas gathering systems.
Gathering and Transmission Systems, Plants, Fractionators and Storage Facilities
Following is operating data for our systems:
Our Northern Louisiana system includes our Minden and Ada systems, which gather natural gas from producers and deliver it for processing to the processing plants. It also includes our Pelico system, which stores natural gas and transports it to markets. Through our Northern Louisiana system, we offer producers and customers wellhead-to-market services. Our Northern Louisiana system has numerous market outlets for the natural gas we gather, including several intrastate and interstate pipelines, major industrial end-users and major power plants. The system is strategically located to facilitate the transportation of natural gas from Texas and northern Louisiana to pipeline connections linking to markets in the eastern areas of the United States.
Our Minden processing plant is a cryogenic natural gas processing and treating plant located in Webster Parish, Louisiana. This processing plant has amine treating and ethane recovery and rejection capabilities such that we can recover approximately 80% of the ethane contained in the natural gas stream. In addition the processing plant is able to reject the majority of the ethane when justified by market economics. This processing flexibility enables us to maximize the value of ethane for our customers. NGLs produced at the Minden processing plant are delivered to our Black Lake pipeline.
Our Ada gathering system is located in Bienville and Webster Parish in Louisiana and the Ada processing plant is a refrigeration natural gas processing plant located in Bienville Parish, Louisiana. This low pressure gathering system compresses and processes natural gas for our producing customers and delivers residue gas into our Pelico intrastate system. The NGLs produced at the Ada processing plant are transported by truck from the plant tailgate.
Our Pelico system is an intrastate natural gas gathering and transportation pipeline that gathers and transports natural gas that does not require processing from producers in the area. Additionally, the Pelico system transports processed gas from the Minden and Ada processing plants and natural gas supplied from third party interstate and intrastate natural gas pipelines. The Pelico system also receives natural gas produced in Texas through its interconnect with other pipelines that transport natural gas from Texas into western Louisiana. The Pelico system leases 850 MMcf of storage capacity from a third party.
Our Southern Oklahoma system is located in the Golden Trend area of McClain, Garvin and Grady counties in southern Oklahoma. The system is adjacent to assets owned by DCP Midstream, LLC. Natural gas gathered by the system is delivered to DCP Midstream, LLC processing plants.
Our Colorado system is comprised of a 75% operating interest in Collbran Valley Gas Gathering, LLC, or Collbran, and consists of assets in the southern Piceance Basin that gather natural gas at high pressure from over 20,000 dedicated and producing acres in western Colorado. The remaining 25% interest in the joint venture is held by Occidental Petroleum Corporation who, along with Delta Petroleum Corporation, are the producers on the system. The Collbran system underwent expansion, completed in the third quarter of 2009, which consisted of an additional 24-inch pipeline loop and installation of compression at the Anderson Gulch site. The expansion increased the pipeline capacity to over 200 MMcf/d and enables gas deliveries to the third-party Meeker Plant through a downstream connection with Enterprise Products Partners LP. As a result of our arrangement with Enterprise Products Partners LP, we have decommissioned the processing services at our natural gas processing plant at the Anderson Gulch site. However, this plant will continue to provide treating and compression services as needed.
Our Wyoming system consists of over 1,300 miles of natural gas gathering pipelines that cover more than 4,000 square miles in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. The system gathers primarily rich casing-head gas from oil wells at low pressure and delivers the gas to a third party for processing under a fee agreement.
Our Michigan system consists of four natural gas treating plants and an approximately 330-mile gas gathering pipeline system with throughput capacity of 455 MMcf/d; an approximately 55-mile residue gas pipeline, or Bay Area pipeline; a 75% interest in Jackson Pipeline Company, a partnership owning an approximately 25-mile residue pipeline; and a 44% interest in the 30-mile Litchfield pipeline.
We have a 40% equity interest in Discovery, with the remaining 60% owned by Williams Partners, L.P. The Discovery system includes a natural gas gathering and transportation pipeline system located primarily off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico, with six delivery points connected to major interstate and intrastate pipeline systems; a cryogenic natural gas processing plant in Larose, Louisiana; a fractionator in Paradis, Louisiana; and an NGL pipeline connecting the gas processing plant to the fractionator. The Discovery system, operated by the Williams Companies, offers a full range of wellhead-to-market services to both onshore and offshore natural gas producers. The assets are primarily located in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and Lafourche Parish, Louisiana. The Discovery system is able to reject the majority of the ethane when justified by market economics.
Discovery is managed by a two-member management committee, consisting of one representative from each owner. The members of the management committee have voting power corresponding to their respective ownership interests in Discovery. All actions and decisions relating to Discovery require the unanimous
approval of the owners except for a few limited situations. Discovery must make quarterly distributions of available cash (generally, cash from operations less required and discretionary reserves) to its owners. The management committee, by majority approval based on the ownership percentage represented, will determine the amount of the distributions. In addition, the owners are required to offer to Discovery all opportunities to construct pipeline laterals within an area of interest.
We have a 50.1% consolidating interest in East Texas. In July 2007 and April 2009, we acquired 25% and 25.1%, respectively, of limited liability company interests in East Texas from DCP Midstream, LLC. Our East Texas system gathers, transports, treats, compresses and processes natural gas and NGLs. Our East Texas facility may also fractionate NGL production, which can be marketed at nearby petrochemical facilities. Our East Texas system, located near Carthage, Texas, includes a natural gas processing complex that is connected to its gathering system, as well as third party gathering systems. The complex includes the Carthage Hub, which delivers residue gas to interstate and intrastate pipelines and acts as a key exchange point for the purchase and sale of residue gas in the eastern Texas region. The East Texas system consists of approximately 900 miles of pipe, processing capacity of 780 MMcf/d and fractionation capacity of 11 MBbls/d.
East Texas is managed by a four-member management committee, consisting of two representatives from each owner. The members of the management committee have voting power corresponding to their respective ownership interests in East Texas. East Texas must make quarterly distributions of available cash (generally, cash from operations less required and discretionary reserves) to its owners. The management committee, by majority approval, will determine the amount of the distributions.
We have a 33.33% interest in Southeast Texas, which we acquired from DCP Midstream, LLC in January 2011. Two wholly-owned subsidiaries of DCP Midstream, LLC own the remaining 66.67% interest. The Southeast Texas system is a fully integrated midstream business which includes 675 miles of natural gas pipelines, three natural gas processing plants in Liberty and Jefferson Counties with recently increased processing capacity totaling 380 MMcf/d, and natural gas storage assets in Beaumont with 9 Bcf of existing storage capacity.
Southeast Texas is managed by a three-member management committee, consisting of one representative appointed by us and two representatives from DCP Midstream, LLC. The members of the management committee have voting power corresponding to their respective ownership interests in Southeast Texas. Southeast Texas must make quarterly distributions of available cash (generally, cash from operations less required and discretionary reserves) to its owners. The terms of the joint venture agreement provide that distributions to us for the first seven years related to natural gas storage and transportation gross margin will be pursuant to a fee-based arrangement, based on storage capacity and tailgate volumes. Distributions related to the gathering and processing business, along with reductions for all expenditures, will be pursuant to our and DCP Midstream, LLCs respective ownership interests in Southeast Texas. In the event Southeast Texas has insufficient available cash for a quarterly distribution (including pursuant to our fee-based arrangement), DCP Midstream, LLC will assign its distribution rights, or contribute any distribution deficiency to Southeast Texas, the sole use of which shall be to pay the distribution deficiency owing to us related to our fee-based arrangement on natural gas storage and transportation gross margin, based on storage capacity and tailgate volumes. The allocation of earnings to each owner is made on the same basis as the above cash distributions. The management committee, by majority approval, will determine the amount of the distributions.
Natural Gas and NGL Markets
The Northern Louisiana system has numerous market outlets for the natural gas that we gather on the system. Our natural gas pipelines connect to the Perryville Market Hub, a natural gas marketing hub that provides connection to four intrastate or interstate pipelines, including pipelines owned by Southern Natural Gas Company, Texas Gas Transmission, LLC, CenterPoint Energy Mississippi River Transmission Corporation and CenterPoint Energy Gas Transmission Company. In addition, our natural gas pipelines in northern Louisiana also have access to gas that flows through pipelines owned by Texas Eastern Transmission, LP, Crosstex LIG, LLC, Gulf South Pipeline Company, Tennessee Natural Gas Company and Regency Intrastate Gas, LLC. The Northern Louisiana system is also connected to eight major industrial end-users and makes deliveries to three power plants. The NGLs extracted from the natural gas at the Minden processing plant are
delivered to our Black Lake pipeline through our Minden NGL pipeline. The Black Lake pipeline delivers NGLs to Mt. Belvieu. The NGLs extracted from natural gas at the Ada processing plant are sold at market index prices to affiliates and are delivered to third parties trucks at the tailgate of the plant.
The Southern Oklahoma system has access to a mix of mid-continent pipelines including OGT, Southern Star, and NGPL, and markets through DCP Midstream, LLC owned processing plants.
The Colorado system gathers, compresses and redelivers unprocessed gas to the third party Meeker plant.
The Wyoming system delivers to the Kinder Morgan Interstate Gas Transmission interstate pipeline. The NGLs on the Wyoming system are transported on the ConocoPhillips owned, Powder River Pipeline.
The Michigan system delivers Antrim Shale gas to our four treating plants: the South Chester Treating Complex and the Warner, Turtle Lake and East Caledonia plants. Antrim Shale natural gas requires treating in order to meet downstream gas pipeline quality specifications. The treated gas is transported away from the tailgate of the plant. The Bay Area pipeline delivers fuel gas to a third party power plant owned by Consumers Energy. The Jackson Pipeline is operated by Consumers Energy and connects several intrastate pipelines with the Eaton Rapids gas storage facility. The Litchfield pipeline is operated by ANR Pipeline Company and facilitates receipts or deliveries between ANR Pipeline Company and the Eaton Rapids storage facility.
The Discovery assets have access to downstream pipelines and markets including Texas Eastern Transmission Company, Bridgeline, Gulf South Pipeline Company, Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Company, Columbia Gulf Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, among others. The NGLs are fractionated at the Paradis fractionation facilities and delivered downstream to third-party purchasers. The third party purchasers of the fractionated NGLs consist of a mix of local petrochemical facilities and wholesale distribution companies for the ethane and propane components, while the butanes and natural gasoline are delivered and sold to pipelines that transport product to the storage and distribution center near Napoleonville, Louisiana or other similar product hub.
The East Texas system delivers gas primarily through its Carthage Hub which delivers residue gas to ten different interstate and intrastate pipelines including CenterPoint Energy Gas Transmission, Texas Gas Transmission, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, Natural Gas Pipeline Company of America, Gulf South Pipeline Company, Enterprise, Energy Transfer and others. Certain of the lighter NGLs, consisting of ethane and propane, are fractionated at the East Texas facility and sold to regional petrochemical purchasers. The remaining NGLs, including butanes and natural gasoline, are purchased by DCP Midstream, LLC and shipped on the Panola NGL pipeline to Mt. Belvieu for fractionation and sale.
The Southeast Texas system has numerous natural gas market outlets and delivers residue gas into various interstate and intrastate pipelines, including the TETCO and Sabine pipelines. The Southeast Texas system makes NGL market deliveries directly to Exxon Mobil and to Mt. Belvieu via our Black Lake NGL pipeline.
Customers and Contracts
The primary suppliers of natural gas to our Natural Gas Services segment are a broad cross-section of the natural gas producing community. We actively seek new producing customers of natural gas on all of our systems to increase throughput volume and to offset natural declines in the production from connected wells. We obtain new natural gas supplies in our operating areas by contracting for production from new wells, by connecting new wells drilled on dedicated acreage and by obtaining natural gas that has been directly received or released from other gathering systems.
Our contracts with our producing customers in our Natural Gas Services segment are primarily a mix of commodity sensitive percent-of-proceeds and percent-of-liquids contracts and non-commodity sensitive fee-based contracts. Our gross margin generated from percent-of-proceeds contracts is directly related to the price of natural gas, NGLs and condensate and our gross margin generated from percent-of-liquids contracts is directly related to the price of NGLs and condensate. Additionally, these contracts may include fee-based components. Generally, the initial term of these purchase agreements is for three to five years or, in some cases, the life of the lease. The largest percentage of volume at Minden and Wyoming are processed under percent-of-proceeds contracts. Discovery has percent-of-liquids contracts and fee-based contracts, as well as
some keep-whole contracts. The producer contracts at our Southern Oklahoma, East Texas and Southeast Texas systems are primarily percent-of-liquids. The majority of the margin associated with contracts for our Pelico and Ada assets, as well as our Colorado and Michigan system, are fee-based.
DCP Midstream, LLC operates our Southeast Texas system storage facility. It commits on an annual basis a portion of such facilitys capacity to third parties pursuant to fee-based arrangements and manages the rest for its own account. We receive distributions related to this storage business pursuant to the joint venture agreement.
Discoverys wholly owned subsidiary, Discovery Gas Transmission, owns the mainline and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, regulated laterals, which generate revenues through a tariff on file with FERC for several types of service: traditional firm transportation service with reservation fees; firm transportation service on a commodity basis with reserve dedication; and interruptible transportation service. In addition, for any of these general services, Discovery Gas Transmission has the authority to negotiate a specific rate arrangement with an individual shipper and has several of these arrangements currently in effect.
The midstream natural gas industry is cyclical, with the operating results of companies in the industry significantly affected by the prevailing price of NGLs, which in turn has been generally related to the price of crude oil, with some notable exceptions in late 2008 to early 2009, when NGL pricing was at a greater discount to crude oil pricing. Although the prevailing price of residue natural gas has less short-term significance to our operating results than the price of NGLs, in the long term the growth and sustainability of our business depends on natural gas prices being at levels sufficient to provide incentives and capital for producers to increase natural gas exploration and production. The prices of NGLs, crude oil and natural gas can be extremely volatile for periods of time, and may not always have a close relationship. Changes in the relationship of the price of NGLs and crude oil will cause our commodity price sensitivities to vary. To minimize potential future commodity-based pricing and cash flow volatility, we have entered into a series of derivative financial instruments. As a result of these transactions, we have mitigated a portion of our expected natural gas, NGL and condensate commodity price risk relating to the equity volumes associated with our gathering and processing operations through 2015.
The natural gas services business is highly competitive in our markets and includes major integrated oil and gas companies, interstate and intrastate pipelines, and companies that gather, compress, treat, process, store, transport and/or market natural gas. Competition is often the greatest in geographic areas experiencing robust drilling by producers and during periods of high commodity prices for crude oil, natural gas and/or NGLs. Competition is also increased in those geographic areas where our commercial contracts with our customers are shorter in length of term and therefore must be renegotiated on a more frequent basis.
Wholesale Propane Logistics Segment
We operate a wholesale propane logistics business in the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia. As a result of our acquisition of Atlantic Energy in July 2010, we now serve a portion of the large propane market in the mid-atlantic states. The acquisition expands our wholesale marketing operations to not only the acquired Chesapeake, Virginia terminal, but also to open access terminals along the Dixie pipeline.
Due to our multiple propane supply sources, annual and long-term propane supply purchase arrangements, storage capabilities, and multiple terminal locations for wholesale propane delivery, we are generally able to provide our retail propane distribution customers with reliable, low cost deliveries and greater volumes of propane during periods of tight supply such as the winter months. We believe these factors generally result in our maintaining favorable relationships with our customers and allowing us to remain a supplier to many of the large retail distributors in the northeastern and mid-atlantic United States. As a result, we serve as the baseload provider of propane supply to many of our retail propane distribution customers.
Pipeline deliveries to the northeastern and mid-atlantic markets in the winter season are generally at capacity and competing pipeline-dependent terminals can have supply constraints or outages during peak market conditions. Our system of terminals has excess capacity, which provides us with opportunities to increase our volumes with minimal additional cost. Additionally, we are actively seeking new terminals through acquisition or construction to expand our distribution capabilities.
Our operations include one owned propane marine import terminal with storage capacity of 476 MBbls, one leased propane marine terminal with storage capacity of 424 MBbls, one propane pipeline terminal with storage capacity of 56 MBbls, six owned propane rail terminals with aggregate storage capacity of 21 MBbls,
and access to several open access pipeline terminals. We own our rail terminals and lease the land on which the terminals are situated under long-term leases, except for the York terminal where we own the land. Our leased marine terminal is on a long-term lease agreement. Each of our rail terminals consist of two to three propane tanks with capacity of between 120,000 and 270,000 gallons for storage, and two high volume racks for loading propane into trucks. Our aggregate truck-loading capacity is approximately 400 trucks per day. We could expand each of our terminals loading capacity by adding a third rack to handle future growth. High volume submersible pumps are utilized to enable trucks to fully load within 15 minutes. Each facility also has the ability to unload multiple railcars simultaneously. We have numerous railcar leases that allow us to increase our storage and throughput capacity as propane demand increases. Each terminal relies on leased rail trackage for the storage of the majority of its propane inventory in these leased railcars. These railcars mitigate the need for larger numbers of fixed storage tanks and reduce initial capital needs when constructing a terminal. Each railcar holds approximately 30,000 gallons of propane.
Our wholesale propane business has a strategic network of supply arrangements under annual and multi-year agreements under index-based pricing. The remaining supply is purchased on annual or month-to-month terms to match our anticipated sale requirements. Our primary suppliers of propane include a subsidiary of DCP Midstream, LLC, Aux Sable Liquid Products LP, Spectra Energy and BP Canada. We may also obtain supply from our recently acquired NGL storage facility in Marysville, Michigan.
For our rail terminals, we contract for propane at various major supply points in the United States and Canada, and transport the product to our terminals under long-term rail commitments, which provide fixed transportation costs that are subject to prevailing fuel surcharges. We also purchase propane supply from natural gas fractionation plants and crude oil refineries located in the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast. Through this process, we take custody of the propane and either sell it in the wholesale market or store it at our facilities. We have supply contracts with Spectra Energy for both marine terminals.
Based on the carrying value of our inventory, timing of inventory transactions and the volatility of the market value of propane, we have historically and may periodically recognize non-cash lower of cost or market inventory adjustments.
Customers and Contracts
We typically sell propane to retail propane distributors under annual sales agreements, negotiated each spring, that specify floating price terms that provide us a margin in excess of our floating index-based supply costs under our supply purchase arrangements. In the event that a retail propane distributor desires to purchase propane from us on a fixed price basis, we sometimes enter into fixed price sales agreements with terms of generally up to one year. We manage this commodity price risk by purchasing and storing propane, by entering into physical purchase agreements or by entering into offsetting financial derivative instruments, with DCP Midstream, LLC or third parties, that generally match the quantities of propane subject to these fixed price sales agreements. Our ability to help our clients manage their commodity price exposure by offering propane at a fixed price may lead to improved margins and a larger customer base. Historically, approximately 75% of the gross margin generated by our wholesale propane business is earned in the heating season months of October through April, which corresponds to the general market demand for propane.
We had one third-party customer in our Wholesale Propane Logistics segment that accounted for greater than 10% of our segment revenues.
The wholesale propane business is highly competitive in the mid-atlantic, upper midwestern and northeastern regions of the United States. Our wholesale propane business competitors include integrated oil and gas and energy companies, and interstate and intrastate pipelines.
NGL Logistics Segment
We operate our NGL Logistics business in the states of Louisiana, Texas, Colorado, Kansas and Michigan.
Our NGL pipelines transport NGLs from natural gas processing plants to fractionation facilities, a petrochemical plant and a third party underground NGL storage facility. In aggregate, our NGL transportation business has 95 MBbls/d of capacity and in 2010, had average throughput of approximately 38 MBbls/d. Our pipelines provide transportation services to customers on a fee basis. Therefore, the results of operations for this business are generally dependent upon the volume of product transported and the level of fees charged to customers. The volumes of NGLs transported on our pipelines are dependent on the level of production of NGLs from processing plants connected to our NGL pipelines. When natural gas prices are high relative to NGL prices, it is less profitable to recover NGLs from natural gas because of the higher value of natural gas compared to the value of NGLs. As a result, we have experienced periods in the past, and will likely experience periods in the future, when higher relative natural gas prices reduce the volume of NGLs produced at plants connected to our NGL pipelines.
With the December 2010 acquisition of our facility in Marysville, Michigan, we have entered the NGL storage business in the upper midwestern United States. This facility, with strategic access to Canadian NGLs, has approximately 7 MMBbls of propane and butane storage and was operating near capacity in 2010. Our facility serves regional refining and petrochemical demand, and helps to balance the seasonality of propane distribution in the midwestern and northeastern United States and in Sarnia, Canada. We provide services to customers primarily on a fee basis. Therefore, the results of operations for this business are generally dependent upon the volume of product injected, stored and withdrawn, and the level of fees charged to customers.
