El Paso Pipeline Partners (NYSE: EPB) generates cash flows, 89 percent of which come from interstate natural gas pipelines and 11 percent from liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities. EPB has increased its cash distribution per common unit for 19 consecutive quarters since its initial public offering in November of 2007. EPB expects to declare a cash distribution of $2.55 per common unit for 2013, which would represent a 13 percent increase over the 2012 distribution.
Everything points to the continued development of natural gas supplies in the United States, and the biggest obstacle is to ensure that there is adequate midstream infrastructure to connect the additional supplies to the markets where the demand is. In January of 2013, EPB and a unit of Shell announced plans to jointly develop an approximately $1 billion LNG liquefaction export project at our Elba Island LNG re-gasification terminal, near Savannah, Ga. . When fully completed, the project is expected to have liquefaction capacity of approximately 2.5 million tonnes per year of LNG or about 350 Mcf/d of natural gas.
EPB is a publicly traded pipeline limited partnership. It owns an interest in or operates more than 13,000 miles of interstate natural gas transportation pipelines in the Rockies and the Southeast, natural gas storage facilities with a capacity of nearly 100 billion cubic feet and LNG assets in Georgia. The general partner of EPB is owned by Kinder Morgan, Inc. (NYSE: KMI). Kinder Morgan is the largest midstream and the third largest energy company in North America with a combined enterprise value of approximately $100 billion. It owns an interest in or operates approximately 75,000 miles of pipelines and 180 terminals. Its pipelines transport natural gas, gasoline, crude oil, CO2 and other products, and its terminals store petroleum products and chemicals and handle such products as ethanol, coal, petroleum coke and steel. KMI owns the general partner interest of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P. (NYSE: KMP) and El Paso Pipeline Partners, L.P. (NYSE: EPB), along with limited partner interests in KMP and EPB and shares in Kinder Morgan Management, LLC (NYSE: KMR). 
EP's pipeline segment is subject to regulation by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), because the company's pipelines cross state borders. FERC caps EP's pipeline rates, but also guarantees that the company earns a steady return. This constant income stream lets EP pay out a relatively constant dividend, $0.16 a year since 2003, and allows the company to fund debt service during periods of expansion, giving EP more debt capacity than companies focused on only exploration and production.
Kinder Morgan, Inc. (KMI), which owns and operates natural gas transportation pipelines and storage terminals has bought El Paso pipeline partners (EP), The El Paso transaction was accretive to dividends.
EP operates two separate business segments, pipelines and exploration and production. In 2007 pipelines accounted for 52% of EP's revenue (58% of EBIT due to lower operating costs) and exploration and production accounted for 48% of revenue (41% of EBIT).
During the past five years El Paso has been selling underperforming assets including its power trading portfolio and state regulated utility companies. This simplified its business model to focus on just two main businesses, pipelines and exploration and production. Because of liquidity problems facing the company in 2003, EP used the proceeds of its asset sales to repay debt. It entered 2007 with a stable capital structure and little refinancing risk; no more than 10% of its total debt matures in any one year until 2012. The company's decreased debt balance helped to bring up operating income; interest expense decreased from $1.3B in 2005 to $1.0B in 2007 and is drop even further in 2008 due to debt repayments in 2007. However, El Paso still suffers from some remnants of its previous liquidity problems. It retains below investment grade debt ratings from Moody's and Standard and Poors. Low debt ratings have a number of negative effects. Many institutional investors will only invest in investment grade companies, decreasing the company´s access to capital. Low debt ratings also increase EP's cost of debt capital. These factors have the potential to slow El Paso´s growth in coming years.
The price of natural gas has undergone wide fluctuations in the past five years. The price declined slightly in the past two years, down 5% from a record high in 2005. However, the price is still up 43% since 2002. These price fluctuations affect demand for natural gas as other fuels become cheaper substitutes, especially among facilities with the capacity to switch to other types of fuels. For example many electrical power companies, who consumed 32% of all natural gas produced in 2007, switch to coal power during periods of high natural gas prices. The price of coal has risen slower than the price of natural gas, and provides cheaper power during periods of high gas prices. Many industrial users, who used 31% of natural gas produced in 2007, also have built in fuel switching capacities.  While residential and commercial users usually have no built in switching capacity many still conserve energy during periods of high gas prices. A reduction in demand for natural gas results in a loss of revenues at both of El Paso´s business segments. In its pipeline segment, decreased consumer demand leads to decreased volumes. Because pipelines earn fees based on volumes transported, decreased demand leads to falling revenues and net income. Similarly, diminishing demand for natural gas leads to decreased customer demand at El Paso´s Exploration and Production segment, which can counteract increased prices and lead to decreased total revenues.
