Summit Reaches Higher to Gather Natural Gas Growth

Midstream operator, Summit Midstream Partners (NYSE: SMLP  ) is expanding its reach after it announced two separate natural gas gathering acquisitions last week. The company is spending $460 million to acquire assets in the Bakken and Marcellus in unrelated deals. Let's take a closer look and the deals and what both mean for investors.

Bring on the Bakken's gas
The first deal is a $250 million drop down transaction from its sponsor Summit Investments for Bison Midstream. Bison is a natural-gas-gathering system in the Bakken and it consists of 300 miles of gathering pipelines and associated compression. The capacity on the system is currently in the process of being expanded from 20 million cubic feet per day to 30 million cubic feet per day and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. These assets are secured by minimum volume commitments with 80% of the projected revenue on the system fixed for the next several years. As an MLP investor, you want to see contracted revenue like this as it helps to secure the company's distribution.

What's most interesting is that these assets are natural-gas-gathering lines in the Bakken, which is known for its oil. What you might not know is that Bakken oil producers desperately need natural gas infrastructure. Kodiak Oil & Gas (NYSE: KOG  ) is an unfortunate example of this. While growing its oil volumes by 265% year over year it also grew its associated natural gas volumes by 398%. The problem here is that the company was forced to flare 3.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas after flaring 807 million cubic feet of gas the year before because it had no where else for the gas to go. This lack of natural gas gathering and takeaway capacity in the region has been a real problem and assets like Bison are an important solution in solving this problem.

Moving Marcellus gas
In Summit's second deal it is purchasing the Mountaineer Midstream gas-gathering system in the Marcellus from MarkWest (NYSE: MWE  )  for $210 million. The newly constructed 40-mile system leads into MarkWest's Sherwood Processing Complex which is currently being expanded from 400 million cubic feet per day to 800 million cubic feet per day of processing capacity. The system Summit is acquiring is secured by a long-term, fee-based contract with Antero Resources. Again, the company is picking up an asset that has secured revenue while providing MarkWest with capital so it can grow its processing capacity.

Looking over the horizon
Summit sees these deals adding to its adjusted EBITDA guidance range as well as increasing its distribution guidance by 18%-22% over its minimum distribution. The deals also further strengthen Summit's fee-based revenue which is 96% of revenue. As a Summit investor you have to like the increased fee-based revenue and geographic diversity these deals bring as it strengthens the distribution.

The other important thing to note here is that the Bison deal is the first drop-down transaction between Summit and its general partner. That general partner owns two additional midstream businesses, Meadowlark Midstream and Red Rock Gathering, which could eventually be dropped down. Meadowlark in particular has some interesting assets including the newly commissioned Polar Bear Crude Oil and Water Gathering System. This Bakken based system includes 50 miles of oil gathering pipeline and 35 miles of water gathering pipeline on which Kodiak Oil & Gas is the anchor tenant. It's one of many intriguing potential drop-down candidates that provide built-in growth opportunities for Summit investors.

Final Foolish thoughts
Summit is one of the newest midstream companies to hit the public markets over the past year and these deals are just the latest for a company that's been busy since going public. With its general partner having acquired over $500 million in assets that could be dropped down, I'd expect Summit to stay busy. Finally, with a current yield of over 5%, investors are paid fairly well to wait for that growth to materialize. 

It's easy to forget the necessity of midstream operators that seamlessly transport oil and gas throughout the United States. Summit is a very small player on the national scene but it offers investors a lot of future growth. Still, it is dwarfed by Kinder Morgan, which is why investors should commit that company to memory – it's the third-largest energy company in the U.S. – not to mention its enormous potential for profits. In The Motley Fool's premium research report on Kinder Morgan, we break down the company's growing opportunity – as well as the risks to watch out for – in order to uncover whether it's a buy or a sell. To determine whether this dividend giant is right for your portfolio, simply click here now to claim your copy of this invaluable investor's resource.


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