Seabreeze and Wilbreeze Pipelines. The Seabreeze intrastate NGL pipeline is approximately 68 miles long, has capacity of 33 MBbls/d and, in 2010, had average throughput of approximately 16 MBbls/d. The Seabreeze pipeline, located in Texas, delivers NGLs to a large third-party processing plant with capacity of approximately 340 MMcf/d located in Matagorda County and an NGL pipeline. The Seabreeze pipeline is the
sole NGL pipeline for one processing plant and is the only delivery point for two NGL pipelines. One third party NGL pipeline transports NGLs from five natural gas processing plants located in southeastern Texas that have aggregate processing capacity of approximately 1.6 Bcf/d. Three of these processing plants are owned by DCP Midstream, LLC. In total, seven processing plants produce NGLs, which flow into the Seabreeze pipeline from processed natural gas produced in southern Texas and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. The Seabreeze pipeline delivers the NGLs it receives from these sources to a third party fractionator and a third party storage facility. The Wilbreeze intrastate pipeline, located in Texas, is approximately 39 miles long, has a current capacity of 11 MBbls/d and, in 2010, had average throughput of 6 MBbls/d.
Wattenberg Pipeline. The Wattenberg interstate NGL pipeline is approximately 350 miles long and has capacity of 22 MBbls/d. It originates in the Denver-Julesburg, or DJ, Basin in Colorado and terminates near the Conway hub in Bushton, Kansas. The pipeline is currently connected to two DCP Midstream, LLC plants and two third party plants. To address the growing needs of the DJ Basin, the pipeline is currently undergoing an expansion project which we expect to complete in early 2011 to connect to two additional DCP Midstream, LLC processing plants.
Black Lake Pipeline. The Black Lake interstate NGL pipeline is approximately 317 miles long, has capacity of 40 MBbls/d and, in 2010, had average throughput of approximately 12 MBbls/d. The Black Lake pipeline delivers NGLs from processing plants in northern Louisiana and southeastern Texas to fractionation plants at Mt. Belvieu on the Texas Gulf Coast. The Black Lake pipeline receives NGLs from two natural gas processing plants in northern Louisiana, including our Minden plant and Regency Intrastate Gas, LLCs Dubach processing plant. The Black Lake pipeline is the sole NGL pipeline for these natural gas processing plants in northern Louisiana, as well as one of our Southeast Texas system processing plants, and also receives NGLs from XTO Energy Inc.s Cotton Valley processing plant and Eagle Rocks Brookland processing plant.
Black Lake is owned by us and has been operated by DCP Midstream, LLC since November 2010. Prior to July 27, 2010, we owned a 45% interest in Black Lake, while DCP Midstream, LLC owned a 5% interest. The remaining 50% was owned by an affiliate of BP PLC, who also operated the pipeline prior to November 2010. On July 27, 2010 we acquired DCP Midstream, LLCs 5% interest in Black Lake in a transaction among entities under common control, and on July 30, 2010, we acquired the remaining 50% interest in Black Lake from an affiliate of BP PLC, bringing our ownership interest in Black Lake to 100%. Prior to our acquisition of the remaining 50% interest in Black Lake, we accounted for Black Lake under the equity method of accounting. Subsequent to this transaction we account for Black Lake as a consolidated subsidiary.
NGL Storage Facility
Our NGL storage facility is housed on 320 acres of land in Marysville, Michigan and includes nine underground salt caverns with approximately 7 MMBbls of storage capacity and rail, truck and pipeline connections providing an important supply point for refiners, petrochemical plants and wholesale propane distributors in the Sarnia, midwestern and northeastern markets, including our Wholesale Propane business. We own an additional 300 undeveloped acres in neighboring St. Clair Township, Michigan, which provides the opportunity for future expansion to increase capacity or expand service offerings.
Customers and Contracts
The Wilbreeze pipeline is supported by an NGL product dedication agreement with DCP Midstream, LLC.
DCP Midstream, LLC is the sole shipper on the Seabreeze pipeline under a long-term transportation agreement. The Seabreeze pipeline collects fee-based transportation revenue under this agreement. DCP Midstream, LLC receives its supply of NGLs that it then transports on the Seabreeze pipeline under an NGL purchase agreement with Williams Field Services Gulf Coast Company, LP. Under this agreement, Williams has dedicated all of their respective NGL production from this processing plant to DCP Midstream, LLC. DCP Midstream, LLC has a sales agreement with Formosa Hydrocarbons Company, Inc. Additionally, DCP Midstream, LLC has a transportation agreement with TEPPCO Partners, L.P. that covers all of the NGL volumes transported on TEPPCO Partners, L.P.s South Dean NGL pipeline for delivery to the Seabreeze pipeline.
The Wattenberg pipeline is an open access pipeline with access to numerous gas processing facilities in the DJ Basin. Effective January 1, 2011, we entered into a 10-year dedication and transportation agreement with a subsidiary of DCP Midstream, LLC whereby certain NGL volumes produced at several of DCP Midstream, LLCs processing facilities are dedicated for transportation on the Wattenberg pipeline. We collect fee-based transportation revenue under our tariff.
There are currently six active shippers on the Black Lake pipeline. DCP Midstream, LLC has historically been the largest, accounting for approximately 43% of total throughput in 2010. The Black Lake pipeline generates revenues through a FERC-regulated tariff.
Our Marysville NGL storage facility serves retail and wholesale propane customers, as well as refining and petrochemical customers, under one to three year term storage agreements. Our margins for the storage are primarily fee-based.
For additional information on our segments, please see Item 7. Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, and Note 18 of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements in Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.
We have no revenue or segment profit or loss attributable to international activities.
REGULATORY AND ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS
Safety and Maintenance Regulation
We are subject to regulation by the United States Department of Transportation, or DOT, under the Hazardous Liquids Pipeline Safety Act of 1979, as amended, referred to as the Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Safety Act, and comparable state statutes with respect to design, installation, testing, construction, operation, replacement and management of pipeline facilities. The Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Safety Act covers petroleum and petroleum products, including NGLs and condensate, and requires any entity that owns or operates pipeline facilities to comply with such regulations, to permit access to and copying of records and to file certain reports and provide information as required by the United States Secretary of Transportation. These regulations include potential fines and penalties for violations. We believe that we are in compliance in all material respects with these Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Safety Act regulations.
We are also subject to the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act of 1968, as amended, or NGPSA, and the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002. The NGPSA regulates safety requirements in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of gas pipeline facilities while the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act establishes mandatory inspections for all United States oil and natural gas transportation pipelines in high-consequence areas within 10 years. The DOT has developed regulations implementing the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act that requires pipeline operators to implement integrity management programs, including more frequent inspections and other safety protections in areas where the consequences of potential pipeline accidents pose the greatest risk to people and their property. We currently estimate we will incur costs of up to $4.1 million between 2010 and 2015 to implement integrity management program testing along certain segments of our natural gas transmission and NGL pipelines, including our Wattenberg NGL pipeline acquired in January 2010. We believe that we are in compliance in all material respects with the NGPSA and the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002.
States are largely preempted by federal law from regulating pipeline safety but may assume responsibility for enforcing intrastate pipeline regulations at least as stringent as the federal standards. In practice, states vary considerably in their authority and capacity to address pipeline safety. We do not anticipate any significant problems in complying with applicable state laws and regulations in those states in which we or the entities in which we own an interest operate. Our natural gas transmission and regulated gathering pipelines have ongoing inspection and compliance programs designed to keep the facilities in compliance with pipeline safety and pollution control requirements.
In addition, we are subject to the requirements of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, or OSHA, and comparable state statutes, whose purpose is to protect the health and safety of workers, both
generally and within the pipeline industry. In addition, the OSHA hazard communication standard, the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, community right-to-know regulations under Title III of the federal Superfund Amendment and Reauthorization Act and comparable state statutes require that information be maintained concerning hazardous materials used or produced in our operations and that this information be provided to employees, state and local government authorities and citizens. We and the entities in which we own an interest are also subject to OSHA Process Safety Management regulations, which are designed to prevent or minimize the consequences of catastrophic releases of toxic, reactive, flammable or explosive chemicals. These regulations apply to any process which involves a chemical at or above the specified thresholds, or any process which involves flammable liquid or gas, pressurized tanks, caverns and wells in excess of 10,000 pounds at various locations. Flammable liquids stored in atmospheric tanks below their normal boiling point without the benefit of chilling or refrigeration are exempt. We have an internal program of inspection designed to monitor and enforce compliance with worker safety requirements. We believe that we are in compliance in all material respects with all applicable laws and regulations relating to worker health and safety.
National Fire Protection Association Pamphlets No. 54 and No. 58, which establish rules and procedures governing the safe handling of propane, or comparable regulations, have been adopted as the industry standard in all of the states in which we operate. In some states these laws are administered by state agencies, and in others they are administered on a municipal level. With respect to the transportation of propane by truck, we are subject to regulations promulgated under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act. These regulations cover the transportation of hazardous materials and are administered by the DOT. We conduct ongoing training programs to help ensure that our operations are in compliance with applicable regulations. We maintain various permits that are necessary to operate our facilities, some of which may be material to our propane operations. We believe that the procedures currently in effect at all of our facilities for the handling, storage and distribution of propane are consistent with industry standards and are in compliance in all material respects with applicable laws and regulations.
FERC Regulation of Operations
FERC regulation of pipeline gathering and transportation services, natural gas sales and transportation of NGLs may affect certain aspects of our business and the market for our products and services.
Interstate Natural Gas Pipeline Regulation
The Discovery 105-mile mainline, approximately 60 miles of laterals and its market expansion project are subject to regulation by FERC, under the Natural Gas Act of 1938, or NGA. Natural gas companies may not charge rates that have been determined to be unjust or unreasonable. In addition, FERC authority over natural gas companies that provide natural gas pipeline transportation services in interstate commerce includes:
Generally, the maximum filed recourse rates for interstate pipelines are based on the cost of service including recovery of and a return on the pipelines actual prudent investment cost. Key determinants in the ratemaking process are costs of providing service, allowed rate of return and volume throughput and contractual
capacity commitment assumptions. The maximum applicable recourse rates and terms and conditions for service are set forth in each pipelines FERC-approved gas tariff. Rate design and the allocation of costs also can impact a pipelines profitability. FERC-regulated natural gas pipelines are permitted to discount their firm and interruptible rates without further FERC authorization down to the minimum rate or variable cost of performing service, provided they do not unduly discriminate.
Tariff changes can only be implemented upon approval by FERC. Two primary methods are available for changing the rates, terms and conditions of service of an interstate natural gas pipeline. Under the first method, the pipeline voluntarily seeks a tariff change by making a tariff filing with FERC justifying the proposed tariff change and providing notice, generally 30 days, to the appropriate parties. If FERC determines, as required by the NGA, that a proposed change is just and reasonable, FERC will accept the proposed change and the pipeline will implement such change in its tariff. However, if FERC determines that a proposed change may not be just and reasonable as required by NGA, then FERC may suspend such change for up to five months beyond the date on which the change would otherwise go into effect and set the matter for an administrative hearing. Subsequent to any suspension period ordered by FERC, the proposed change may be placed into effect by the company, pending final FERC approval. In most cases, a proposed rate increase is placed into effect before a final FERC determination on such rate increase, and the proposed increase is collected subject to refund (plus interest). Under the second method, FERC may, on its own motion or based on a complaint, initiate a proceeding seeking to compel the company to change its rates, terms and/or conditions of service. If FERC determines that the existing rates, terms and/or conditions of service are unjust, unreasonable, unduly discriminatory or preferential, then any rate reduction or change that it orders generally will be effective prospectively from the date of FERC order requiring this change.
Additional proposals and proceedings that might affect the natural gas industry are pending before Congress, FERC and the courts. The natural gas industry historically has been heavily regulated; therefore, there is no assurance that a more stringent regulatory approach will not be pursued by FERC and Congress, especially in light of potential market power abuse by marketing affiliates of certain pipeline companies engaged in interstate commerce. In response to this issue, Congress, in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, or EPACT 2005, and FERC have implemented requirements to ensure that energy prices are not impacted by the exercise of market power or manipulative conduct. EPACT 2005 prohibits the use of any manipulative or deceptive device or contrivance in connection with the purchase or sale of natural gas, electric energy or transportation subject to FERC jurisdiction. In addition, EPACT 2005 gave FERC increased penalty authority for these violations. FERC may now issue civil penalties of up to $1.0 million per day per violation, and possible criminal penalties of up to $1.0 million per violation and five years in prison. FERC may also order disgorgement of profits obtained in violation of FERC rules. FERC adopted the Market Manipulation Rules and the Market Behavior Rules to implement the authority granted under EPACT 2005. These rules, which prohibit fraud and manipulation in wholesale energy markets, are subject to broad interpretation. In the past two years, FERC has relied on its EPACT 2005 enforcement authority in issuing a number of natural gas enforcement actions giving rise to the imposition of aggregate penalties of approximately $40.0 million and aggregate disgorgements of approximately $30.0 million. These orders reflect FERCs view that it has broad latitude in determining whether specific behavior violates the rules. Given FERCs broad mandate granted in EPACT 2005, if energy prices are high, or exhibit what FERC deems to be unusual trading patterns, FERC will investigate energy markets to determine if behavior unduly impacted or manipulated energy prices.
Intrastate Natural Gas Pipeline Regulation
Intrastate natural gas pipeline operations are not generally subject to rate regulation by FERC, but they are subject to regulation by various agencies in the respective states where they are located. While the regulatory regime varies from state to state, state agencies typically require intrastate gas pipelines to file their rates with the agencies and permit shippers to challenge existing rates or proposed rate increases. However, to the extent that an intrastate pipeline system transports natural gas in interstate commerce, the rates, terms and conditions of such transportation service are subject to FERC jurisdiction under Section 311 of the Natural Gas Policy Act, or NGPA. Under Section 311, intrastate pipelines providing interstate service may avoid jurisdiction that would otherwise apply under the NGA. Section 311 regulates, among other things, the provision of transportation services by an intrastate natural gas pipeline on behalf of a local distribution company or an interstate natural
gas pipeline. Under Section 311, rates charged for transportation must be fair and equitable, and amounts collected in excess of fair and equitable rates are subject to refund with interest. Rates for service pursuant to Section 311 of the NGPA are generally subject to review and approval by FERC at least once every three years. The rate review may, but does not necessarily, involve an administrative-type hearing before FERC staff panel and an administrative appellate review. Additionally, the terms and conditions of service set forth in the intrastate pipelines Statement of Operating Conditions are subject to FERC approval. Failure to observe the service limitations applicable to transportation services provided under Section 311, failure to comply with the rates approved by FERC for Section 311 service, and failure to comply with the terms and conditions of service established in the pipelines FERC-approved Statement of Operating Conditions could result in the assertion of federal NGA jurisdiction by FERC and/or the imposition of administrative, civil and criminal penalties. Among other matters, EPACT 2005 amends the NGPA to give FERC authority to impose civil penalties for violations of the NGPA up to $1.0 million per day per violation and possible criminal penalties of up to $1.0 million per violation and five years in prison for violations occurring after August 8, 2005. For violations occurring before August 8, 2005, FERC had the authority to impose civil penalties for violations of the NGPA up to $5,000 per violation per day. The Pelico and EasTrans systems are subject to FERC jurisdiction under Section 311 of the NGPA.
On May 20, 2010, FERC issued Order No. 735, a final rule revising the contract reporting requirements for intrastate pipelines providing interstate transportation service pursuant to Section 311 of the NGPA and Hinshaw pipelines providing interstate service subject to the FERCs NGA section 1(c) jurisdiction pursuant to blanket certificates. The final rule revised the reporting requirements to be filed quarterly instead of annually and to include additional data. On December 16, 2010, FERC issued Order No. 735-A that affirmed Order No. 735 and clarified several items. The rule is effective April 1, 2011 and the first report will be due June 1, 2011 and cover first quarter 2011 activity. Pelico, EasTrans and Jackson pipeline systems are required to comply with this rule.
On October 21, 2010, FERC issued a Notice of Inquiry seeking comment on whether and how holders of firm capacity on intrastate natural gas pipelines providing interstate transportation and storage services should be permitted to allow others to make use of their firm interstate capacity. If FERC imposes new requirements on intrastate pipelines providing interstate firm transportation service, Pelico and EasTrans could be required to comply with such requirements.
On March 31, 2009, EasTrans, LLC filed a Section 311 rate case with the Railroad Commission of Texas, or TRRC, justifying the current maximum rate applicable to transportation pursuant to Section 311 of the NGPA of $0.1773 per MMBtu. The filed rates were affirmed by order of the TRRC on March 23, 2010. On October 30, 2009, Pelico filed a Section 311 rate case with FERC proposing a maximum rate for transportation pursuant to Section 311 of NGPA of $0.3291 per MMBtu. On March 12, 2010, Pelico filed a settlement agreement under which it would implement a Section 311 transportation rate of $0.2700 per MMBtu. On March 23, 2010, FERC approved the Pelico settlement agreement.
Gathering Pipeline Regulation
Section 1(b) of the NGA exempts natural gas gathering facilities from the jurisdiction of FERC under the NGA. We believe that our natural gas gathering facilities meet the traditional tests FERC has used to establish a pipelines status as a gatherer not subject to FERC jurisdiction. However, the distinction between FERC-regulated transmission services and federally unregulated gathering services is the subject of material, on-going litigation, so the classification and regulation of our gathering facilities are subject to change based on future determinations by FERC and the courts. State regulation of gathering facilities generally includes various safety, environmental and, in some circumstances, nondiscriminatory take requirements, and in some instances complaint-based rate regulation.
Our purchasing, gathering and intrastate transportation operations are subject to ratable take and common purchaser statutes in the states in which they operate. The ratable take statutes generally require gatherers to take, without undue discrimination, natural gas production that may be tendered to the gatherer for handling. Similarly, common purchaser statutes generally require gatherers to purchase without undue discrimination as to source of supply or producer. These statutes are designed to prohibit discrimination in favor of one producer
over another producer or one source of supply over another source of supply. These statutes have the effect of restricting our right as an owner of gathering facilities to decide with whom we contract to purchase or transport natural gas.
Natural gas gathering may receive greater regulatory scrutiny at both the state and federal levels where FERC has recognized a jurisdictional exemption for the gathering activities of interstate pipeline transmission companies and a number of such companies have transferred gathering facilities to unregulated affiliates. Many of the producing states have adopted some form of complaint-based regulation that generally allows natural gas producers and shippers to file complaints with state regulators in an effort to resolve grievances relating to natural gas gathering access and rate discrimination. Our gathering operations could be adversely affected should they be subject in the future to the application of state or federal regulation of rates and services. Additional rules and legislation pertaining to these matters are considered or adopted from time to time. We cannot predict what effect, if any, such changes might have on our operations, but the industry could be required to incur additional capital expenditures and increased costs depending on future legislative and regulatory changes.
Sales of Natural Gas
The price at which we buy and sell natural gas currently is not subject to federal regulation and, for the most part, is not subject to state regulation. However, with regard to our physical purchases and sales of these energy commodities, and any related derivative activities that we undertake, we are required to observe anti-market manipulation laws and related regulations enforced by FERC and/or the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, or CFTC. Should we violate the anti-market manipulation laws and regulations, we could also be subject to related third party damage claims by, among others, market participants, sellers, royalty owners and taxing authorities.
Our sales of natural gas are affected by the availability, terms and cost of pipeline transportation. As noted above, the price and terms of access to pipeline transportation are subject to extensive federal and state regulation. FERC is continually proposing and implementing new rules and regulations affecting those segments of the natural gas industry, most notably interstate natural gas transmission companies that remain subject to FERC jurisdiction. These initiatives also may affect the intrastate transportation of natural gas under certain circumstances. The stated purpose of many of these regulatory changes is to promote competition among the various sectors of the natural gas industry. We cannot predict the ultimate impact of these regulatory changes to our natural gas marketing operations, and we note that some of FERCs more recent proposals may adversely affect the availability and reliability of interruptible transportation service on interstate pipelines. We do not believe that we will be affected by any such FERC action materially differently than other natural gas marketers with whom we compete.
Interstate NGL Pipeline Regulation
The Black Lake and Wattenberg pipelines are interstate NGL pipelines subject to FERC regulation. FERC regulates interstate NGL pipelines under its Oil Pipeline Regulations, the Interstate Commerce Act, or ICA, and the Elkins Act. FERC requires that interstate NGL pipelines file tariffs containing all the rates, charges and other terms for services performed. The ICA requires that tariffs apply to the interstate movement of NGLs, as is the case with the Black Lake and Wattenberg pipelines. Pursuant to the ICA, rates can be challenged at FERC either by protest when they are initially filed or increased or by complaint at any time they remain on file with FERC.