Increasing environmental concern has a direct affect on the demand for natural gas. In the long run, increasing consumer concern over Global Climate Change will decrease the demand for natural gas. Already increasing environmental consciousness has led both consumers and electric companies to seek out and invest in renewable energy sources such as nuclear, solar, and wind power to heat homes and generate electricity. To date, 24 states have adopted renewable portfolio standards, which require power companies to purchase some of their electricity from renewable sources. The percentages range from 4.5%-25% and phase in over a number of years, becoming fully implemented between 2009 in Massachusetts and 2025 in Utah. As residential customers and electric power plants switch to other forms of energy, the demand for natural gas will fall. However, these renewable sources of energy are not yet developed enough to provide for the majority of energy uses in the United States. In the short run natural gas is one of the cleanest burning fuels in widespread use today. Many electric companies are switching to natural gas as a cleaner alternative to coal and oil power plants. Until renewable energy sources are better developed, environmentalism in the U.S. will actually lead to an increase in short-term demand for natural gas.
Demand for natural gas is highest during the coldest months of winter when it is used to heat homes. Due to the shift towards natural gas for generating electricity, demand for natural gas is also high during the summer months when people are using large amounts of electricity to cool their homes. Demand for natural gas drops sharply during the spring and fall. This seasonal shift in demand creates seasonality in EP's revenues. The affect is more pronounced in the company's pipeline segment. In its exploration and production segment EP has the capacity to store some of the gas it produces during the slow spring and fall seasons to sell during the summer and winter, so its production can remain relatively constant throughout the year. However, revenues at its pipeline segment decline during the spring and fall as producers transport less gas to accommodate low consumer demand. The weather can also impact annual revenues. If a winter or summer is longer and more severe than usual customers will demand more natural gas, increasing revenues. The opposite is also true. If the winter and summer seasons are short and temperate customers will demand less gas, decreasing the company´s revenues.
El Paso competes with a number of other exploration and production and pipeline companies. In the exploration and production segment the company competes to purchase reserves, find new sources of oil and natural gas, and produce more output. This is a large space, however, and El Paso has no control over the prices in the market. In this market the company competes as a price taker, selling at spot prices in the market. In the pipelines segment, EP competes with other companies for market share and long term gas transportation contracts. Though it has government rate caps for natural gas transmission, it sometimes lowers its rate below these caps to maintain competitive within the market. Because it has the largest pipeline system of any of its competitors, EP is the exclusive interstate pipeline operator in many of its markets.
EP is by far the largest pipeline operator in its group of competitors, and has the second most proved reserves of natural gas equivalents. However, its revenues and market cap are in the middle of its group of competitors. The reason is that EP operates fewer business segments than any of its competitors. In addition to being involved in natural gas production and transportation its competitors are also involved in such businesses as intrastate natural gas distribution, natural gas processing and electrical utilities. Though large in the segment's in which it operates, EP operates in fewer areas so is, overall, smaller than many competitors.
In addition to competing with other natural gas companies, EP's competes with suppliers of alternative fuels. The increasing consumer demand for alternative energy has led both companies and consumers to invest in renewable energy sources such as nuclear, solar, and wind power to heat homes and generate electricity. As the demand for these renewable sources of energy increases, the demand for the company´s natural gas and natural gas transportation services will fall.
|Company||Revenues (12/31/2007, $ in Millions)||Market Cap($ in Billions, 05/15/08)||Miles of Interstate Pipeline||Proved Reserves (Measured in Cubic Feet of Natural Gas Equivalents)|
|El Paso (EP)||$4,648.70||$13.85||42,000||2.9 Trillion|
|Williams Companies (WMB)||$10,558.00||$21.62||14,200||3.7 Trillion|
|Equitable Resources (EQT)||$1,361.41||$8.80||3,200||2.7 Trillion|
|Questar (STR)||$2,726.6||$11.37||2,505||1.87 Trillion|
|Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P. (KMP)||$9,217.7||$15.27||25,000||0.73 Trillion|