In October 1992, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 1992, or EPACT, which among other things, required FERC to issue rules establishing a simplified and generally applicable ratemaking methodology for pipelines regulated by FERC pursuant to the ICA. FERC responded to this mandate by issuing several orders, including Order No. 561. Beginning January 1, 1995, Order No. 561 enables petroleum pipelines to change their rates within prescribed ceiling levels that are tied to an inflation index. Specifically, the indexing methodology allows a pipeline to increase its rates annually by a percentage equal to the change in the producer price index for finished goods, PPI-FG, plus 1.3% to the new ceiling level. Rate increases made pursuant to the indexing methodology are subject to protest, but such protests must show that the portion of the rate increase resulting from application of the index is substantially in excess of the pipelines increase in costs. If the
PPI-FG falls and the indexing methodology results in a reduced ceiling level that is lower than a pipelines filed rate, Order No. 561 requires the pipeline to reduce its rate to comply with the lower ceiling unless doing so would reduce a rate grandfathered by EPACT (see below) below the grandfathered level. A pipeline must, as a general rule, utilize the indexing methodology to change its rates. FERC, however, retained cost-of-service ratemaking, market-based rates, and settlement as alternatives to the indexing approach, which alternatives may be used in certain specified circumstances. FERCs indexing methodology is subject to review every five years; the current methodology remains in place through June 30, 2011. Effective July 1, 2011, the FERC index methodology changes to PPI-FG plus 2.65% until June 30, 2016 for oil pipeline companies.
EPACT deemed petroleum pipeline rates in effect for the 365-day period ending on the date of enactment of EPACT that had not been subject to complaint, protest or investigation during that 365-day period to be just and reasonable under the ICA. Generally, complaints against such grandfathered rates may only be pursued if the complainant can show that a substantial change has occurred since the enactment of EPACT in either the economic circumstances of the petroleum pipeline, or in the nature of the services provided, that were a basis for the rate. EPACT places no such limit on challenges to a provision of a petroleum pipeline tariff as unduly discriminatory or preferential.
Intrastate NGL Pipeline Regulation
Intrastate NGL and other petroleum pipelines are not generally subject to rate regulation by FERC, but they are subject to regulation by various agencies in the respective states where they are located. While the regulatory regime varies from state to state, state agencies typically require intrastate petroleum pipelines to file their rates with the agencies and permit shippers to challenge existing rates or proposed rate increases.
Our operation of pipelines, plants and other facilities for gathering, transporting, processing or storing natural gas, propane, NGLs and other products is subject to stringent and complex federal, state and local laws and regulations governing the discharge of materials into the environment or otherwise relating to the protection of the environment.
As an owner or operator of these facilities, we must comply with these laws and regulations at the federal, state and local levels. These laws and regulations can restrict or impact our business activities in many ways, such as:
Failure to comply with these laws and regulations may trigger a variety of administrative, civil and criminal enforcement measures, including the assessment of monetary penalties, the imposition of remedial requirements and the issuance of orders enjoining future operations. Certain environmental statutes impose strict joint and several liability for costs required to clean up and restore sites where hazardous substances have been disposed or otherwise released. Moreover, it is not uncommon for neighboring landowners and other third parties to file claims for personal injury and property damage allegedly caused by the release of substances or other waste products into the environment.
The trend in environmental regulation is to place more restrictions and limitations on activities that may affect the environment. Thus, there can be no assurance as to the amount or timing of future expenditures for environmental compliance or remediation, and actual future expenditures may be different from the amounts we currently anticipate. We try to anticipate future regulatory requirements that might be imposed and plan accordingly to remain in compliance with changing environmental laws and regulations and to minimize the costs of such compliance. For instance, we or the entities in which we own an interest inspect the pipelines regularly using equipment rented from third party suppliers. Third parties also assist us in interpreting the results of the inspections. We also actively participate in industry groups that help formulate recommendations for addressing existing or future regulations.
We do not believe that compliance with federal, state or local environmental laws and regulations will have a material adverse effect on our business, financial position or results of operations. Below is a discussion of the more significant environmental laws and regulations that relate to our business and with which compliance may have a material adverse effect on our capital expenditures, earnings or competitive position.
Air Emissions, Global Warming and Climate Change
Our operations are subject to the federal Clean Air Act, as amended and comparable state laws and regulations. These laws and regulations regulate emissions of air pollutants from various industrial sources, including our processing plants and compressor stations, and also impose various monitoring and reporting requirements. Such laws and regulations may require that we obtain pre-approval for the construction or modification of certain projects or facilities expected to produce or significantly increase air emissions, obtain and strictly comply with air permits containing various emissions and operational limitations, and utilize specific emission control technologies to limit emissions. In response to studies suggesting that emissions of carbon dioxide and certain other gases often referred to as greenhouse gases, or GHGs, may be contributing to warming of the Earths atmosphere, the U.S. Congress continues to consider climate change-related legislation to regulate GHG emissions. In addition, at least one-third of the states have already taken legal measures to reduce emissions of GHGs, primarily through the planned development of GHG emission inventories and/or regional GHG cap and trade programs. Depending on the particular program or jurisdiction, we could be required to purchase and surrender allowances, either for GHG emissions resulting from our operations (e.g., compressor units) or from combustion of fuels (e.g., oil or natural gas) we process. Also, after the U.S. Supreme Courts decision on April 2, 2007 in Massachusetts, et al. v. EPA, the EPA has declared that GHGs endanger public health and welfare, and has taken steps to regulate GHG emissions from mobile sources such as cars and trucks and to require reporting of GHG emissions from stationary sources, even if Congress does not adopt new legislation specifically addressing emissions of GHGs. In May 2010, the EPA issued a final rule to address carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions from vehicles and automobile fuels. According to the EPA, this final action on the GHG vehicle emission rule also triggers regulation of carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions from stationary sources under various Clean Air Act programs at both the federal and state levels such as the Prevention of Significant Deterioration, or PSD, program and Title V permitting, and the EPA has declared that these new requirements for stationary sources are effective starting January 2, 2011. In part, these programs could require our facilities to meet best available control technology standards for greenhouse gases, which may be established by state authorities or the EPA on a case-by-case basis. In November 2010, the EPA issued guidance materials on defining best available control technology for greenhouse gases. Litigation challenging the EPAs endangerment finding and its related regulatory enactments is pending before the DC Circuit, although no decision is expected until late 2011. These EPA regulations as well as other possible new federal or state laws or regulations imposing more stringent air quality standards for hazardous air pollutants or ambient air quality standards or requiring adoption of stringent GHG reporting and control programs or imposing restrictions on emissions of carbon dioxide in areas of the United States in which we conduct business could adversely affect our cost of doing business and demand for the oil and gas we transport. Our failure to comply with these requirements could subject us to monetary penalties, injunctions, conditions or restrictions on operations, and potentially criminal enforcement actions. We may be required to incur certain capital expenditures in the future for air pollution control equipment in connection with obtaining and maintaining operating permits and approvals for air emissions.
In addition to the effects of regulation, the meteorological effects of global climate change could pose additional risks to our operations, including physical damage risks associated with more frequent, more intense storms and flooding, and could adversely affect the demand for our products.
Hazardous Substances and Waste
Our operations are subject to environmental laws and regulations relating to the management and release of hazardous substances or solid wastes, including petroleum hydrocarbons. These laws generally regulate the generation, storage, treatment, transportation and disposal of solid and hazardous waste, and may impose strict, joint and several liability for the investigation and remediation of areas at a facility where hazardous substances may have been released or disposed. For instance, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, as amended, or CERCLA, also known as the Superfund law, and comparable state laws impose liability, without regard to fault or the legality of the original conduct, on certain classes of persons that contributed to the release of a hazardous substance into the environment. These persons include current and prior owners or operators of the site where the release occurred and companies that disposed or arranged for the disposal of the hazardous substances found at the site. Under CERCLA, these persons may be subject to joint and several strict liability for the costs of cleaning up the hazardous substances that have been released into the environment, for damages to natural resources and for the costs of certain health studies. CERCLA also authorizes the EPA and, in some instances, third parties to act in response to threats to the public health or the environment and to seek to recover from the responsible classes of persons the costs they incur. Despite the petroleum exclusion of CERCLA Section 101(14) that currently encompasses natural gas, we may nonetheless handle hazardous substances within the meaning of CERCLA, or similar state statutes, in the course of our ordinary operations and, as a result, may be jointly and severally liable under CERCLA for all or part of the costs required to clean up sites at which these hazardous substances have been released into the environment.
We also generate solid wastes, including hazardous wastes that are subject to the requirements of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, as amended, or RCRA, and comparable state statutes. While RCRA regulates both solid and hazardous wastes, it imposes strict requirements on the generation, storage, treatment, transportation and disposal of hazardous wastes. Certain petroleum production wastes are excluded from RCRAs hazardous waste regulations. However, it is possible that these wastes, which could include wastes currently generated during our operations, will in the future be designated as hazardous wastes and therefore be subject to more rigorous and costly disposal requirements. Any such changes in the laws and regulations could have a material adverse effect on our maintenance capital expenditures and operating expenses.
We currently own or lease properties where petroleum hydrocarbons are being or have been handled for many years. Although we have utilized operating and disposal practices that were standard in the industry at the time, petroleum hydrocarbons or other wastes may have been disposed of or released on or under the properties owned or leased by us or on or under the other locations where these petroleum hydrocarbons and wastes have been taken for treatment or disposal. In addition, certain of these properties have been operated by third parties whose treatment and disposal or release of petroleum hydrocarbons or other wastes was not under our control. These properties and wastes disposed thereon may be subject to CERCLA, RCRA and analogous state laws. Under these laws, we could be required to remove or remediate previously disposed wastes (including wastes disposed of or released by prior owners or operators), to clean up contaminated property (including contaminated groundwater) or to perform remedial operations to prevent future contamination. We are not currently aware of any facts, events or conditions relating to the application of such requirements that could reasonably have a material impact on our operations or financial condition.
The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, as amended, also referred to as the Clean Water Act, or CWA, and analogous state laws impose restrictions and strict controls regarding the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters. Pursuant to the CWA and analogous state laws, permits must be obtained to discharge pollutants into state and federal waters. The CWA also requires implementation of spill prevention, control and countermeasure plans, also referred to as SPCC plans, in connection with on-site storage of threshold quantities of oil. The CWA imposes substantial potential civil and criminal penalties for non-compliance. State
laws for the control of water pollution also provide varying civil and criminal penalties and liabilities. In addition, some states maintain groundwater protection programs that require permits for discharges or operations that may impact groundwater conditions. The EPA has promulgated regulations that require us to have permits in order to discharge certain storm water. The EPA has entered into agreements with certain states in which we operate whereby the permits are issued and administered by the respective states. These permits may require us to monitor and sample the storm water discharges. We believe that compliance with existing permits and compliance with foreseeable new permit requirements will not have a material adverse effect on our financial condition or results of operations.
The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) addresses prevention, containment and cleanup, and liability associated with oil pollution. OPA applies to vessels, offshore platforms, and onshore facilities, including terminals, pipelines, and transfer facilities. OPA subjects owners of such facilities to strict liability for containment and removal costs, natural resource damages, and certain other consequences of oil spills into jurisdictional waters. Any unpermitted release of petroleum or other pollutants from our operations could result in government penalties and civil liability.
The federal Department of Homeland Security regulates the security of chemical and industrial facilities pursuant to regulations known as the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards. These regulations apply to oil and gas facilities, among others, that are deemed to present high levels of security risk. Pursuant to these regulations, certain of our facilities are required to comply with certain regulatory requirements, including those regarding inspections, audits, recordkeeping, and protection of chemical-terrorism vulnerability information.
Our operations and activities are managed by our general partner, DCP Midstream GP, LP, which in turn is managed by its general partner, DCP Midstream GP, LLC, or the General Partner, which is wholly-owned by DCP Midstream, LLC. As of December 31, 2010, the General Partner or its affiliates employed 7 people directly and approximately 297 people who provided direct support for our operations through DCP Midstream, LLC.
We make certain filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, including our annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and all amendments and exhibits to those reports, which are available free of charge through our website, www.dcppartners.com, as soon as reasonably practicable after they are filed with the SEC. The filings are also available through the SEC at the SECs Public Reference Room at 100 F Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20549 or by calling 1-800-SEC-0330. Also, these filings are available on the internet at www.sec.gov. Our annual reports to unitholders, press releases and recent analyst presentations are also available on our website.
Limited partner interests are inherently different from capital stock of a corporation, although many of the business risks to which we are subject are similar to those that would be faced by a corporation engaged in similar businesses. You should consider carefully the following risk factors together with all of the other information included in this annual report in evaluating an investment in our common units.
If any of the following risks were actually to occur, our business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially affected. In that case, we might not be able to pay the minimum quarterly distribution on our common units, the trading price of our common units could decline and you could lose all or part of your investment.
Risks Related to Our Business
We may not have sufficient cash from operations following the establishment of cash reserves and payment of fees and expenses, including cost reimbursements to our general partner, to enable us to continue to make cash distributions to holders of our common units at our current distribution rate.
The amount of cash we can distribute on our units principally depends upon the amount of cash we generate from our operations, which will fluctuate from quarter to quarter based on, among other things:
In addition, the actual amount of cash we will have available for distribution will depend on other factors, some of which are beyond our control, including:
We have partial ownership interests in certain joint venture legal entities, including Discovery, East Texas and Southeast Texas, which could adversely affect our ability to operate and control these entities. In addition, we may be unable to control the amount of cash we will receive from the operation of these entities and we could be required to contribute significant cash to fund our share of their operations, which could adversely affect our ability to distribute cash to our unitholders.
Our inability, or limited ability, to control the operations and management of joint venture legal entities that we have a partial ownership interest in may mean that we will not receive the amount of cash we expect to be distributed to us. In addition, for entities where we have a minority ownership interest, we will be unable to control ongoing operational decisions, including the incurrence of capital expenditures that we may be required to fund. Specifically,
All of these items could significantly and adversely impact our ability to distribute cash to our unitholders.
The amount of cash we have available for distribution to holders of our common units depends primarily on our cash flow and not solely on profitability.
Profitability may be significantly affected by non-cash items. As a result, we may make cash distributions during periods when we record losses for financial accounting purposes and may not make cash distributions during periods when we record net earnings for financial accounting purposes.
Because of the natural decline in production from existing wells, our success depends on our ability to obtain new sources of supplies of natural gas and NGLs.
Our gathering and transportation pipeline systems are connected to or dependent on the level of production from natural gas wells, from which production will naturally decline over time. As a result, our cash flows associated with these wells will also decline over time. In order to maintain or increase throughput levels on our gathering and transportation pipeline systems and NGL pipelines and the asset utilization rates at our natural gas processing plants, we must continually obtain new supplies. The primary factors affecting our ability to obtain new supplies of natural gas and NGLs, and to attract new customers to our assets include the level of successful drilling activity near these assets, the demand for natural gas and crude oil, producers desire and ability to obtain necessary permits in an efficient manner, natural gas field characteristics and production performance, surface access and infrastructure issues, and our ability to compete for volumes from successful new wells. If we are not able to obtain new supplies of natural gas to replace the natural decline in volumes from existing wells or because of competition, throughput on our pipelines and the utilization rates of our treating and processing facilities would decline, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial position and cash flows, and our ability to make cash distributions.
Current economic conditions may adversely affect natural gas and NGL producers drilling activity and transportation spending levels, which may in turn negatively impact our volumes and results of operations and our ability to make distributions to our unitholders.
The level of drilling activity is dependent on economic and business factors beyond our control. Among the factors that impact drilling decisions are commodity prices, the liquids content of the natural gas production, drilling requirements for producers to hold leases, the cost of finding and producing natural gas and the general condition of the credit and financial markets. Natural gas prices are lower in recent periods when compared to historical periods. For example, the twelve-month average New York Mercantile Exchange, or NYMEX, price
of natural gas futures contracts per MMBtu was $4.55, $5.87 and $6.21 as of December 31, 2010, 2009 and 2008 respectively. The twelve-month average price per gallon for NGLs was $1.10, $0.80 and $1.36 as of December 31, 2010, 2009 and 2008, respectively and the price of crude oil per barrel was $79.53, $61.81 and $99.67 as of December 31, 2010, 2009 and 2008, respectively. These relatively higher prices for crude oil and NGLs in 2010 compared to 2009, and compared to natural gas prices, have resulted in increased drilling in liquids rich areas during the recent period of lower natural gas prices, and conversely a decrease in drilling activity in regions with low liquid content.
Furthermore a sustained decline in commodity prices could result in a decrease in exploration and development activities in the fields served by our gathering and pipeline transportation systems and our natural gas treating and processing plants, and our NGL and natural gas storage assets, which could lead to reduced utilization of these assets. During periods of natural gas price decline or if the price of NGLs and crude oil declines the level of drilling activity could decrease. When combined with a reduction of cash flow resulting from lower commodity prices, a reduction in our producers borrowing base under reserve-based credit facilities and lack of availability of debt or equity financing for our producers may result in a significant reduction in our producers spending for natural gas drilling activity, which could result in lower volumes being transported on our pipeline systems. Other factors that impact production decisions include the ability of producers to obtain necessary drilling and other governmental permits and regulatory changes. Because of these factors, even if new natural gas reserves are discovered in areas served by our assets, producers may choose not to develop those reserves. If we are not able to obtain new supplies of natural gas to replace the declines resulting from reductions in drilling activity, throughput on our pipelines and the utilization rates of our treating and processing facilities would decline, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial position and cash flows and our ability to make cash distributions.
The cash flow from our Natural Gas Services segment is affected by natural gas, NGL and condensate prices.
Our Natural Gas Services segment is affected by the level of natural gas, NGL and condensate prices. NGL and condensate prices generally fluctuate on a basis that relates to fluctuations in crude oil prices. In the past, the prices of natural gas and crude oil have been volatile, and we expect this volatility to continue. The markets and prices for natural gas, NGLs, condensate and crude oil depend upon factors beyond our control and may not always have a close relationship. These factors include supply of and demand for these commodities, which fluctuate with changes in market and economic conditions and other factors, including:
Our primary natural gas gathering and processing arrangements that expose us to commodity price risk are our percent-of-proceeds arrangements. Under percent-of-proceeds arrangements, we generally purchase natural gas from producers for an agreed percentage of the proceeds from the sale of residue gas and NGLs resulting from our processing activities, and then sell the resulting residue gas and NGLs at market prices. Under these types of arrangements, our revenues and our cash flows increase or decrease, whichever is applicable, as the price of natural gas and NGLs fluctuate. We have mitigated a portion of our share of anticipated natural gas, NGL and condensate commodity price risk associated with the equity volumes from our gathering and processing operations through 2015 with derivative instruments.
Our derivative activities and the application of fair value measurements may have a material adverse effect on our earnings, profitability, cash flows, liquidity and financial condition.
We are exposed to risks associated with fluctuations in commodity prices. The extent of our commodity price risk is related largely to the effectiveness and scope of our derivative activities. For example, the derivative instruments we utilize are based on posted market prices, which may differ significantly from the actual natural gas, NGL and condensate prices that we realize in our operations. To mitigate a portion of our cash flow exposure to fluctuations in the price of NGLs, we have primarily entered into derivative financial instruments relating to the future price of crude oil. If the price relationship between NGLs and crude oil declines, our commodity price risk will increase. Furthermore, we have entered into derivative transactions related to only a portion of the volume of our expected natural gas supply and production of NGLs and condensate from our processing plants; as a result, we will continue to have direct commodity price risk to the open portion. Our actual future production may be significantly higher or lower than we estimate at the time we entered into the derivative transactions for that period. If the actual amount is higher than we estimate, we will have greater commodity price risk than we intended. If the actual amount is lower than the amount that is subject to our derivative financial instruments, we might be forced to satisfy all or a portion of our derivative transactions without the benefit of the cash flow from our sale of the underlying physical commodity, reducing our liquidity.
We have mitigated a portion of our expected natural gas, NGL and condensate commodity price risk relating to the equity volumes from our gathering and processing operations through 2015 by entering into fixed price derivative financial instruments. Additionally, we have entered into interest rate swap agreements to convert a portion of the variable rate revolving debt under our 5-year credit agreement that matures in June 2012, or the Credit Agreement, to a fixed rate obligation, thereby reducing the exposure to market rate fluctuations. The intent of these arrangements is to reduce the volatility in our cash flows resulting from fluctuations in commodity prices and interest rates.
We record all of our derivative financial instruments at fair value on our balance sheets primarily using information readily observable within the marketplace. In situations where market observable information is not available, we may use a variety of data points that are market observable, or in certain instances, develop our own expectation of fair value. We will continue to use market observable information as the basis for our fair value calculations, however, there is no assurance that such information will continue to be available in the future. In such instances we may be required to exercise a higher level of judgment in developing our own expectation of fair value, which may be significantly different from the historical fair values, and may increase the volatility of our earnings.
We will continue to evaluate whether to enter into any new derivative arrangements, but there can be no assurance that we will enter into any new derivative arrangement or that our future derivative arrangements will be on terms similar to our existing derivative arrangements. Although we enter into derivative instruments to mitigate a portion of our commodity price and interest rate risk, we also forego the benefits we would otherwise experience if commodity prices or interest rates were to change in our favor.
The counterparties to our derivative instruments may require us to post collateral in the event that our potential payment exposure exceeds a predetermined collateral threshold. Depending on the movement in commodity prices, the amount of collateral posted may increase, reducing our liquidity.
As a result of these factors, our derivative activities may not be as effective as we intend in reducing the volatility of our cash flows, and in certain circumstances may actually increase the volatility of our earnings and cash flows. In addition, even though our management monitors our derivative activities, these activities can result in material losses. Such losses could occur under various circumstances, including if a counterparty does not or is unable to perform its obligations under the applicable derivative arrangement, the derivative arrangement is imperfect or ineffective, or our risk management policies and procedures are not properly followed or do not work as planned.
Volumes of natural gas dedicated to our systems in the future may be less than we anticipate.
As a result of the unwillingness of producers to provide reserve information as well as the cost of such evaluation, we do not have independent estimates of total reserves dedicated to our systems or the anticipated life of such reserves. If the reserves connected to our gathering systems are less than we anticipate and we are unable to secure additional sources of natural gas, then the volumes of natural gas on our systems in the future could be less than we anticipate.
We depend on certain natural gas producer customers for a significant portion of our supply of natural gas and NGLs.
We identify as primary natural gas suppliers those suppliers individually representing 10% or more of our total natural gas supply. Our one primary supplier of natural gas represented approximately 14% of the natural gas supplied in our Natural Gas Services segment during the year ended December 31, 2010. In our NGL Logistics segment, our largest NGL supplier is DCP Midstream, LLC, who obtains NGLs from various third party producer customers. While some of these customers are subject to long-term contracts, we may be unable to negotiate extensions or replacements of these contracts on favorable terms, if at all. The loss of all or even a portion of the natural gas and NGL volumes supplied by these customers, as a result of competition or otherwise, could have a material adverse effect on our business.
If we are not able to purchase propane from our principal suppliers, or we are unable to secure transportation under our transportation arrangements, our results of operations in our wholesale propane logistics business would be adversely affected.
Most of our propane purchases are made under supply contracts that have a term of between one to five years and provide various pricing formulas. We identify primary suppliers as those individually representing 10% or more of our total propane supply. Our four primary suppliers of propane, two of which are affiliated entities, represented approximately 91% of our propane supplied during the year ended December 31, 2010. A portion of our suppliers propane is sourced by them internationally. If current unrest in North Africa should expand further into countries where our propane supply originates, it could result in supply disruptions. In the event that we are unable to purchase propane from our significant suppliers due to their failure to perform under contractual obligations or otherwise, replace terminated or expired supply contracts, or if there are domestic or international supply disruptions, our failure to obtain alternate sources of supply at competitive prices and on a timely basis would affect our ability to satisfy customer demand, reduce our revenues and adversely affect our results of operations. In addition, if we are unable to transport propane supply to our terminals under our rail commitments, our ability to satisfy customer demand and our revenue and results of operations would be adversely affected.
The recent adoption of financial reform legislation by the United States Congress could have an adverse effect on our ability to use derivative instruments to hedge risks associated with our business.
We hedge both our commodity risk and our interest rate risk. The United States Congress recently adopted comprehensive financial reform legislation that establishes federal oversight and regulation of the over-the-counter derivatives market and entities, including businesses like ours, that participate in that market. The new legislation, known as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, or Act, was signed into law by the President on July 21, 2010, and requires the CFTC and the SEC to promulgate rules and regulations implementing the new legislation within 360 days from the date of enactment. In its rulemaking under the Act, the CFTC has proposed regulations to set position limits for certain futures and option contracts in the major energy markets and for swaps that are their economic equivalents. Although certain bona fide hedging transactions or positions would be exempt from these position limits, it is not possible at this time to predict what impact these regulations will have on our hedging program or when the CFTC will finalize these regulations. The Act may also require us to comply with margin requirements and with certain clearing and trade-execution requirements in connection with our derivatives activities, although the application of those provisions to us is uncertain at this time. The Act may also require the counterparties to our derivative instruments to spin off some of their derivatives activities to a separate entity, which may not be as creditworthy as the current counterparty. The new legislation and any new regulations could significantly
increase the cost of derivatives contracts (including through requirements to post collateral which could adversely affect our available liquidity), materially alter the terms of derivatives contracts, reduce the availability of derivatives to protect against risks we encounter, reduce our ability to monetize or restructure our existing derivatives contracts, and increase our exposure to less creditworthy counterparties. If we reduce our use of derivatives as a result of the legislation and regulations, our results of operations may become more volatile and our cash flows may be less predictable, which could adversely affect our ability to plan for and fund capital expenditures and fund unitholder distributions. Finally, the legislation was intended, in part, to reduce the volatility of oil and natural gas prices, which some legislators attributed to speculative trading in derivatives and commodity instruments related to oil and natural gas. Our revenues could therefore be adversely affected if a consequence of the legislation and regulations is to lower commodity prices. Any of these consequences could have a material adverse effect on our business, our financial condition, and our results of operations.
We may not be able to grow or effectively manage our growth.
A principal focus of our strategy is to continue to grow the per unit distribution on our units by expanding our business. Our future growth will depend upon a number of factors, some of which we can control and some of which we cannot. These factors include our ability to:
A deficiency in any of these factors could adversely affect our ability to achieve growth in the level of our cash flows or realize benefits from acquisitions, joint ventures or construction projects. In addition, competition from other buyers could reduce our acquisition opportunities. DCP Midstream, LLC and its affiliates are not restricted from competing with us. DCP Midstream, LLC and its affiliates may acquire, construct or dispose of midstream or other assets in the future without any obligation to offer us the opportunity to purchase or construct those assets.
Furthermore, we have recently grown significantly through a number of acquisitions. If we fail to properly integrate these acquired assets successfully with our existing operations, if the future performance of these acquired assets does not meet our expectations, or we did not identify significant liabilities associated with the acquired assets, the anticipated benefits from these acquisitions may not be fully realized.
We may not successfully balance our purchases and sales of natural gas and propane.
We purchase from producers and other customers a substantial amount of the natural gas that flows through our natural gas gathering, processing and transportation systems for resale to third parties, including natural gas marketers and end-users. In addition, in our wholesale propane logistics business, we purchase propane from a variety of sources and resell the propane to retail distributors. We may not be successful in balancing our purchases and sales. A producer or supplier could fail to deliver contracted volumes or deliver in excess of contracted volumes, or a purchaser could purchase less than contracted volumes. Any of these actions could cause our purchases and sales to be unbalanced. While we attempt to balance our purchases and sales, if our purchases and sales are unbalanced, we will face increased exposure to commodity price risks and could have increased volatility in our operating income and cash flows.
Our NGL pipelines could be adversely affected by any decrease in NGL prices relative to the price of natural gas.
The profitability of our NGL pipelines is dependent on the level of production of NGLs from processing plants. When natural gas prices are high relative to NGL prices, it is less profitable to process natural gas because of the higher value of natural gas compared to the value of NGLs and because of the increased cost (principally that of natural gas as a feedstock and fuel) of separating the NGLs from the natural gas. As a result, we may experience periods in which higher natural gas prices relative to NGL prices reduce the volume of natural gas processed at plants connected to our NGL pipelines, as well as reducing the amount of NGL extraction, which would reduce the volumes and gross margins attributable to our NGL pipelines.
Third party pipelines and other facilities interconnected to our natural gas and NGL pipelines and facilities may become unavailable to transport or produce natural gas and NGLs.
We depend upon third party pipelines and other facilities that provide delivery options to and from our pipelines and facilities for the benefit of our customers. Since we do not own or operate any of these third-party pipelines or other facilities, their continuing operation is not within our control.
Service at our propane terminals may be interrupted.
Historically, a substantial portion of the propane we purchase to support our wholesale propane logistics business is delivered at our rail terminals or by ship at our leased marine terminal in Providence, Rhode Island and at our owned marine terminal in Chesapeake, Virginia. We also rely on shipments of propane via the Buckeye Pipeline for our Midland Terminal and via TEPPCO Partners, LPs pipeline to open access terminals. Any significant interruption in the service at these terminals would adversely affect our ability to obtain propane, which could reduce the amount of propane that we distribute and impact our revenues or cash available for distribution.
We operate in a highly competitive business environment.
We compete with similar enterprises in our respective areas of operation. Some of our competitors are large oil, natural gas and petrochemical companies that have greater financial resources and access to supplies of natural gas, propane and NGLs than we do. Some of these competitors may expand or construct gathering, processing and transportation systems that would create additional competition for the services we provide to our customers. Likewise, our customers who produce NGLs may develop their own systems to transport NGLs. Additionally, our wholesale propane distribution customers may develop their own sources of propane supply. Our ability to renew or replace existing contracts with our customers at rates sufficient to maintain current revenues and cash flows could be adversely affected by the activities of our competitors and our customers.
Our assets and operations can be affected by weather and other weather related conditions.
Our assets and operations can be adversely affected by hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, wind, lightning, cold weather and other natural phenomena, which could impact our results of operations and make it more difficult for us to realize historic rates of return. Although we carry insurance on the vast majority of our assets, insurance may be inadequate to cover our loss and in some instances, we have been unable to obtain insurance on commercially reasonable terms, if at all. If we incur a significant disruption in our operations or a significant liability for which we were not fully insured, our financial condition, results of operations and ability to make distributions to our unitholders could be materially adversely affected.
Weather conditions could also have an impact on the demand for wholesale propane because the end-users of propane depend on propane principally for heating purposes. As a result, warm weather conditions could adversely impact the demand for and prices of propane. Since our wholesale propane logistics business is located almost solely in the northeast, warmer than normal temperatures in the northeast can decrease the total volume of propane we sell. Such conditions may also cause downward pressure on the price of propane, which could result in a lower of cost or market adjustment to the value of our inventory.
Competition from alternative energy sources, conservation efforts and energy efficiency and technological advances may reduce the demand for propane.
Competition from alternative energy sources, including natural gas and electricity, has been increasing as a result of reduced regulation of many utilities. In addition, propane competes with heating oil primarily in residential applications. Propane is generally not competitive with natural gas in areas where natural gas pipelines already exist because natural gas is a less expensive source of energy than propane. The gradual expansion of natural gas distribution systems and availability of natural gas in the northeast, which has historically depended upon propane, could reduce the demand for propane, which could adversely affect the volumes of propane that we distribute. In addition, stricter conservation measures in the future or technological advances in heating, energy generation or other devices could reduce the demand for propane.
A change in the jurisdictional characterization of some of our assets by federal, state or local regulatory agencies or a change in policy by those agencies may result in increased regulation of our assets.
The majority of our natural gas gathering and intrastate transportation operations are exempt from FERC regulation under the NGA but FERC regulation still affects these businesses and the markets for products derived from these businesses. FERCs policies and practices across the range of its oil and natural gas regulatory activities, including, for example, its policies on open access transportation, ratemaking, capacity release and market center promotion, indirectly affect intrastate markets. In recent years, FERC has pursued pro-competitive policies in its regulation of interstate oil and natural gas pipelines. However, we cannot assure that FERC will continue this approach as it considers matters such as pipeline rates and rules and policies that may affect rights of access to oil and natural gas transportation capacity. In addition, the distinction between FERC-regulated transmission services and federally unregulated gathering services has been the subject of regular litigation, so the classification and regulation of some of our gathering facilities and intrastate transportation pipelines may be subject to change based on any reassessment by us of the jurisdictional status of our facilities or on future determinations by FERC and the courts.
In addition, the rates, terms and conditions of some of the transportation services we provide on our Pelico pipeline system and the EasTrans Limited Partnership or EasTrans pipeline system owned by East Texas, are subject to FERC regulation under Section 311 of the NGPA. Under Section 311, rates charged for transportation must be fair and equitable, and amounts collected in excess of fair and equitable rates are subject to refund with interest. The Pelico system is currently charging rates for its Section 311 transportation services that were deemed fair and equitable under a rate settlement approved by FERC. The EasTrans system is currently charging rates for its Section 311 transportation services that were deemed fair and equitable under an order approved by the Railroad Commission of Texas. The Black Lake pipeline system is an interstate transporter of NGLs and is subject to FERC jurisdiction under the Interstate Commerce Act and the Elkins Act.
Should we fail to comply with all applicable FERC-administered statutes, rules, regulations and orders, we could be subject to substantial penalties and fines. Under EPACT 2005, FERC has civil penalty authority under the NGA and the NGPA to impose penalties for current violations of up to $1.0 million per day for each violation and possible criminal penalties of up to $1.0 million per violation and five years in prison.
Other state and local regulations also affect our business. Our non-proprietary gathering lines are subject to ratable take and common purchaser statutes in Louisiana. Ratable take statutes generally require gatherers to take, without undue discrimination, oil or natural gas production that may be tendered to the gatherer for handling. Similarly, common purchaser statutes generally require gatherers to purchase without undue discrimination as to source of supply or producer. These statutes restrict our right as an owner of gathering facilities to decide with whom we contract to purchase or transport oil or natural gas. Federal law leaves any economic regulation of natural gas gathering to the states. The states in which we operate have adopted complaint-based regulation of oil and natural gas gathering activities, which allows oil and natural gas producers and shippers to file complaints with state regulators in an effort to resolve grievances relating to oil and natural gas gathering access and rate discrimination. Other state regulations may not directly regulate our business, but may nonetheless affect the availability of natural gas for purchase, processing and sale, including state regulation of production rates and maximum daily production allowable from gas wells. While our proprietary gathering lines are currently subject to limited state regulation, there is a risk that state laws will be changed, which may give producers a stronger basis to challenge proprietary status of a line, or the rates, terms and conditions of a gathering line providing transportation service.
Discoverys interstate tariff rates are subject to review and possible adjustment by federal regulators. Moreover, because Discovery is a non-corporate entity, it may be disadvantaged in calculating its cost-of-service for rate-making purposes.
FERC, pursuant to the NGA, regulates many aspects of Discoverys interstate pipeline transportation service, including the rates that Discovery is permitted to charge for such service. Under the NGA, interstate transportation rates must be just and reasonable and not unduly discriminatory. If FERC fails to permit tariff rate increases requested by Discovery, or if FERC lowers the tariff rates Discovery is permitted to charge its customers, on its own initiative, or as a result of challenges raised by Discoverys customers or third parties, Discoverys tariff rates may be insufficient to recover the full cost of providing interstate transportation service. In certain circumstances, FERC also has the power to order refunds.
The Discovery interstate natural gas pipeline system filed with FERC on November 16, 2007 a rate case settlement with a January 1, 2008 effective date, reflecting an increase in its rates. Also, modifications were made to the imbalance resolution and fuel reimbursement sections of Discoverys tariff. FERC approved the settlement on February 5, 2008 for all parties except ExxonMobil who contested the settlement. ExxonMobil will continue to pay Discoverys previously approved rates.
Under current policy, FERC permits pipelines to include, in the cost-of-service used as the basis for calculating the pipelines regulated rates, a tax allowance reflecting the actual or potential income tax liability on public utility income attributable to all partnership or limited liability company interests, if the ultimate owner of the interest has an actual or potential income tax liability on such income. Whether a pipelines owners have such actual or potential income tax liability will be reviewed by FERC on a case-by-case basis. In a future rate case, Discovery may be required to demonstrate the extent to which inclusion of an income tax allowance in Discoverys cost-of-service is permitted under the current income tax allowance policy.
Should we fail to comply with all applicable FERC-administered statutes, rules, regulations and orders, we could be subject to substantial penalties and fines. Under EPACT 2005 FERC has civil penalty authority under the NGA to impose penalties for current violations of up to $1.0 million per day for each violation and possible criminal penalties of up to $1.0 million per violation and five years in prison.
Recent spills and their aftermath could lead to additional governmental regulation of the offshore exploration and production industry, which may result in substantial cost increases or delays in our offshore natural gas gathering activities.
In April 2010, a deepwater exploration well located in the Gulf of Mexico, owned and operated by companies unrelated to us, sustained a blowout and subsequent explosion leading to the leaking of hydrocarbons. In response to this event, certain federal agencies and governmental officials ordered additional inspections of deepwater operations in the Gulf of Mexico. On May 28, 2010, a six-month federal moratorium was implemented on all offshore deepwater drilling projects. On October 12, 2010, the Department of the Interior announced it was lifting the deepwater drilling moratorium. Despite the fact that the drilling moratorium was lifted, this spill and its aftermath has led to additional governmental regulation of the offshore exploration and production industry and delays in the issuance of drilling permits, which may result in volume impacts, cost increases or delays in our offshore natural gas gathering activities, which could materially impact our business, financial condition and results of operations. We cannot predict with any certainty what form any additional regulation or limitations would take.
We may incur significant costs and liabilities in the future resulting from a failure to comply with new or existing environmental regulations or an accidental release of hazardous substances or hydrocarbons into the environment.
Our operations are subject to stringent and complex federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations. These include, for example, (1) the federal Clean Air Act and comparable state laws and regulations that impose obligations related to air emissions; (2) the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, or RCRA, and comparable state laws that impose requirements for the discharge of waste from our facilities; and (3) the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, or CERCLA, also known as Superfund, and comparable state laws that regulate the cleanup of hazardous
substances that may have been released at properties currently or previously owned or operated by us or locations to which we have sent waste for disposal. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations or newly adopted laws or regulations may trigger a variety of administrative, civil and criminal enforcement measures, including the assessment of monetary penalties, the imposition of remedial requirements, and the issuance of orders enjoining future operations. Certain environmental regulations, including CERCLA and analogous state laws and regulations, impose strict, joint and several liability for costs required to clean up and restore sites where hazardous substances or hydrocarbons have been disposed or otherwise released. Moreover, it is not uncommon for neighboring landowners and other third parties to file claims for personal injury and property damage allegedly caused by the release of hazardous substances, hydrocarbons or other waste products into the environment.
There is inherent risk of the incurrence of environmental costs and liabilities in our business due to our handling of natural gas, NGLs and other petroleum products, air emissions related to our operations, and historical industry operations and waste disposal practices. For example, an accidental release from one of our facilities could subject us to substantial liabilities arising from environmental cleanup and restoration costs, claims made by neighboring landowners and other third parties for personal injury and property damage and governmental claims for natural resource damages or fines or penalties for related violations of environmental laws or regulations. In addition, it is possible that stricter laws, regulations or enforcement policies could significantly increase our compliance costs and the cost of any remediation that may become necessary. We may not be able to recover some or any of these costs from insurance or from indemnification from DCP Midstream, LLC.
We may incur significant costs in the future associated with proposed climate change legislation.
The United States Congress and some states where we have operations are currently considering legislation related to greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, there have recently been international conventions and efforts to establish standards for the reduction of greenhouse gases globally. The United States Congress will most likely consider a number of bills that would compel greenhouse gas emission reductions. Some of these proposals may include limitations, or caps, on the amount of greenhouse gas that can be emitted, as well as a system of emissions allowances. Legislation passed by the US House of Representatives in 2010 placed the entire burden of obtaining allowances for the carbon content of natural gas liquids, or NGLs, on the owners of NGLs at the point of fractionation. To the extent legislation is enacted that regulates greenhouse gas emissions, it could significantly increase our costs to (i) acquire allowances; (ii) operate and maintain our facilities; (iii) install new emission controls; and (iv) manage a greenhouse gas emissions program. If such legislation becomes law in the United States or any states in which we have operations and we are unable to pass these costs through as part of our services, it could have an adverse affect on our business and cash available for distributions.
We may incur significant costs and liabilities resulting from implementing and administering pipeline integrity programs and related repairs.
Pursuant to the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002, the DOT has adopted regulations requiring pipeline operators to develop integrity management programs for transportation pipelines located where a leak or rupture could do the most harm in high consequence areas. The regulations require operators to:
Although many of our natural gas facilities fall within a class that is not subject to these requirements, we may incur significant costs and liabilities associated with repair, remediation, preventative or mitigation measures associated with non-exempt pipeline. Such costs and liabilities might relate to repair, remediation,
preventative or mitigating actions that may be determined to be necessary as a result of the testing program, as well as lost cash flows resulting from shutting down our pipelines during the pendency of such repairs. Additionally, we may be affected by the testing, maintenance and repair of pipeline facilities downstream from our own facilities. Our NGL pipelines are also subject to integrity management and other safety regulations imposed by the Texas Railroad Commission, or TRRC.
We currently estimate that we will incur costs of up to $4.1 million between 2011 and 2015 to implement pipeline integrity management program testing along certain segments of our natural gas and NGL pipelines. This does not include the costs, if any, of any repair, remediation, preventative or mitigating actions that may be determined to be necessary as a result of the testing program, which costs could be substantial.
We currently transport NGLs produced at our processing plants on our owned and third party NGL pipelines. Accordingly, in the event that an owned or third party NGL pipeline becomes inoperable due to any necessary repairs resulting from integrity testing program or for any other reason for any significant period of time, we would need to transport NGLs by other means. There can be no assurance that we will be able to enter into alternative transportation arrangements under comparable terms.
Any regulatory expansion of the existing pipeline safety requirements or the adoption of new pipeline safety requirements could also increase our cost of operation and impair our ability to provide service during the period in which assessments and repairs take place, adversely affecting our business.
Construction of new assets is subject to regulatory, environmental, political, legal, economic and other risks that may adversely affect financial results.
The construction of additions or modifications to our existing midstream asset systems or propane terminals involves numerous regulatory, environmental, political and legal and economic uncertainties beyond our control and may require the expenditure of significant amounts of capital. These projects may not be completed on schedule or within budgeted cost, or at all. We may construct facilities to capture anticipated future growth in production in a region in which such growth does not materialize. Since we are not engaged in the exploration for and development of natural gas and oil reserves, we often do not have access to third party estimates of potential reserves in an area prior to constructing facilities in such area. To the extent we rely on estimates of future production in our decision to construct additions to our systems, such estimates may prove to be inaccurate because there are numerous uncertainties inherent in estimating quantities of future production. As a result, new facilities may not be able to attract enough throughput to achieve our expected investment return, which could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition. The construction of additions to our existing gathering, transportation and propane terminal assets may require us to obtain new rights-of-way prior to constructing new facilities. We may be unable to obtain such rights-of-way to connect new natural gas supplies to our existing gathering lines, expand our network of propane terminals, or capitalize on other attractive expansion opportunities. The construction of additions to our existing gathering, transportation and propane terminal assets may require us to rely on third parties downstream of our facilities to have available capacity for our delivered natural gas, natural gas liquids, or propane. If such third party facilities are not constructed or operational at the time that the addition to our facilities is completed, we may experience adverse effects on our results of operations and financial condition. The construction of additional propane terminals may require greater capital investment if the commodity prices of certain supplies such as steel increase. Construction also subjects us to risks related to the ability to construct projects within anticipated costs, including the risk of cost overruns resulting from inflation or increased costs of equipment, materials, labor, or other factors beyond our control that could adversely affect results of operations, financial position or cash flows.
If we do not make acquisitions on economically acceptable terms, our future growth could be limited.
Our acquisition strategy is based, in part, on our expectation of ongoing divestitures of energy assets by industry participants. Our ability to make acquisitions that are accretive to our cash generated from operations per unit is based upon our ability to identify attractive acquisition candidates or negotiate acceptable purchase contracts with them and obtain financing for these acquisitions on economically acceptable terms. Furthermore, even if we do make acquisitions that we believe will be accretive, these acquisitions may nevertheless result in a decrease in the cash generated from operations per unit. Additionally, net assets contributed by DCP
Midstream, LLC represent a transfer of net assets between entities under common control, and are recognized at DCP Midstream, LLCs basis in the net assets transferred. The amount of the purchase price in excess of DCP Midstream, LLCs basis in the net assets, if any, is recognized as a reduction to partners equity. The amount of the purchase price in deficit of DCP Midstreams basis in the net assets, if any, is recognized as an increase to partners equity.
Any acquisition involves potential risks, including, among other things:
If we consummate any future acquisitions, our capitalization and results of operations may change significantly, and unitholders will not have the opportunity to evaluate the economic, financial and other relevant information that we will consider in determining the application of these funds and other resources.
In addition, any limitations on our access to substantial new capital to finance strategic acquisitions will impair our ability to execute this component of our growth strategy. If the cost of such capital becomes too expensive, our ability to develop or acquire accretive assets will be limited. We may not be able to raise the necessary funds on satisfactory terms, if at all. The primary factors that influence our cost of capital include market conditions and offering or borrowing costs such as interest rates or underwriting discounts.
We do not own all of the land on which our pipelines, facilities and rail terminals are located, which may subject us to increased costs.
Upon contract lease renewal, we may be subject to more onerous terms and/or increased costs to retain necessary land use if we do not have valid rights of way or if such rights of way lapse or terminate. We obtain the rights to construct and operate our pipelines, surface sites and rail terminals on land owned by third parties and governmental agencies for a specific period of time.
Our business involves many hazards and operational risks, some of which may not be fully covered by insurance.
Our operations, and the operations of third parties are subject to many hazards inherent in the gathering, compressing, treating, processing, storage and transporting of natural gas, propane and NGLs, including:
These risks could result in substantial losses due to personal injury and/or loss of life, severe damage to and destruction of property and equipment and pollution or other environmental damage and may result in curtailment or suspension of our related operations. We are not fully insured against all risks inherent to our business, including offshore wind. In accordance with typical industry practice, we do not have any property insurance on any of our underground pipeline systems that would cover damage to the pipelines. We are not insured against all environmental accidents that might occur, which may include toxic tort claims, other than those considered to be sudden and accidental. In some instances, certain insurance could become unavailable or available only for reduced amounts of coverage, or may become prohibitively expensive, and we may elect not to carry policy.
Volatility in the capital markets may adversely impact our liquidity.
The capital markets may experience volatility, which may lead to financial uncertainty. Our access to funds under the Credit Agreement is dependent on the ability of the lenders that are party to the Credit Agreement to meet their funding obligations. Those lenders may not be able to meet their funding commitments if they experience shortages of capital and liquidity. If lenders under the Credit Agreement were to fail to fund their share of the Credit Agreement, our available borrowings could be further reduced. In addition, our borrowing capacity may be further limited by the Credit Agreements financial covenant requirements.
A significant downturn in the economy could adversely affect our results of operations, financial position or cash flows. In the event that our results were negatively impacted, we could require additional borrowings. A deterioration of the capital markets could adversely affect our ability to access funds on reasonable terms in a timely manner.
Our debt levels may limit our flexibility in obtaining additional financing and in pursuing other business opportunities.
Our Credit Agreement consists of a revolving credit facility with capacity of $850.0 million, which matures on June 21, 2012. As of December 31, 2010, the outstanding balance on the revolving credit facility was $398.0 million resulting in unused revolver capacity of $419.9 million, of which approximately $265.0 million was available for general working capital purposes.
We continue to have the ability to incur additional debt, subject to limitations within our credit facility. Our level of debt could have important consequences to us, including the following:
Our ability to obtain new debt funding or service our existing debt will depend upon, among other things, our future financial and operating performance, which will be affected by prevailing economic conditions and financial, business, regulatory and other factors. In addition, our ability to service debt under our revolving credit facility will depend on market interest rates. If our operating results are not sufficient to service our current or future indebtedness, we may take actions such as reducing distributions, reducing or delaying our business activities, acquisitions, investments or capital expenditures, selling assets, restructuring or refinancing our debt, or seeking additional equity capital. We may not be able to effect any of these actions on satisfactory terms, or at all.
Restrictions in our credit facility may limit our ability to make distributions to unitholders and may limit our ability to capitalize on acquisitions and other business opportunities.
Our credit facility contains covenants limiting our ability to make distributions, incur indebtedness, grant liens, make acquisitions, investments or dispositions and engage in transactions with affiliates. Furthermore, our credit facility contains covenants requiring us to maintain a certain leverage ratio and certain other tests. Any subsequent replacement of our credit facility or any new indebtedness could have similar or greater restrictions. If our covenants are not met, whether as a result of reduced production levels of natural gas and NGLs as described above or otherwise, our financial condition, results of operations and ability to make distributions to our unitholders could be materially adversely affected.
Changes in interest rates may adversely impact our ability to issue additional equity or incur debt, as well as the ability of exploration and production companies to finance new drilling programs around our systems.
Interest rates on future credit facilities and debt offerings could be higher than current levels, causing our financing costs to increase. As with other yield-oriented securities, our unit price is impacted by the level of our cash distributions and implied distribution yield. The distribution yield is often used by investors to compare and rank related yield-oriented securities for investment decision-making purposes. Therefore, changes in interest rates, either positive or negative, may affect the yield requirements of investors who invest in our units, and a rising interest rate environment could impair our ability to issue additional equity to make acquisitions, or incur debt or for other purposes. Increased interest costs could also inhibit the financing of new capital drilling programs by exploration and production companies served by our systems.
We have a holding company structure in which our subsidiaries conduct our operations and own our operating assets.
The partnership is a holding company, and our subsidiaries conduct all of our operations and own all of our operating assets. We do not have significant assets other than equity in our subsidiaries and equity investees. As a result, our ability to make required payments on our notes depends on the performance of our subsidiaries and their ability to distribute funds to us. The ability of our subsidiaries to make distributions to us may be restricted by, among other things, credit instruments, applicable state business organization laws and other laws and regulations. If our subsidiaries are prevented from distributing funds to us, we may be unable to pay all the principal and interest on the notes when due.
Our outstanding notes are senior unsecured obligations of our operating subsidiary, DCP Midstream Operating, LP, or DCP Operating, and are not guaranteed by any of our subsidiaries. As a result, our notes are effectively junior to DCP Operatings existing and future secured debt and to all debt and other liabilities of its subsidiaries.
Our 3.25% Senior Notes Due 2015, or our notes, are senior unsecured obligations of our indirect wholly-owned subsidiary, DCP Operating, and rank equally in right of payment with all of its other existing and future senior unsecured debt. All of our operating assets are owned by our subsidiaries, and none of these subsidiaries guarantee DCP Operatings obligations with respect to the notes. Creditors of DCP Operatings subsidiaries may have claims with respect to the assets of those subsidiaries that rank effectively senior to the notes. In the event of any distribution or payment of assets of such subsidiaries in any dissolution, winding up, liquidation, reorganization or bankruptcy proceeding, the claims of those creditors would be satisfied prior to making any such distribution or payment to DCP Operating in respect of its direct or indirect equity interests in such subsidiaries. Consequently, after satisfaction of the claims of such creditors, there may be little or no amounts left available to make payments in respect of our notes. As of December 31, 2010, DCP Operatings subsidiaries had no debt for borrowed money owing to any unaffiliated third parties. However, such subsidiaries are not prohibited under the indenture governing the notes from incurring indebtedness in the future.
In addition, because our notes and our guarantee of our notes are unsecured, holders of any secured indebtedness of us would have claims with respect to the assets constituting collateral for such indebtedness that are senior to the claims of the holders of our notes. Currently, we do not have any secured indebtedness.
Although the indenture governing our notes places some limitations on our ability to create liens securing debt, there are significant exceptions to these limitations that will allow us to secure significant amounts of indebtedness without equally and ratably securing the notes. If we incur secured indebtedness and such indebtedness is either accelerated or becomes subject to a bankruptcy, liquidation or reorganization, our assets would be used to satisfy obligations with respect to the indebtedness secured thereby before any payment could be made on our notes. Consequently, any such secured indebtedness would effectively be senior to our notes and our guarantee of our notes, to the extent of the value of the collateral securing the secured indebtedness. In that event, noteholders may not be able to recover all the principal or interest due under our notes.
Our significant indebtedness and the restrictions in our debt agreements may adversely affect our future financial and operating flexibility.
As of December 31, 2010, our consolidated indebtedness was $647.8 million. Our significant indebtedness and the additional debt we may incur in the future for potential acquisitions may adversely affect our liquidity and therefore our ability to make interest payments on our notes.
Among other things, our significant indebtedness may be viewed negatively by credit rating agencies, which could result in increased costs for us to access the capital markets. Any future downgrade of the debt issued by us or our subsidiaries could significantly increase our capital costs or adversely affect our ability to raise capital in the future.
Debt service obligations and restrictive covenants in our credit facility and the indenture governing our notes may adversely affect our ability to finance future operations, pursue acquisitions and fund other capital needs as well as our ability to make cash distributions unitholders. In addition, this leverage may make our results of operations more susceptible to adverse economic or operating conditions by limiting our flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in our business and the industry in which we operate and may place us at a competitive disadvantage as compared to our competitors that have less debt.
If we incur any additional indebtedness, including trade payables, that ranks equally with our notes, the holders of that debt will be entitled to share ratably with the holders of our notes in any proceeds distributed in connection with any insolvency, liquidation, reorganization, dissolution or other winding up of us or DCP Operating. This may have the effect of reducing the amount of proceeds paid to noteholders. If new debt is added to our current debt levels, the related risks that we now face could intensify.
Due to our lack of industry diversification, adverse developments in our midstream operations or operating areas would reduce our ability to make distributions to our unitholders.
We rely on the cash flow generated from our midstream energy businesses, and as a result, our financial condition depends upon prices of, and continued demand for, natural gas, propane, condensate and NGLs. Due to our lack of diversification in industry type, an adverse development in one of these businesses may have a significant impact on our company.
We are exposed to the credit risks of our key producer customers and propane purchasers, and any material nonpayment or nonperformance by our key producer customers or our propane purchasers could reduce our ability to make distributions to our unitholders.
We are subject to risks of loss resulting from nonpayment or nonperformance by our producer customers and propane purchasers. Any material nonpayment or nonperformance by our key producer customers or our propane purchasers could reduce our ability to make distributions to our unitholders. Furthermore, some of our producer customers or our propane purchasers may be highly leveraged and subject to their own operating and regulatory risks, which could increase the risk that they may default on their obligations to us.
Terrorist attacks, the threat of terrorist attacks, and sustained military campaigns may adversely impact our results of operations.
The long-term impact of terrorist attacks, such as the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 or the attacks in London, and the threat of future terrorist attacks on our industry in general, and on us in particular, is not known at this time. Increased security measures taken by us as a precaution against possible terrorist attacks
have resulted in increased costs to our business. Uncertainty surrounding continued hostilities in the Middle East or other sustained military campaigns may affect our operations in unpredictable ways, including disruptions of crude oil supplies, propane shipments or storage facilities, and markets for refined products, and the possibility that infrastructure facilities could be direct targets of, or indirect casualties of, an act of terror.
Recent acquisitions may not be beneficial to us.
Acquisitions involve numerous risks, including:
The assets recently acquired will also be subject to many of the same risks as our existing assets. If any of these risks or unanticipated liabilities or costs were to materialize, any desired benefits of these acquisitions may not be fully realized, if at all, and our future financial performance and results of operations could be negatively impacted.
Risks Inherent in an Investment in Our Common Units
Conflicts of interest may exist between individual unitholders and DCP Midstream, LLC, our general partner, which has sole responsibility for conducting our business and managing our operations.
DCP Midstream, LLC owns and controls our general partner. Some of our general partners directors, and some of its executive officers, are directors or officers of DCP Midstream, LLC or its parents. Therefore, conflicts of interest may arise between DCP Midstream, LLC and its affiliates and our unitholders. In resolving these conflicts of interest, our general partner may favor its own interests and the interests of its affiliates over the interests of our unitholders. These conflicts include, among others, the following situations:
DCP Midstream, LLC and its affiliates are not limited in their ability to compete with us, which could cause conflicts of interest and limit our ability to acquire additional assets or businesses, which in turn could adversely affect our results of operations and cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
Neither our partnership agreement nor the Omnibus Agreement, as amended, between us, DCP Midstream, LLC and others will prohibit DCP Midstream, LLC and its affiliates, including ConocoPhillips, Spectra Energy and Spectra Energy Partners, LP, from owning assets or engaging in businesses that compete directly or indirectly with us. In addition, DCP Midstream, LLC and its affiliates, including Spectra Energy and ConocoPhillips, may acquire, construct or dispose of additional midstream or other assets in the future, without any obligation to offer us the opportunity to purchase or construct any of those assets. Each of these entities is a large, established participant in the midstream energy business, and each has significantly greater resources and experience than we have, which factors may make it more difficult for us to compete with these entities with respect to commercial activities as well as for acquisition candidates. As a result, competition from these entities could adversely impact our results of operations and cash available for distribution.
Cost reimbursements due to our general partner and its affiliates for services provided, which will be determined by our general partner, will be material.
Pursuant to the Omnibus Agreement, as amended, we entered into with DCP Midstream, LLC, our general partner and others, DCP Midstream, LLC will receive reimbursement for the payment of operating expenses related to our operations and for the provision of various general and administrative services for our benefit. Payments for these services will be material. In addition, under Delaware partnership law, our general partner has unlimited liability for our obligations, such as our debts and environmental liabilities, except for our contractual obligations that are expressly made without recourse to our general partner. To the extent our general partner incurs obligations on our behalf, we are obligated to reimburse or indemnify it. If we are unable or unwilling to reimburse or indemnify our general partner, our general partner may take actions to cause us to make payments of these obligations and liabilities. These factors may reduce the amount of cash otherwise available for distribution to our unitholders.
Our partnership agreement limits our general partners fiduciary duties to holders of our common units.
Although our general partner has a fiduciary duty to manage us in a manner beneficial to us and our unitholders, the directors and officers of our general partner have a fiduciary duty to manage our general partner in a manner beneficial to its owner, DCP Midstream, LLC. Our partnership agreement contains provisions that reduce the standards to which our general partner would otherwise be held by state fiduciary duty laws. For example, our partnership agreement permits our general partner to make a number of decisions either in its individual capacity, as opposed to in its capacity as our general partner or otherwise free of fiduciary duties to us and our unitholders. This entitles our general partner to consider only the interests and factors that it desires, and it has no duty or obligation to give any consideration to any interest of, or factors affecting, us, our affiliates or any limited partner. Examples include:
By purchasing a common unit, a common unitholder will agree to become bound by the provisions in the partnership agreement, including the provisions discussed above.
Our partnership agreement restricts the remedies available to holders of our common units for actions taken by our general partner that might otherwise constitute breaches of fiduciary duty.
Our partnership agreement contains provisions that restrict the remedies available to unitholders for actions taken by our general partner that might otherwise constitute breaches of fiduciary duty. For example, our partnership agreement:
Our general partner may elect to cause us to issue Class B units to it in connection with a resetting of the target distribution levels related to our general partners incentive distribution rights without the approval of the special committee of our general partner or holders of our common units. This may result in lower distributions to holders of our common units in certain situations.
Our general partner currently has the right to reset the initial cash target distribution levels at higher levels based on the distribution at the time of the exercise of the reset election. Following a reset election by our general partner, the minimum quarterly distribution amount will be reset to an amount equal to the average cash
distribution amount per common unit for the two fiscal quarters immediately preceding the reset election (such amount is referred to as the reset minimum quarterly distribution) and the target distribution levels will be reset to correspondingly higher levels based on percentage increases above the reset minimum quarterly distribution amount. Currently, our distribution to our general partner related to its incentive distribution rights is at the highest level.
In connection with resetting these target distribution levels, our general partner will be entitled to receive a number of Class B units. The Class B units will be entitled to the same cash distributions per unit as our common units and will be convertible into an equal number of common units. The number of Class B units to be issued will be equal to that number of common units whose aggregate quarterly cash distributions equaled the average of the distributions to our general partner on the incentive distribution rights in the prior two quarters. We anticipate that our general partner would exercise this reset right in order to facilitate acquisitions or internal growth projects that would not be sufficiently accretive to cash distributions per common unit without such conversion; however, it is possible that our general partner could exercise this reset election at a time when it is experiencing, or may be expected to experience, declines in the cash distributions it receives related to its incentive distribution rights and may therefore desire to be issued our Class B units, which are entitled to receive cash distributions from us on the same priority as our common units, rather than retain the right to receive incentive distributions based on the initial target distribution levels. As a result, in certain situations, a reset election may cause our common unitholders to experience dilution in the amount of cash distributions that they would have otherwise received had we not issued new Class B units to our general partner in connection with resetting the target distribution levels related to our general partner incentive distribution rights.
Holders of our common units have limited voting rights and are not entitled to elect our general partner or its directors.
Unlike the holders of common stock in a corporation, unitholders have only limited voting rights on matters affecting our business and, therefore, limited ability to influence managements decisions regarding our business. Unitholders will not elect our general partner or its board of directors, and will have no right to elect our general partner or its board of directors on an annual or other continuing basis. The board of directors of our general partner will be chosen by the members of our general partner. As a result of these limitations, the price at which the common units will trade could be diminished because of the absence or reduction of a takeover premium in the trading price.
Even if holders of our common units are dissatisfied, they may be unable to remove our general partner without its consent.
The unitholders may be unable to remove our general partner without its consent because our general partner and its affiliates own sufficient units to be able to prevent its removal. The vote of the holders of at least 66 2/3% of all outstanding units voting together as a single class is required to remove the general partner. As of December 31, 2010, our general partner and its affiliates owned approximately 30% of our aggregate outstanding units.
Our partnership agreement restricts the voting rights of unitholders owning 20% or more of our common units.
Unitholders voting rights are further restricted by the partnership agreement provision providing that any units held by a person that owns 20% or more of any class of units then outstanding, other than our general partner, its affiliates, their transferees and persons who acquired such units with the prior approval of the board of directors of our general partner, cannot vote on any matter. Our partnership agreement also contains provisions limiting the ability of unitholders to call meetings or to acquire information about our operations, as well as other provisions limiting the unitholders ability to influence the manner or direction of management.
If we are deemed an investment company under the Investment Company Act of 1940, it would adversely affect the price of our common units and could have a material adverse effect on our business.
Our current assets include a 40% interest in the Discovery system and from January 2011, a 33.33% interest in the Southeast Texas system which may be deemed to be investment securities within the meaning of the Investment Company Act of 1940. If a sufficient amount of our assets are deemed to be investment securities within the meaning of the Investment Company Act, we would either have to register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act, obtain exemptive relief from the SEC or modify our organizational structure or our contract rights to fall outside the definition of an investment company. Registering as an investment company could, among other things, materially limit our ability to engage in transactions with affiliates, including the purchase and sale of certain securities or other property to or from our affiliates, restrict our ability to borrow funds or engage in other transactions involving leverage and require us to add additional directors who are independent of us or our affiliates. The occurrence of some or all of these events may have a material adverse effect on our business.
Moreover, treatment of us as an investment company would prevent our qualification as a partnership for federal income tax purposes in which case we would be treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes, and be subject to federal income tax at the corporate tax rate, significantly reducing the cash available for distributions. Additionally, distributions to the unitholders would be taxed again as corporate distributions and none of our income, gains, losses or deductions would flow through to the unitholders.
Additionally, as a result of our desire to avoid having to register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act, we may have to forego potential future acquisitions of interests in companies that may be deemed to be investment securities within the meaning of the Investment Company Act or dispose of our current interests in Discovery or Southeast Texas.
Control of our general partner may be transferred to a third party without unitholder consent.
Our general partner may transfer its general partner interest to a third party in a merger or in a sale of all or substantially all of its assets without the consent of the unitholders. Furthermore, our partnership agreement does not restrict the ability of the owners of our general partner from transferring all or a portion of their respective ownership interest in our general partner to a third party. The new owners of our general partner would then be in a position to replace the board of directors and officers of the general partner with its own choices and thereby influence the decisions taken by the board of directors and officers.
We may issue additional units without your approval, which would dilute your existing ownership interests.
Our partnership agreement does not limit the number of additional limited partner interests that we may issue at any time without the approval of our unitholders. The issuance by us of additional common units or other equity securities of equal or senior rank will have the following effects:
Our general partner including its affiliates may sell units in the public or private markets, which could reduce the market price of our outstanding common units.
If our general partner or its affiliates holding unregistered units were to dispose of a substantial portion of these units in the public market, whether in a single transaction or series of transactions, it could reduce the market price of our outstanding common units. In addition, these sales, or the possibility that these sales may occur, could make it more difficult for us to sell our common units in the future.
Our general partner has a limited call right that may require the unitholders to sell their units at an undesirable time or price.
If at any time our general partner and its affiliates own more than 80% of the common units, our general partner will have the right, but not the obligation, which it may assign to any of its affiliates or to us, to acquire all, but not less than all, of the common units held by unaffiliated persons at a price not less than their then-current market price. As a result, the unitholders may be required to sell their common units at an undesirable time or price and may not receive any return on their investment. Unitholders may also incur a tax liability upon a sale of their units.
The liability of holders of limited partner interests may not be limited if a court finds that unitholder action constitutes control of our business.
A general partner of a partnership generally has unlimited liability for the obligations of the partnership, except for those contractual obligations of the partnership that are expressly made without recourse to the general partner. Our partnership is organized under Delaware law and we conduct business in a number of other states. The limitations on the liability of holders of limited partner interests for the obligations of a limited partnership have not been clearly established in some of the other states in which we do business. Holders of limited partner interests could be liable for any and all of our obligations as if such holder were a general partner if:
Unitholders may have liability to repay distributions that were wrongfully distributed to them.
Under certain circumstances, unitholders may have to repay amounts wrongfully returned or distributed to them. Under Section 17-607 of the Delaware Revised Uniform Limited Partnership Act, we may not make a distribution to the unitholders if the distribution would cause our liabilities to exceed the fair value of our assets. Delaware law provides that for a period of three years from the date of the impermissible distribution, limited partners who received the distribution and who knew at the time of the distribution that it violated Delaware law will be liable to the limited partnership for the distribution amount. Substituted limited partners are liable for the obligations of the assignor to make contributions to the partnership that are known to the substituted limited partner at the time it became a limited partner and for unknown obligations if the liabilities could be determined from the partnership agreement. Liabilities to partners on account of their partnership interest and liabilities that are non-recourse to the partnership are not counted for purposes of determining whether a distribution is permitted.
Tax Risks to Common Unitholders
Our tax treatment depends on our status as a partnership for federal income tax purposes, as well as our being subject to minimal entity-level taxation by individual states. If the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, were to treat us as a corporation or we become subject to a material amount of entity-level taxation for state tax purposes, it would substantially reduce the amount of cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
The anticipated after-tax economic benefit of an investment in the common units depends largely on our being treated as a partnership for federal income tax purposes. We have not requested, and do not plan to request, a ruling from the IRS regarding our status as a partnership.
Despite the fact that we are a limited partnership under Delaware law, it is possible in certain circumstances for a partnership such as ours to be treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes. Although we do not believe based upon our current operations that we will be treated as a corporation, a change in our business (or a change in current law) could cause us to be treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes or otherwise subject us to taxation as an entity.
If we were treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes, we would pay federal income tax on our taxable income at the corporate tax rate, which is currently a maximum of 35% and would likely pay state income tax at varying rates. Distributions to a unitholder would generally be taxed again as corporate distributions, and no income, gains, losses or deductions would flow through to them. Because a tax would be imposed upon us as a corporation, our cash available for distribution to a unitholder would be substantially reduced. Therefore, treatment of us as a corporation would result in a material reduction in the anticipated cash flow and after-tax return to a unitholder, likely causing a substantial reduction in the value of our common units.
Current law may change, which would cause us to be treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes or otherwise subject us to entity-level taxation. At the federal level, members of Congress recently considered legislation that would have eliminated partnership tax treatment for certain publicly traded partnerships. Although the recently considered legislation would not have affected our tax treatment as a partnership, we are unable to predict whether any similar changes or other proposals will ultimately be enacted. Moreover, any such modifications to federal income tax laws and interpretations thereof may or may not be applied retroactively. Any such legislative changes could negatively impact the value of an investment in our common units. In addition, because of widespread state budget deficits and other reasons, several states are evaluating ways to subject partnerships to entity-level taxation through the imposition of state income, franchise and other forms of taxation. For example, we are required to pay Texas franchise tax at a maximum effective rate of 0.7% of our gross income apportioned to Texas in the prior year and a Michigan business tax of 0.8% on gross receipts, and 4.95% of Michigan taxable income. Imposition of such a tax on us by any other state will reduce the cash available for distribution to a unitholder. The partnership agreement provides that if a law is enacted or existing law is modified or interpreted in a manner that subjects us to taxation as a corporation or otherwise subjects us to entity-level taxation for federal, state or local income tax purposes, the minimum quarterly distribution amount and the target distribution levels will be adjusted to reflect the impact of that law on us.
If the IRS contests the federal income tax positions we take, the market for our common units may be adversely impacted, and the cost of any IRS contest will reduce our cash available for distribution to our unitholders.
We have not requested a ruling from the IRS with respect to our treatment as a partnership for federal income tax purposes or any other matter affecting us. The IRS may adopt positions that differ from the conclusions of our counsel expressed in this document or from the positions we take. It may be necessary to resort to administrative or court proceedings to sustain some or all of our counsels conclusions or the positions we take. A court may not agree with some or all of our counsels conclusions or positions we take. Any contest with the IRS may materially and adversely impact the market for our common units and the price at which they trade. In addition, our costs of any contest with the IRS will be borne indirectly by our unitholders and our general partner because such costs will reduce our cash available for distribution.
Unitholders may be required to pay taxes on income from us even if the unitholders do not receive any cash distributions from us.
Because our unitholders will be treated as partners to whom we will allocate taxable income, which could be different in amount than the cash we distribute, unitholders will be required to pay any federal income taxes and, in some cases, state and local income taxes on their share of our taxable income even if they receive no cash distributions from us. Unitholders may not receive cash distributions from us equal to their share of our taxable income or even equal to the tax liability that results from that income.
Tax gain or loss on disposition of common units could be more or less than expected.
If unitholders sell their common units, they will recognize a gain or loss equal to the difference between the amount realized and their tax basis in those common units. Because distributions to unitholders in excess of the total net taxable income allocated to them for a common unit decreases their tax basis in that common unit, the amount, if any, of such prior excess distributions will, in effect, become taxable income to them if the common unit is sold at a price greater than their tax basis in that common unit, even if the price is less than their original cost. Furthermore, a substantial portion of the amount realized, whether or not representing gain, may
be taxed as ordinary income due to potential recapture items, including depreciation recapture. In addition, because the amount realized includes a unitholders share of our nonrecourse liabilities, if a unitholder sells its units, the unitholder may incur a tax liability in excess of the amount of cash it receives from the sale.
Tax-exempt entities and non-U.S. persons face unique tax issues from owning common units that may result in adverse tax consequences to them.
Investment in common units by tax-exempt entities, such as individual retirement accounts, or IRAs, other retirement plans and non-U.S. persons raises issues unique to them. For example, virtually all of our income allocated to organizations that are exempt from federal income tax, including IRAs and other retirement plans, will be unrelated business taxable income, which may be taxable to them. Distributions to non-U.S. persons will be reduced by federal withholding taxes at the highest applicable effective tax rate, and non-U.S. persons will be required to file United States federal tax returns and pay tax on their share of our taxable income. If a unitholder is a tax-exempt entity or a non-U.S. person, the unitholder should consult its tax advisor before investing in our common units.
We will treat each purchaser of our common units as having the same tax benefits without regard to the actual common units purchased. The IRS may challenge this treatment, which could adversely affect the value of the common units.
Because we cannot match transferors and transferees of common units and because of other reasons, we will adopt depreciation and amortization positions that may not conform to all aspects of existing Treasury Regulations. A successful IRS challenge to those positions could adversely affect the amount of tax benefits available to the unitholders. It also could affect the timing of these tax benefits or the amount of gain from the sale of common units and could have a negative impact on the value of our common units or result in audit adjustments to the unitholders tax returns.
We prorate our items of income, gain, loss and deduction between transferors and transferees of our units each month based upon the ownership of our units on the first day of each month, instead of on the basis of the date a particular unit is transferred. The IRS may challenge this treatment, which could change the allocation of items of income, gain, loss and deduction among our unitholders.
We prorate our items of income, gain, loss and deduction between transferors and transferees of our units each month based upon the ownership of our units on the first day of each month, instead of on the basis of the date a particular unit is transferred. The use of this proration method may not be permitted under existing Treasury Regulations. Recently, however, the U.S. Treasury Department issued proposed Treasury Regulations that provide a safe harbor pursuant to which publicly traded partnerships may use a similar monthly simplifying convention to allocate tax items among transferor and transferee unitholders. Nonetheless, the proposed regulations do not specifically authorize the use of the proration method we have adopted. If the IRS were to challenge our proration method or new Treasury regulations were issued, we may be required to change the allocation of items of income, gain, loss and deduction among our unitholders.
A unitholder whose units are loaned to a short seller to cover a short sale of units may be considered as having disposed of those units. If so, he would no longer be treated for tax purposes as a partner with respect to those units during the period of the loan and may recognize gain or loss from the disposition.
Because a unitholder whose units are loaned to a short seller to cover a short sale of units may be considered as having disposed of the loaned units, he may no longer be treated for tax purposes as a partner with respect to those units during the period of the loan to the short seller and such unitholder may recognize gain or loss from such disposition. Moreover, during the period of the loan to the short seller, any of our income, gain, loss or deduction with respect to those units may not be reportable by the unitholder and any cash distributions received by the unitholder as to those units could be fully taxable as ordinary income. Unitholders desiring to assure their status as partners and avoid the risk of gain recognition from a loan to a short seller are urged to modify any applicable brokerage account agreements to prohibit their brokers from borrowing their units.
We have adopted certain valuation methodologies that may result in a shift of income, gain, loss and deduction between the general partner and the unitholders. The IRS may challenge this treatment, which could adversely affect the value of the common units.
When we issue additional units or engage in certain other transactions, we determine the fair market value of our assets and allocate any unrealized gain or loss attributable to our assets to the capital accounts of our unitholders and our general partner. Our methodology may be viewed as understating the value of our assets. In that case, there may be a shift of income, gain, loss and deduction between certain unitholders and the general partner, which may be unfavorable to such unitholders. Moreover, subsequent purchasers of common units may have a greater portion of their Internal Revenue Code Section 743(b) adjustment allocated to our tangible assets and a lesser portion allocated to our intangible assets. The IRS may challenge our valuation methods, or our allocation of the Section 743(b) adjustment attributable to our tangible and intangible assets, and allocations of income, gain, loss and deduction between the general partner and certain of our unitholders.
A successful IRS challenge to these methods or allocations could adversely affect the amount of taxable income or loss being allocated to our unitholders. It also could affect the amount of gain from our unitholders sale of common units and could have a negative impact on the value of the common units or result in audit adjustments to our unitholders tax returns without the benefit of additional deductions.
The sale or exchange of 50% or more of our capital and profits interests during any twelve-month period will result in the termination of our partnership for federal income tax purposes.
We will be considered to have terminated for federal income tax purposes if there is a sale or exchange of 50% or more of the total interests in our capital and profits within a twelve-month period. Our termination, among other things, would result in the closing of our taxable year for all unitholders, which would result in us filing two tax returns (and our unitholders could receive two Schedule K-1s) for one calendar year. Our termination could also result in a significant deferral of depreciation deductions allowable in computing our taxable income. In the case of a unitholder reporting on a taxable year other than a calendar year, the closing of our taxable year may result in more than twelve months of our taxable income or loss being includable in his taxable income for the year of termination. Our termination currently would not affect our classification as a partnership for federal income tax purposes, but instead, we would be treated as a new partnership for tax purposes. If treated as a new partnership, we must make new tax elections and could be subject to penalties if we are unable to determine that a termination occurred. The IRS has recently announced a relief procedure whereby the IRS may allow a publicly traded partnership that has terminated to provide only a single Schedule K-1 to each unitholder for the two tax years in the fiscal year in which the termination occurs.
Unitholders may be subject to state and local taxes and return filing requirements in states where they do not reside as a result of investing in our units.
In addition to federal income taxes, unitholders may be subject to other taxes, including foreign, state and local taxes, unincorporated business taxes and estate, inheritance or intangible taxes that are imposed by the various jurisdictions in which we conduct business or own property, even if the unitholders do not live in any of those jurisdictions. Unitholders may be required to file foreign, state and local income tax returns and pay state and local income taxes in some or all of these jurisdictions. Further, the unitholder may be subject to penalties for failure to comply with those requirements. We own assets and conduct business in the states of Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. Each of these states, other than Texas and Wyoming, currently imposes a personal income tax on individuals. A majority of these states impose an income tax on corporations and other entities. As we make acquisitions or expand our business, we may own assets or do business in additional states that impose a personal income tax. It is each unitholders responsibility to file all United States federal, foreign, state and local tax returns.
As of February 25, 2011, we own and operate processing plants and gathering systems located in Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming, all within our Natural Gas Services segment, six owned propane rail terminals, five of which we operate, located in Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont, one owned and operated marine import terminal located in Virginia, and one owned and operated propane pipeline terminal located in Pennsylvania within our Wholesale Propane Logistics Segment, two owned and operated pipelines located in Texas, one owned and operated pipeline located in Texas and Louisiana, one owned and operated pipeline located in Colorado and Kansas, and one owned and operated underground storage facility located in Michigan within our NGL Logistics segment. In addition within our Natural Gas Services segment, we own a 40% interest in Discovery Producer Services, LLC, which owns an offshore gathering pipeline, a natural gas processing plant and an NGL fractionator plant in Louisiana, operated by a third party; a 50.1% interest in DCP East Texas Holdings, LLC, which own a natural gas processing complex, connected gathering system and pipeline hub in Texas, operated by DCP Midstream, LLC; and a 33.33% interest in DCP Southeast Texas Holdings, GP, which owns processing plants, gathering systems and natural gas storage in Texas, operated by DCP Midstream, LLC. For additional details on these plants, storage facilities, propane terminals and pipeline systems, please read BusinessNatural Gas Services Segment, Business Wholesale Propane Logistics Segment and Business NGL Logistics Segment. We believe that our properties are generally in good condition, well maintained and are suitable and adequate to carry on our business at capacity for the foreseeable future.
Our real property falls into two categories: (1) parcels that we own in fee; and (2) parcels in which our interest derives from leases, easements, rights-of-way, permits or licenses from landowners or governmental authorities permitting the use of such land for our operations. Portions of the land on which our plants and other major facilities are located are owned by us in fee title, and we believe that we have satisfactory title to these lands. The remainder of the land on which our plant sites and major facilities are located are held by us pursuant to ground leases between us, as lessee, and the fee owner of the lands, as lessors. We, or our predecessors, have leased these lands for many years without any material challenge known to us relating to the title to the land upon which the assets are located, and we believe that we have satisfactory leasehold estates to such lands. We have no knowledge of any challenge to the underlying fee title of any material lease, easement, right-of-way, permit or license held by us or to our title to any material lease, easement, right-of-way, permit or lease, and we believe that we have satisfactory title to all of our material leases, easements, rights-of-way, permits and licenses.
Our principal executive offices are located at 370 17th Street, Suite 2775, Denver, Colorado 80202, our telephone number is 303-633-2900 and our website address is www.dcppartners.com.
We are not a party to any significant legal proceedings, other than those listed below, but are a party to various administrative and regulatory proceedings that have arisen in the ordinary course of our business. Management currently believes that the ultimate resolution of these matters, taken as a whole, and after consideration of amounts accrued, insurance coverage or other indemnification arrangements, will not have a material adverse effect upon our consolidated results of operations, financial position or cash flows. Please read Business Regulation of Operations and Business Environmental Matters.
Westfield In July 2010, there was an explosion at a condominium complex in Norfolk, Massachusetts in which a worker at the condominium was killed. An investigation of the accident by the Massachusetts State Fire Marshall has indicated that the propane that exploded may have been unodorized. The investigation further indicated that the propane that exploded may have been supplied by our Westfield propane rail terminal to one of our customers who filled the tank that exploded. We are not responsible for odorization of the propane we supply to our customers out of our Westfield terminal. Rather, we receive the propane by rail which has been odorized by our suppliers. An attorney representing the estate of the deceased has brought a legal action against
our customer who filled the tank that exploded; however, we have not been named in that lawsuit. It is not possible to predict whether we will incur any liability or to estimate the damages, if any, we might incur in connection with this matter. Management does not believe the ultimate resolution of this issue will have a material adverse effect on our consolidated results of operations, financial position or cash flows.
El Paso On February 27, 2009, a jury in the District Court, Harris County, Texas rendered a verdict in favor of El Paso E&P Company, L.P., or El Paso, and against one of our subsidiaries and DCP Midstream, LLC. As previously disclosed, the lawsuit, filed in December 2006, stems from an ongoing commercial dispute involving our Minden processing plant that dates back to August 2000. During the second quarter of 2009 we filed an appeal in the 14th Court of Appeals, Texas. El Paso filed an additional lawsuit in the District Court of Webster Parish, Louisiana, claiming damages for the same claims as the Texas matter, but for periods prior to our ownership of the Minden processing plant. The Louisiana court determined in August 2009 that El Pasos Louisiana claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata and dismissed the case with prejudice in Louisiana. In January 2010, we and DCP Midstream, LLC entered into a settlement agreement with El Paso to resolve all claims brought by El Paso regarding this matter in Texas and Louisiana. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, we paid El Paso approximately $2.2 million for our portion of the settlement, which is within the amount of our previously disclosed contingent liability. This amount was included in the consolidated balance sheets within other current liabilities as of December 31, 2009. The cases have been dismissed in both Texas and Louisiana.
Our common units have been listed on the New York Stock Exchange, or the NYSE, under the symbol DPM since December 2, 2005. The following table sets forth intra-day high and low sales prices of the common units, as reported by the NYSE, as well as the amount of cash distributions declared per quarter for 2010 and 2009.
As of February 25, 2011, there were approximately 43 unitholders of record of our common units. This number does not include unitholders whose units are held in trust by other entities. The actual number of unitholders is greater than the number of holders of record.
Distributions of Available Cash
General Our partnership agreement requires that, within 45 days after the end of each quarter, we distribute all of our Available Cash (defined below) to unitholders of record on the applicable record date, as determined by our general partner.
Definition of Available Cash Available Cash, for any quarter, consists of all cash and cash equivalents on hand at the end of that quarter:
Minimum Quarterly Distribution The Minimum Quarterly Distribution, as set forth in the partnership agreement, is $0.35 per unit per quarter, or $1.40 per unit per year. Our current quarterly distribution is $0.6175 per unit, or $2.47 per unit annualized. There is no guarantee that we will maintain our current distribution or pay the Minimum Quarterly Distribution on the units in any quarter. Even if our cash distribution policy is not modified or revoked, the amount of distributions paid under our policy and the decision to make any distribution is determined by our general partner, taking into consideration the terms of our partnership agreement. Please read Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations Capital Requirements Description of Credit Agreement for a discussion of the restrictions included in our credit agreement that may restrict our ability to make distributions.
General Partner Interest and Incentive Distribution Rights As of December 31, 2010 the general partner is entitled to a percentage of all quarterly distributions equal to its general partner interest of
approximately 1% and limited partner interest of 1%. The general partner has the right, but not the obligation, to contribute a proportionate amount of capital to us to maintain its current general partner interest. The general partners interest may be reduced if we issue additional units in the future and our general partner does not contribute a proportionate amount of capital to us to maintain its current general partner interest.
The incentive distribution rights held by our general partner entitle it to receive an increasing share of Available Cash as pre-defined distribution targets have been achieved. Currently, our distribution to our general partner related to its incentive distribution rights is at the highest level. Our general partners incentive distribution rights were not reduced as a result of our recent common unit offerings, and will not be reduced if we issue additional units in the future and the general partner does not contribute a proportionate amount of capital to us to maintain its current general partner interest. Please read the Distributions of Available Cash after the Subordination Period sections in Note 13 of the Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements in Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data for more details about the distribution targets and their impact on the general partners incentive distribution rights.
On January 27, 2011, the board of directors of DCP Midstream GP, LLC declared a quarterly distribution of $0.6175 per unit, which was paid on February 14, 2011, to unitholders of record on February 7, 2011.
Equity Compensation Plans
The information relating to our equity compensation plans required by Item 5 is incorporated by reference to such information as set forth in Item 12. Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Unitholder Matters contained herein.
The following table shows our selected financial data for the periods and as of the dates indicated, which is derived from the consolidated financial statements. These consolidated financial statements include our accounts, which have been combined with the historical assets, liabilities and operations of our wholesale propane logistics business which we acquired from DCP Midstream, LLC in November 2006, our initial 25% limited liability company interest in DCP East Texas Holdings, LLC, or East Texas, our 40% limited liability company interest in Discovery Producer Services, LLC, or Discovery, and a non-trading derivative instrument, or the Swap, which DCP Midstream, LLC entered into in March 2007, which we acquired from DCP Midstream, LLC in July 2007 and our additional 25.1% limited liability interest in East Texas, which we acquired from DCP Midstream, LLC in April 2009. Prior to our acquisition of an additional 25.1% limited liability company interest in East Texas we owned a 25.0% limited liability company interest in East Texas, which was accounted for under the equity method of accounting. Subsequent to our acquisition of an additional 25.1% limited liability company interest in April 2009, we own a 50.1% limited liability company interest in East Texas and account for East Texas as a consolidated subsidiary. This transaction was among entities under common control; accordingly, our financial information includes the historical results of entities and interests contributed to us by DCP Midstream, LLC for all periods presented. The information contained herein should be read together with, and is qualified in its entirety by reference to, the consolidated financial statements and the accompanying notes included elsewhere in this Form 10-K.
Our operating results incorporate a number of significant estimates and uncertainties. Such matters could cause the data included herein to not be indicative of our future financial conditions or results of operations. A discussion on our critical accounting estimates is included in Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.
The table should also be read together with Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.
The following discussion analyzes our financial condition and results of operations. You should read the following discussion of our financial condition and results of operations in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and notes included elsewhere in this annual report.
We are a Delaware limited partnership formed by DCP Midstream, LLC to own, operate, acquire and develop a diversified portfolio of complementary midstream energy assets. Our operations are organized into three business segments; Natural Gas Services, Wholesale Propane Logistics and NGL Logistics.
The financial information contained herein includes, for each period presented, our accounts, and the assets, liabilities and operations of our additional 25.1% limited liability company interest in East Texas acquired from DCP Midstream, LLC in April 2009, a transaction among entities under common control, which we refer to as our predecessor. Transfers of net assets between entities under common control are accounted for as if the transfer occurred at the beginning of the period, and prior years are retroactively adjusted to furnish comparative information similar to the pooling method. Prior to our acquisition of an additional 25.1% limited liability company interest in East Texas from DCP Midstream, LLC in April 2009, we owned a 25% limited liability company interest in East Texas, which we accounted for under the equity method of accounting. Subsequent to this transaction we own a 50.1% limited liability interest in East Texas, and account for East Texas as a consolidated subsidiary. Accordingly, our financial information includes the historical results of our predecessor for all periods presented.
Crude oil and NGL prices have generally remained at favorable levels, although natural gas prices continue to decline and remain lower than prices in 2008 and 2009. With the exception of certain higher liquids content and emerging gas shale regions where drilling activity remains high, the lower natural gas prices are resulting in significantly reduced drilling activity in areas where the gas has a relatively lower liquid content. Gas production in regions with low liquid content receive less price uplift from the relatively higher crude and NGL prices.
During January and February, we experienced near record cold weather, causing operating challenges at our East Texas and Northern Louisiana plants, creating periods of low NGL recoveries and volume curtailments due to plant shut downs and producer wellhead freeze offs.
From May to November, we had an extended planned outage related to an inspection at our Providence wholesale propane terminal, with lower unit margins resulting from the associated logistics of shifting inventory and sales volumes to our other terminals. Earlier in the year, warmer weather and an early spring tempered propane sales volumes. This was partially offset by the cash payment we received in conjunction with an amendment to an existing propane supply contract.
Improvements in several aspects of the business environment along with opportunities in the market enabled us to continue to execute on our growth objectives in 2010 through a series of acquisitions and capital projects around our existing footprint. In January, we completed an acquisition of our Wattenberg fee-based NGL pipeline and announced a related expansion capital project. In July, we acquired an additional 55% interest in our Black Lake fee-based NGL pipeline bringing our ownership interest in Black Lake to 100%. In July, we also closed on an acquisition which expanded our existing northeastern U.S. wholesale propane logistics business into the mid-Atlantic region through the addition of a marine import terminal and storage facility in the Port of Chesapeake, Virginia. Prior to year-end, we further expanded our NGL logistics business in the Midwest, Sarnia and Northeast supply markets through the acquisition of an NGL storage facility in Marysville, Michigan.
On November 4, 2010, we entered into agreements with DCP Midstream, LLC, to acquire a 33.33% interest in Southeast Texas, for $150.0 million. The Southeast Texas system is a fully integrated midstream business which includes 675 miles of natural gas pipelines, three natural gas processing plants with recently increased processing capacity totaling 380 MMcf/d and natural gas storage assets with 9 Bcf of existing storage capacity. The terms of the joint venture agreement provide that distributions to us for the first seven years related to storage and transportation gross margin will be pursuant to a fee-based arrangement, based on storage
capacity and tailgate volumes. Distributions related to the gathering and processing business, along with reductions for all expenditures, will be pursuant to our and DCP Midstream, LLCs respective ownership interests in Southeast Texas. The transaction closed on January 1, 2011.
Through the growth opportunities executed, we increased our business diversity, geographic and resource exposure, and our fee-based margins. Our integration efforts related to the acquisitions are progressing according to plan. The Wattenberg capital expansion project, which we expect to complete in early 2011, is also progressing on plan.
We believe our financial positioning is a key element of our growth strategy and that our accomplishments related to our financial objectives position us well in terms of both liquidity and cost of capital to support our growth plans. In September, we successfully executed our inaugural public debt offering through the issuance of $250.0 million of senior notes due 2015. We raised $189.3 million in capital through the successful execution of two public equity offerings in August and November.
Financial results for the year were in line with our previously provided 2010 forecast. Resuming distribution growth was an important 2010 objective, with the past year serving as a transition year to consistent distribution growth. We raised our distribution in the second and fourth quarters, resulting in a 3% increase in our quarterly distribution rate over the rate paid in the fourth quarter of 2009. The distributions reflect our business results as well as our recent execution on growth opportunities.
General Trends and Outlook
In 2011, our strategic objectives will continue to focus on maintaining stable distributable cash flows from our existing assets and executing on growth opportunities to increase our distributable cash flows. We believe the key elements to stable distributable cash flows are the diversity of our asset portfolio, our significant fee-based business representing approximately 60% of our estimated margins, and our highly hedged commodity position, the objective of which is to protect against downside risk in our distributable cash flows.
We incur capital expenditures for our consolidated entities and our unconsolidated affiliates. We anticipate maintenance capital expenditures of between $10.0 and $15.0 million, and expenditures for expansion capital of between $35.0 and $50.0 million in 2011 including $10.0 million for the expansion to storage capacity at our Southeast Texas system. The board of directors may approve additional growth capital during the year at their discretion. This capital does not include any acquisitions or additional investment opportunities that may be identified throughout the course of the year and approved by our management and our board of directors.
In 2011, we expect to continue to pursue a multi-faceted growth strategy, which may include executing on organic opportunities around our footprint, third party acquisitions, and periodic dropdowns from our sponsors in order to grow our distributable cash flows. We also plan to continue to integrate our recent acquisitions and execute on the Wattenberg pipeline expansion project.
We anticipate our business to continue to be affected by the following key trends. Our expectations are based on assumptions made by us and information currently available to us. To the extent our underlying assumptions about or interpretations of available information prove to be incorrect, our actual results may vary materially from our expected results.
Natural Gas Gathering and Processing Margins Except for our fee-based contracts, which may be impacted by throughput volumes, our natural gas gathering and processing profitability is dependent upon commodity prices, natural gas supply, and demand for natural gas, NGLs and condensate. Commodity prices, which are impacted by the balance between supply and demand, have historically been volatile. Throughput volumes could decline should natural gas prices and drilling levels continue to experience weakness. Our long-term view is that as economic conditions improve, natural gas prices should return to a level that would support continued natural gas production in the United States. During 2010, petrochemical demand remained strong for NGLs as NGLs were a lower cost feedstock when compared to crude oil derived feedstocks. We anticipate this continuing in 2011.
Wholesale Propane Supply and Demand Due to our multiple propane supply sources, propane supply contractual arrangements, significant storage capabilities, and multiple terminal locations for wholesale propane
delivery, we are generally able to provide our retail propane distribution customers with reliable supplies of propane during peak demand periods of tight supply, usually in the winter months when their retail customers consume the most propane for home heating.
Factors That May Significantly Affect Our Results
Natural Gas Services Segment
Our results of operations for our Natural Gas Services segment are impacted by (1) increases and decreases in the volume and quality of natural gas that we gather and transport through our systems, which we refer to as throughput, (2) the associated Btu content of our system throughput and our related processing volumes, (3) the prices of and relationship between commodities such as NGLs, crude oil and natural gas, (4) the operating efficiency of our processing facilities, (5) potential limitations on throughput volumes arising from downstream and infrastructure capacity constraints, and (6) the terms of our processing contract arrangements with producers.
Throughput and operating efficiency generally are driven by wellhead production, plant recoveries, operating availability of our facilities, physical integrity and our competitive position on a regional basis, and more broadly by demand for natural gas, NGLs and condensate. Historical and current trends in the price changes of commodities may not be indicative of future trends. Throughput and prices are also driven by demand and take-away capacity for residue natural gas and NGLs.
Our processing contract arrangements can have a significant impact on our profitability and cash flow. Our actual contract terms are based upon a variety of factors, including natural gas quality, geographic location, the commodity pricing environment at the time the contract is executed, customer requirements and competition from other midstream service providers. Our gathering and processing contract mix and, accordingly, our exposure to natural gas, NGL and condensate prices, may change as a result of producer preferences, impacting our expansion in regions where certain types of contracts are more common as well as other market factors.
The capacity on certain downstream NGL and natural gas infrastructure has tightened in recent periods and can be further constrained seasonally or when there is severe weather. Constrained market outlets may restrict us from operating our facilities optimally.
Our Natural Gas Services segment operating results are impacted by market conditions causing variability in natural gas, crude oil and NGL prices. The midstream natural gas industry is cyclical, with the operating results of companies in the industry significantly affected by the prevailing price of NGLs. Although the prevailing price of residue natural gas has less short-term significance to our operating results than the price of NGLs, in the long term, the growth and sustainability of our business depends on natural gas prices being at levels sufficient to provide incentives and capital for producers to explore and produce natural gas.
The prices of NGLs, crude oil and natural gas can be extremely volatile for periods of time, and may not always have a close relationship. Due to our hedging program, changes in the relationship of the price of NGLs and crude oil may cause our commodity price exposure to vary, which we have attempted to capture in our commodity price sensitivities in Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk. Our results may also be impacted as a result of non-cash lower of cost or market inventory or imbalance adjustments, which occur when the market value of commodities decline below our carrying value.
The natural gas services business is highly competitive in our markets and includes major integrated oil and gas companies, interstate and intrastate pipelines, and companies that gather, compress, treat, process, transport and/or market natural gas. Competition is often the greatest in geographic areas experiencing robust drilling by producers and during periods of high commodity prices for crude oil, natural gas and/or natural gas liquids. Competition is also increased in those geographic areas where our commercial contracts with our customers are shorter in length of term and therefore must be renegotiated on a more frequent basis.
Wholesale Propane Logistics Segment
Our Wholesale Propane Logistics segment operating results are impacted by our ability to provide our retail propane distribution customers with reliable supplies of propane. We use physical inventory, physical purchase agreements and financial derivative instruments, with DCP Midstream, LLC or third parties, which
typically match the quantities of propane subject to fixed price sales agreements to mitigate our commodity price risk. Our results may also be impacted as a result of non-cash lower of cost or market inventory adjustments, which occur when the market value of propane declines below our inventory value. We generally recover lower of cost or market inventory adjustments in subsequent periods through the sale of inventory. There may be positive or negative impacts on sales volumes and gross margin from supply disruptions and weather conditions in the mid-atlantic, upper midwestern and northeastern areas of the United States. Our annual sales volumes of propane may decline when these areas experience periods of milder weather in the winter months. Volumes may also be impacted by conservation and reduced demand in a recessionary environment.
The wholesale propane business is highly competitive in our market areas which include the mid-atlantic, upper midwest and northeastern regions of the United States. Our competitors include major integrated oil and gas and energy companies, and interstate and intrastate pipelines.
NGL Logistics Segment
Our NGL Logistics segment operating results are impacted by the throughput volumes of the NGLs we transport on our NGL pipelines and the volumes of NGLs we store in our storage facility. We transport and store NGLs primarily on a fee basis. Throughput may be negatively impacted as a result of our customers operating their processing plants in ethane rejection mode, often as a result of low commodity prices for ethane. Factors that impact the supply and demand of NGLs, as described above in our Natural Gas Services segment, may also impact the throughput and volume for our NGL Logistics segment. Our results may also be impacted as a result of non-cash lower of cost or market inventory adjustments, which occur when the market value of NGLs decline below our carrying value.
The economic impact of severe weather may negatively affect the nations short-term energy supply and demand, and may result in commodity price volatility. Additionally, severe weather may restrict or prevent us from fully utilizing our assets, by damaging our assets, interrupting utilities, and through possible NGL and natural gas curtailments downstream of our facilities, which restricts our production. These impacts may linger past the time of the actual weather event. Severe weather may also impact the supply availability and propane demand in our Wholesale Propane Logistics segment. Although we carry insurance on the vast majority of our assets, insurance may be inadequate to cover our loss in some instances, and in certain circumstances we have been unable to obtain insurance on commercially reasonable terms, if at all.
Volatility in the capital markets may impact our business in multiple ways, including limiting our producers ability to finance their drilling programs and limiting our ability to fund our operations through acquisitions or organic growth projects. These events may impact our counterparties ability to perform under their credit or commercial obligations. Where possible, we have obtained additional collateral agreements, letters of credit from highly rated banks, or have managed credit lines, to mitigate a portion of these risks.
Impact of Inflation
Inflation has been relatively low in the United States in recent years. However, the inflation rates impacting our business fluctuate throughout the broad economic and energy business cycles. Consequently, our costs for chemicals, utilities, materials and supplies, labor and major equipment purchases may increase during periods of general business inflation or periods of relatively high energy commodity prices.
The above factors, including sustained deterioration in commodity prices, volumes or other market declines, including a decline in our unit price, may negatively impact our results of operations, and may increase the likelihood of a non-cash impairment charge or non-cash lower of cost or market inventory adjustments.
In January 2011, we announced that we are no longer pursuing a joint venture or alternative transaction structures with EQT Corporation.
On January 27, 2011, the board of directors of the general partner declared a quarterly distribution of $0.6175 per unit, payable on February 14, 2011 to unitholders of record on February 7, 2011.
On December 30, 2010, we acquired all of the interests in Marysville Hydrocarbons Holdings, LLC, or Marysville. The acquisition involved three separate transactions with a number of parties. The Partnership acquired a 90% interest in Marysville from Dart Energy Corporation, a 5% interest in Marysville from Prospect Street Energy, LLC and 100% of EE Group, LLC, which owns the remaining 5% interest in Marysville. We paid a purchase price of $94.8 million and $6.0 million for net working capital and other adjustments, for an aggregate purchase price of $100.8 million subject to customary purchase price adjustments, for our 100% interest. The purchase was financed at closing with borrowings under the Partnerships revolving credit facility. $21.2 million of the purchase price has been deposited in an indemnity escrow to satisfy certain tax liabilities and provide for breaches of representations and warranties of the sellers.
On November 4, 2010, we entered into agreements with DCP Midstream, LLC to acquire a 33.33% interest in Southeast Texas for $150.0 million. The Southeast Texas system is a fully integrated midstream business which includes 675 miles of natural gas pipelines, three natural gas processing plants with recently increased processing capacity totaling 380 MMcf/d and natural gas storage assets with 9 Bcf of existing storage capacity. The terms of the joint venture agreement provide that distributions to us for the first seven years related to storage and transportation gross margin will be pursuant to a fee-based arrangement, based on storage capacity and tailgate volumes. Distributions related to the gathering and processing business, along with reductions for all expenditures, will be pursuant to our and DCP Midstream, LLCs respective ownership interests in Southeast Texas. This acquisition closed on January 1, 2011.
In November 2010, we issued 2,875,000 common units at $34.96 per unit. We received proceeds of $96.2 million, net of offering costs.
We manage our business and analyze and report our results of operations on a segment basis. Our operations are divided into our Natural Gas Services segment, our Wholesale Propane Logistics segment and our NGL Logistics segment.
Natural Gas Services Segment
Results of operations from our Natural Gas Services segment are determined primarily by the volumes of natural gas gathered, compressed, treated, processed, transported, stored and sold through our gathering, processing and pipeline systems; the volumes of NGLs and condensate sold; and the level of our realized natural gas, NGL and condensate prices. We generate our revenues and our gross margin for our Natural Gas Services segment principally from contracts that contain a combination of the following arrangements:
In addition to the above contract types, we have keep-whole arrangements, which are estimated to generate less than 6% of our gross margin. Our equity method investment in Discovery, also has keep-whole arrangements. Under the terms of a keep-whole processing contract, natural gas is gathered from the producer for processing, the NGLs and condensate are sold and the residue natural gas is returned to the producer with a Btu content equivalent to the Btu content of the natural gas gathered. This arrangement keeps the producer whole to the thermal value of the natural gas received. Under this type of contract, we are exposed to the frac spread. The frac spread is the difference between the value of the NGLs and condensate extracted from processing and the value of the Btu equivalent of the residue natural gas. We benefit in periods when NGL and condensate prices are higher relative to natural gas prices when that frac spread exceeds the operating costs. Fluctuations in commodity prices are expected to continue to impact the operating costs of these entities.
The natural gas supply for our gathering pipelines and processing plants is derived primarily from natural gas wells located in Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming and the Gulf of Mexico. The Pelico system also receives natural gas produced in Texas through its interconnect with other pipelines that transport natural gas from Texas into western Louisiana. These areas have historically experienced significant levels of drilling activity, providing us with opportunities to access newly developed natural gas supplies. We identify primary suppliers as those individually representing 10% or more of our total natural gas supply. Our one primary supplier of natural gas in our Natural Gas Services segment represented approximately 14% of the natural gas supplied to this system in 2010. We actively seek new supplies of natural gas, both to offset natural declines in the production from connected wells and to increase throughput volume. We obtain new natural gas supplies in our operating areas by contracting for production from new wells, connecting new wells drilled on dedicated acreage, or by obtaining natural gas that has been directly received or released from other gathering systems. In 2010, due to the decline in producer drilling in various areas in which we operate, new well connections have been at reduced levels.
We sell natural gas to marketing affiliates of natural gas pipelines, marketing affiliates of integrated oil companies, marketing affiliates of DCP Midstream, LLC, national wholesale marketers, industrial end-users and gas-fired power plants. We typically sell natural gas under market index related pricing terms. The NGLs extracted from the natural gas at our processing plants are sold at market index prices to DCP Midstream, LLC or its affiliates, or to third parties. In addition, under our merchant arrangements, we use a subsidiary of DCP Midstream, LLC as our agent to purchase natural gas from third parties at pipeline interconnect points, as well as residue gas from our Minden and Ada processing plants, and then resell the aggregated natural gas to third parties.
We manage the commodity price risk of our supply portfolio and sales portfolio with both physical and financial transactions. As a service to our customers, we may enter into physical fixed price natural gas purchases and sales, utilizing financial derivatives to swap this fixed price risk back to market index. We may enter into financial derivatives to lock in time spreads and price differentials across the Pelico system to maximize the value of pipeline and storage capacity. We also gather, process and transport natural gas under fee-based transportation contracts. Our Southeast Texas system also manages the value of pipeline and storage capacity in a similar manner, although our 33.33% distributions for the first seven years are fee-based such that we are not exposed to that activity.
Wholesale Propane Logistics Segment
We operate a wholesale propane logistics business in the mid-atlantic, upper midwest and northeastern United States. We purchase large volumes of propane supply from natural gas processing plants and fractionation facilities, and crude oil refineries, primarily located in the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast area, Canada and other international sources, and transport these volumes of propane supply by pipeline, rail or ship to our terminals and storage facilities in the mid-atlantic, midwest and the northeastern areas of the United States. We identify primary suppliers as those individually representing 10% or more of our total propane supply. Our four primary suppliers of propane, two of which are affiliated entities, represented approximately 91% of our propane supplied in 2010. We sell propane on a wholesale basis to retail propane distributors who in turn resell propane to their retail customers.
Due to our multiple propane supply sources, annual and long-term propane supply purchase arrangements, significant storage capabilities, and multiple terminal locations for wholesale propane delivery, we are generally able to provide our retail propane distribution customers with reliable supplies of propane during periods of tight supply, such as the winter months when their retail customers generally consume the most propane for home heating. In particular, we generally offer our customers the ability to obtain propane supply volumes from us in the winter months that are generally significantly greater than their purchase of propane from us in the summer. We believe these factors generally allow us to maintain our generally favorable relationships with our customers.
We manage our wholesale propane margins by selling propane to retail propane distributors under annual sales agreements negotiated each spring which specify floating price terms that provide us a margin in excess of our floating index-based supply costs under our supply purchase arrangements. Our portfolio of multiple supply sources and storage capabilities allows us to actively manage our propane supply purchases and to lower the aggregate cost of supplies. Based on the carrying value of our inventory, timing of inventory transactions and the volatility of the market value of propane, we have historically and may continue to periodically recognize non-cash lower of cost or market inventory adjustments. In addition, we may use financial derivatives to manage the value of our propane inventories.
NGL Logistics Segment
Our pipelines and storage facility provide transportation and storage services for customers, primarily on a fee basis. We have entered into contractual arrangements with DCP Midstream, LLC and others that generally require customers to pay us to transport or store NGLs pursuant to a fee-based rate that is applied to volumes. Therefore, the results of operations for this business segment are generally dependent upon the volume of product transported or stored and the level of fees charged to customers. We do not take title to the products transported on our NGL pipelines or stored in our storage facility; rather, the customer retains title and the associated commodity price risk. DCP Midstream, LLC provides 100% of volumes transported on the Seabreeze and Wilbreeze pipelines. For the Black Lake pipeline, any line loss or gain in NGLs is allocated to the shipper. The volumes of NGLs transported on our pipelines are dependent on the level of production of NGLs from processing plants connected to our NGL pipelines. When natural gas prices are high relative to NGL prices, it is less profitable to process natural gas because of the higher value of natural gas compared to the value of NGLs and because of the increased cost of separating the NGLs from the natural gas. As a result, we have experienced periods in the past, in which higher natural gas prices reduce the volume of NGLs extracted at plants connected to our NGL pipelines and, in turn, lower the NGL throughput on our assets. In the transportation markets we serve, our pipelines are the sole pipeline facility transporting NGLs from the supply source. Our storage facility in Marysville, Michigan provides storage and related services primarily to depositories operating in the liquid hydrocarbons industry.
How We Evaluate Our Operations
Our management uses a variety of financial and operational measurements to analyze our performance. These measurements include the following: (1) volumes; (2) gross margin, segment gross margin and adjusted segment gross margin; (3) operating and maintenance expense, and general and administrative expense; (4) adjusted EBITDA; and (5) distributable cash flow. Gross margin, segment gross margin, adjusted segment
gross margin, adjusted EBITDA and distributable cash flow are not measures under accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America, or GAAP. To the extent permitted, we present certain non-GAAP measures and reconciliations of those measures to their most directly comparable financial measures as calculated and presented in accordance with GAAP. These non-GAAP measures may not be comparable to a similarly titled measure of another company because other entities may not calculate these non-GAAP measures in the same manner.
Volumes We view throughput volumes for our Natural Gas Services segment and our NGL Logistics segment, and sales volumes for our Wholesale Propane Logistics segment as important factors affecting our profitability. We gather and transport some of the natural gas and NGLs under fee-based transportation contracts. Revenue from these contracts is derived by applying the rates stipulated to the volumes transported. Pipeline throughput volumes from existing wells connected to our pipelines will naturally decline over time as wells deplete. Accordingly, to maintain or to increase throughput levels on these pipelines and the utilization rate of our natural gas processing plants, we must continually obtain new supplies of natural gas and NGLs. Our ability to maintain existing supplies of natural gas and NGLs and obtain new supplies are impacted by: (1) the level of workovers or recompletions of existing connected wells and successful drilling activity in areas currently dedicated to our pipelines; and (2) our ability to compete for volumes from successful new wells in other areas. The throughput volumes of NGLs on our pipelines are substantially dependent upon the quantities of NGLs produced at our processing plants, as well as NGLs produced at other processing plants that have pipeline connections with our NGL pipelines. We regularly monitor producer activity in the areas we serve and in which our pipelines are located, and pursue opportunities to connect new supply to these pipelines.
Gross Margin, Segment Gross Margin and Adjusted Segment Gross Margin We view our gross margin as an important performance measure of the core profitability of our operations. We review our gross margin monthly for consistency and trend analysis.
We define gross margin as total operating revenues, including commodity derivative activity, less purchases of natural gas, propane and NGLs, and we define segment gross margin for each segment as total operating revenues for that segment less commodity purchases for that segment. Our gross margin equals the sum of our segment gross margins. We define adjusted segment gross margin as segment gross margin plus non-cash commodity derivative losses, less non-cash commodity derivative gains for that segment. Gross margin, segment gross margin and adjusted segment gross margin are primary performance measures used by management, as these measures represent the results of product sales and purchases, a key component of our operations. As an indicator of our operating performance, gross margin, segment gross margin and adjusted segment gross margin should not be considered an alternative to, or more meaningful than, net income or loss, net income or loss attributable to partners, operating income, cash flows from operating activities or any other measure of financial performance presented in accordance with GAAP.
Our gross margin, segment gross margin and adjusted segment gross margin may not be comparable to a similarly titled measure of another company because other entities may not calculate these measures in the same manner. The following table sets forth our reconciliation of certain non-GAAP measures:
Reconciliation of Non-GAAP Measures
Operating and Maintenance and General and Administrative Expense Operating and maintenance expenses are costs associated with the operation of a specific asset and are primarily comprised of direct labor, ad valorem taxes, repairs and maintenance, lease expenses, utilities and contract services. These expenses fluctuate depending on the activities performed during a specific period. General and administrative expenses are as follows:
We have entered into an omnibus agreement, as amended, or the Omnibus Agreement, with DCP Midstream, LLC. Under the Omnibus Agreement, we are required to reimburse DCP Midstream, LLC for salaries of operating personnel and employee benefits, as well as capital expenditures, maintenance and repair costs, taxes and other direct costs incurred by DCP Midstream, LLC on our behalf. We also pay DCP Midstream, LLC an annual fee under the Omnibus Agreement for centralized corporate functions performed by DCP Midstream, LLC on our behalf, including legal, accounting, cash management, insurance administration and claims processing, risk management, health, safety and environmental, information technology, human resources, credit, payroll, taxes and engineering.
On January 1, 2011, we extended the omnibus agreement through December 31, 2011 for $10.2 million. The Omnibus Agreement also addresses the following matters:
East Texas incurs general and administrative expenses directly from DCP Midstream, LLC. During the years ended December 31, 2010, 2009 and 2008, East Texas incurred $7.8 million, $8.5 million and $8.6 million, respectively, for general and administrative expenses from DCP Midstream, LLC, which includes expenses for our predecessor operations.
Outside of the Omnibus Agreement and amounts incurred by East Texas, we incurred other fees with DCP Midstream, LLC, which includes expenses for our predecessor operations, of $1.5 million, $1.9 million and $1.8 million, respectively, for the years ended December 31, 2010, 2009 and 2008, respectively. These amounts include allocated expenses, including professional services, insurance and internal audit.
We also incurred third party general and administrative expenses, which were primarily related to compensation and benefit expenses of the personnel who provide direct support to our operations. Also included are expenses associated with annual and quarterly reports to unitholders, tax return and Schedule K-1 preparation and distribution, independent auditor fees, due diligence and acquisition costs, costs associated with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, investor relations activities, registrar and transfer agent fees, incremental director and officer liability insurance costs, and director compensation.
Adjusted EBITDA and Distributable Cash Flow We define adjusted EBITDA as net income or loss attributable to partners less interest income, noncontrolling interest in depreciation and income tax expense and non-cash commodity derivative gains, plus interest expense, income tax expense, depreciation and amortization
expense and non-cash commodity derivative losses. Adjusted EBITDA is used as a supplemental liquidity and performance measure by our management and by external users of our financial statements, such as investors, commercial banks, research analysts and others, to assess:
Our adjusted EBITDA may not be comparable to a similarly titled measure of another company because other entities may not calculate this measure in the same manner.
Adjusted EBITDA should not be considered an alternative to, or more meaningful than, net income or loss, net income or loss attributable to partners, operating income, cash flows from operating activities or any other measure of financial performance presented in accordance with GAAP as measures of operating performance, liquidity or ability to service debt obligations.
We define Distributable Cash Flow as net cash provided by or used in operating activities, less maintenance capital expenditures, net of reimbursable projects, plus or minus adjustments for non-cash mark-to-market of derivative instruments, proceeds from divestiture of assets, net income attributable to noncontrolling interest net of depreciation and income tax, net changes in operating assets and liabilities, and other adjustments to reconcile net cash provided by or used in operating activities (see Liquidity and Capital Resources for further definition of maintenance capital expenditures). Maintenance capital expenditures are capital expenditures made where we add on to or improve capital assets owned, or acquire or construct new capital assets, if such expenditures are made to maintain, including over the long term, our operating capacity or revenues. Non-cash mark-to-market of derivative instruments is considered to be non-cash for the purpose of computing Distributable Cash Flow because settlement will not occur until future periods, and will be impacted by future changes in commodity prices. Distributable Cash Flow is used as a supplemental liquidity and performance measure by our management and by external users of our financial statements, such as investors, commercial banks, research analysts and others, to assess our ability to make cash distributions to our unitholders and our general partner. Our Distributable Cash Flow may not be comparable to a similarly titled measure of another company because other entities may not calculate Distributable Cash Flow in the same manner.
Results of Operations
The following table and discussion is a summary of our consolidated results of operations for the three years ended December 31, 2010, 2009 and 2008. The results of operations by segment are discussed in further detail following this consolidated overview discussion.
Includes the results of Atlantic Energy, since July 30, 2010, the date of acquisition, in our Wholesale Propane Logistics segment.
Includes the results of our Wattenberg pipeline acquired from Buckeye Partners, L.P, since January 28, 2010, the date of acquisition, and an additional 50% interest in Black Lake acquired from an affiliate of BP PLC, since July 30, 2010, the date of acquisition, in our NGL Logistics segment. The acquisition of an additional 50% interest in Black Lake brought our ownership interest in Black Lake to 100%. Prior to our acquisition of an additional 50% interest in Black Lake, we accounted for Black Lake under the equity method of accounting. Subsequent to this transaction we account for Black Lake as a consolidated subsidiary.
The impact to our results related to Marysville, acquired on December 30, 2010, is not significant.
Year Ended December 31, 2010 vs. Year Ended December 31, 2009
Total Operating Revenues Total operating revenues increased in 2010 compared to 2009, primarily as a result of the following:
Gross Margin Gross margin increased in 2010 compared to 2009, primarily as a result of the following:
These increases were partially offset by:
Operating and Maintenance Expense Operating and maintenance expense increased in 2010 compared to 2009 primarily as a result of our Michigan acquisition and integration costs, turnaround activities at certain assets, our Wattenberg pipeline acquisition and our acquisition of an additional 50% interest in Black Lake.
Depreciation and Amortization Expense Depreciation and amortization expense increased in 2010 compared to 2009, primarily as a result of our capital projects completed in 2009, our Michigan acquisition, our Atlantic Energy acquisition, our Wattenberg pipeline acquisition and our acquisition of an additional 50% interest in Black Lake.
Step acquisition equity interest re-measurement gain Step acquisition equity interest re-measurement gain results from our acquisition of an additional 50% interest in Black Lake, bringing our ownership interest in Black Lake to 100% in our NGL Logistics segment. Prior to our acquisition of an additional 50% interest in Black Lake, we accounted for Black Lake under the equity method of accounting. Subsequent to this transaction we account for Black Lake as a consolidated subsidiary. As a result of acquiring an additional 50% interest in Black Lake, we remeasured our initial 50% equity interest in Black Lake to its fair value, and recognized a gain of $9.1 million.
Other income affiliates Other income affiliates increased due to a $3.0 million payment received in the second quarter of 2010 from Spectra Energy, a supplier for our Wholesale Propane Logistics segment, related to an amendment of a supply agreement to shorten the term of the agreement by two years.
Earnings from Unconsolidated Affiliates Earnings from unconsolidated affiliates increased in 2010 compared to 2009, primarily as a result of increased earnings from Discovery. Settlements related to our commodity derivatives on our unconsolidated affiliates are included in segment gross margin.
Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests includes the impact of organic growth from our Piceance Basin expansion project, offset by volume curtailments due to plant shutdowns and producer wellhead freeze offs as a result of near record cold weather in the first quarter, increased fuel consumption and differences in gas quality at East Texas in 2010. 2009 results include the first quarter impact of a third party owned pipeline rupture, resulting in a fire at East Texas.
Year Ended December 31, 2009 vs. Year Ended December 31, 2008
Total Operating Revenues Total operating revenues decreased in 2009 compared to 2008, primarily due to the following:
These decreases were partially offset by:
Gross Margin Gross margin decreased in 2009 compared to 2008, primarily due to the following:
These decreases were partially offset by:
Operating and Maintenance Expense Operating and maintenance expense decreased in 2009 compared to 2008, primarily as a result of our cost reduction initiatives, partially offset by increased expenses as a result of the Michigan acquisitions.
Depreciation and Amortization Expense Depreciation and amortization expense increased in 2009 compared to 2008, primarily as a result of our Michigan acquisitions and our East Texas, Wyoming and Piceance Basin capital projects.
General and Administrative Expense General and administrative expense decreased in 2009 compared to 2008, primarily as a result of our cost reduction initiatives, partially offset by our Michigan acquisitions.
Earnings from Unconsolidated Affiliates Earnings from unconsolidated affiliates increased in 2009 compared to 2008, primarily due to increased earnings from Black Lake, partially offset by decreased earnings from Discovery. Settlements related to our commodity derivatives on our unconsolidated affiliates are included in segment gross margin.
Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests Net income attributable to noncontrolling interests decreased in 2009 primarily due to lower earnings at East Texas, for which the portion owned by DCP Midstream, LLC is unhedged. 2009 results include the impact of a third party owned pipeline rupture, resulting in a fire at East Texas.
Results of Operations Natural Gas Services Segment
This segment consists of our Northern Louisiana system, the Southern Oklahoma system, a 40% limited liability company interest in Discovery, our Colorado and Wyoming systems, our East Texas systems, and our Michigan system.
Year Ended December 31, 2010 vs. Year Ended December 31, 2009
Total Operating Revenues Total operating revenues increased in 2010 compared to 2009, primarily as a result of the following:
These increases were partially offset by:
Purchases of Natural Gas and NGLs Purchases of natural gas and NGLs increased in 2010 compared to 2009, primarily as a result of increased commodity prices, which impact both sales and purchases, as well as a change to a contract with an affiliate in the Piceance Basin, such that certain purchases changed from a net presentation in transportation, processing and other to a gross presentation in purchases of natural gas and NGLs.
Segment Gross Margin Segment gross margin increased in 2010 compared to 2009, primarily as a result of the following:
These increases were partially offset by:
Operating and Maintenance Expense Operating and maintenance expense increased in 2010 compared to 2009 primarily as a result of our Michigan acquisition and integration costs, turnaround activities at certain assets, repairs as a result of near record cold weather and efficiency projects.
Depreciation and Amortization Expense Depreciation and amortization expense increased in 2010 compared to 2009 primarily as a result of our capital projects completed in 2009 and the Michigan acquisition.
Other income Other income relates to our reassessment of the fair value of contingent consideration for our acquisition of an additional 5% interest in Collbran from Delta Petroleum Company, or Delta, in February 2010.
Earnings from Unconsolidated Affiliates Earnings from unconsolidated affiliates, representing our 40% ownership of Discovery, increased in 2010 compared to 2009, primarily due to higher prices and increased NGL production, partially offset by differences in gas quality, higher costs and downtime related to turnarounds. Settlements related to our commodity derivatives on our unconsolidated affiliates are included in segment gross margin.
Segment net income attributable to noncontrolling interests Segment net income attributable to noncontrolling interests includes the impact of organic growth from our Piceance Basin expansion project, offset by volume curtailments due to plant shutdowns and producer wellhead freeze offs as a result of near record cold weather in the first quarter, increased fuel consumption, differences in gas quality and turnarounds at East Texas in 2010. 2009 results include the first quarter impact of a third party owned pipeline rupture, resulting in a fire at East Texas.
Natural Gas Throughput Natural gas transported, processed and/or treated increased in 2010 compared to 2009, as a result of increased fee-based throughput volumes from our Michigan acquisition, and increased volumes at Discovery, partially offset by decreased volumes across certain assets. 2010 results include the impact of volume curtailment due to plant shutdowns and producer wellhead freeze offs as a result of near record cold weather at East Texas and North Louisiana in the first quarter. 2009 results include the first quarter impact of operational downtime following the hurricanes, a third party owned pipeline rupture resulting in a fire at East Texas and our Wyoming pipeline integrity and system enhancement project.
NGL Gross Production NGL production increased in 2010 compared to 2009, due primarily to increased volumes from our Piceance Basin expansion project and increased NGL production at Discovery. 2010 results include the impact of volume curtailment due to plant shutdowns and producer wellhead freeze offs as a result of near record cold weather at East Texas and North Louisiana in the first quarter. 2009 results include the first quarter impact of operational downtime following the hurricanes, a third party owned pipeline rupture resulting in a fire at East Texas and our Wyoming pipeline integrity and system enhancement project.
Year Ended December 31, 2009 vs. Year Ended December 31, 2008
Total Operating Revenues Total operating revenues decreased in 2009 compared to 2008, primarily due to the following:
These decreases were partially offset by:
Purchases of Natural Gas and NGLs Purchases of natural gas and NGLs decreased in 2009 compared to 2008, primarily due to decreased commodity prices, which impact both sales and purchases, partially offset by contractual amendments which resulted in a prospective change in certain purchases from a net presentation to a gross presentation.
Segment Gross Margin Segment gross margin decreased in 2009 compared to 2008, primarily as a result of the following:
These decreases were partially offset by:
Operating and Maintenance Expense Operating and maintenance expense decreased in 2009 compared to 2008, primarily as a result of our cost reduction initiatives, partially offset by increased expenses as a result of our Michigan acquisitions.
Depreciation and Amortization Expense Depreciation and amortization expense increased in 2009 compared to 2008, primarily as a result of the Michigan acquisitions, and our East Texas, Wyoming and Piceance Basin capital projects.
Earnings from Unconsolidated Affiliates Earnings from unconsolidated affiliates, representing our 40% ownership of Discovery, decreased in 2009 compared to 2008. This decrease was as a result of a reduction in the recognition of Discoverys deficit purchase price in 2009 compared to 2008. The reduction of deficit purchase price recognition was partially offset by increased earnings from Discovery. The increase in Discoverys earnings are primarily as a result of the following variances in earnings drivers, representing 100% of Discoverys results of operations: Net income increased $2.5 million, or 7%, due primarily to $12.4 million higher gathering and transportation revenue, $13.2 million lower operating and maintenance expense and $2.6 million lower depreciation and accretion expense. These increases were largely offset by $18.5 million lower NGL sales margins resulting from sharply lower average per-unit margins on higher volumes of NGL equity sales and a $5.4 million unfavorable change in other income or expense, net. Settlements related to our commodity derivatives on our unconsolidated affiliates are included in segment gross margin.
Segment net income attributable to noncontrolling interests Segment net income attributable to noncontrolling interests decreased in 2009 compared to 2008 primarily as a result of decreased net income at East Texas, for which the portion owned by DCP Midstream, LLC is unhedged. 2009 results include the impact of a third party owned pipeline rupture resulting in a fire at East Texas.
Natural Gas Throughput Natural gas transported, processed and/or treated increased in 2009 compared to 2008, due to increased fee-based throughput volumes from our Michigan acquisitions and increased volumes from the Tahiti project at Discovery, partially offset by decreased volumes across certain assets. Results in both years include the impact of hurricanes and operational downtime following the hurricanes. 2009 results include the impact of a third party owned pipeline rupture resulting in a fire at East Texas during the first quarter.
NGL Gross Production NGL production increased in 2009 compared to 2008, due primarily to increased NGL production from Discovery. Results in both periods include the impact of hurricanes and operational downtime and our Wyoming system pipeline integrity and enhancement project. 2009 results also include the impact of a third party owned pipeline rupture, resulting in a fire at East Texas during the first quarter.
Results of Operations Wholesale Propane Logistics Segment
This segment includes our propane transportation facilities, which includes one owned underground storage facility, six owned rail terminals, one owned marine import terminal, one leased marine terminal, one pipeline terminal and access to several open-access propane pipeline terminals.