Select Energy Services, Inc. (WTTR) Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call Transcript

WTTR earnings call for the period ending December 31, 2018.

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Select Energy Services, Inc.  (NYSE:WTTR)
Q4 2018 Earnings Conference Call
Feb. 27, 2019, 10:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Greetings, and welcome to the Select Energy Services' Fourth Quarter Earnings Conference Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode a brief question-and-answer session will follow the formal presentation.

(Operator Instructions) And as a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Chris George. Thank you, you may begin.

Chris George -- Vice President, Investor Relations & Treasurer

Thank you, operator and good morning, everyone. We appreciate you joining us for the Select Energy Services conference call and webcast to review our 2018 fourth quarter and full-year results.

With me today are John Schmitz, our Executive Chairman; Holli Ladhani, our President and Chief Executive Officer; and Nick Swyka, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.

Before I turn the call over, I have a few housekeeping items to cover. A replay of today's call will be available by webcast and accessible from our website at selectenergyservices.com. There will also be a recorded replay available until March 6, 2019, the access information for this replay was also included in yesterday's earnings release.

Please note that the information reported on this call speaks only as of today, February 27, 2019, and therefore, time sensitive information may no longer be accurate as of the time of the replay or transcript reading. In addition, the comments made by management during this conference call may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the United States Federal Securities laws. These forward-looking statements reflect the current views of Select Energy's management. However various risks, uncertainties and contingencies could cause our actual results, performance or achievements to differ materially from those expressed in the statements made by management.

The listener is encouraged to read our annual report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2017, our subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, our current reports on Form 8-K, and our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2018, which we expect to file in the coming days to understand those risks, uncertainties, and contingencies. Also please refer to our fourth quarter earnings announcement released yesterday for reconciliations of non-GAAP financial measures.

And now, I'd like to turn the call over to our Founder and Executive Chairman, John Schmitz.

John Schmitz -- Executive Chairman

Thank you, Chris. And I would like to welcome everyone to the Select Energy Services 2018 fourth quarter conference call. Before I hand the call over to Holli and Nick to review the recent quarter's performance and outlook, I wanted to start by taking a few minutes to look back at 2018 and what we have accomplished.

While the fourth quarter was a soft period for the industry, 2018 overall was a very good year. Since we originally set-out to combine Rockwater and Select back in 2017, our focus has been to create the clear-cut leader in the industry for comprehensive water solutions, and we believe we have done that.

On a combined basis, accounting for the Rockwater merger, we have grown revenues by 22% and adjusted EBITDA by 50% year-over-year and generated over $80 million of free cash flow during 2018. We've expanded our scope of services, executed on acquisitions, and strategically return capital to the shareholders, all while reducing our outstanding debt and strengthening our balance sheet to support our future strategic endeavors, such as our recently announced Northern Delaware water infrastructure projects. It is clear that the market environment has changed recently and our industry is undergoing an active transformation.

And with that our customers business models and priorities have changed away from a cyclical growth, toward a capital discipline and free cash flow generation. We believe this is healthy for our industry and that Select's business model and balance sheet are built to thrive in this involving landscape. Our customers trust and value the expertise, scale, efficiency and safety that we are able to provide them across a wide range of solutions.

The oil prices have been gradually climbing since year-end, recent volatility has created some uncertainty around near-term activity levels. That said, we believe the broader market supply, demand fundamentals and the secular trends behind the growing demand for water solution in the coming years remain intact.

We remain focused on improving operation efficiencies and providing the value-add solutions that our blue-chip customers need to continue to lead the US, as the center of global supply growth for the years to come.

With that, let me turn it over to Holli, to walk you through some of the -- our recent accomplishments and our outlook before she hands the call over to Nick to cover the financials. Holli?

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Thanks, John, and good morning, everyone. Looking back on the fourth quarter, the team delivered strong free cash flow and managed operations through the anticipated, but nonetheless challenging double-digit activity decline seen at year-end. We were able to generate more than $100 million in cash flow from operations, which allowed us to execute on a number of our operational and strategic objectives.

After funding net CapEx of roughly $50 million, we repurchased approximately $16 million of our shares, close to $15 million of acquisitions, repaid $20 million of outstanding borrowings, and still modestly increased our cash balance. For the full year, as John just mentioned, we generated $80 million of free cash flow, while the activity outlook for 2019 remains somewhat uncertain, we're still well-positioned to support our customers and we expect to generate free cash flow during 2019 in excess of our 2018 levels.

I'm also pleased to talk about our recently announced Northern Delaware infrastructure projects, we've begun construction on the system and expect to invest approximately $25 million to have the system operational in the third quarter of 2019. This investment is supported by a five-year take-or-pay contract, with a major international integrated oil company for the purchase and delivery of 75 million barrels of water. We're pleased to have the opportunity to partner with an important customer to support the initial build-out and we'll explore additional commercialization opportunities to provide other operators in the area with the services and solutions they need.

This new system, which will be capable of delivering 100,000 barrels of water per day, complements our existing GRR infrastructure and operations in this highly dynamic area of developments. Overall, this project showcases the strength of the Select team and developing critical long-term value-added solutions for our customers.

With the planned divestment of our non-core operations, including our Affirm and Canadian operations, we're focused on efficiently reallocating our capital from lower margin, more commoditized service offerings, toward more unique, high-margin and stable cash flow streams from investments, such as infrastructure. We anticipate receiving proceeds of $30 million to $35 million for these two businesses, including working capital, with initial proceeds arriving in the first quarter.

Gross profit, before depreciation and amortization was approximately $3 million during the fourth quarter for these businesses. Additionally to support our growth in the area, we also continue to strengthen our other service capabilities in Mexico, and demonstrated by the acquisition of Pro Well Testing, which closed in the fourth quarter. Well, the Northern Delaware based flowback and well testing business with nearly 30 years of operational history in the area. This expands our flowback services into a new area of operation with the top-notch team and further strengthen our position in New Mexico.

Looking forward, there remains some market-based challenges ahead of us, and while oil prices are improving, from reviewing E&P budgets and the conversations with our customers, we believe activity could decline by high single-digits during 2019.

As we look at the first quarter, many of our customers have gotten-off to slow starts for the year and we've seen some seasonal challenges such as cold weather conditions impacting operations. The sentiments improving, we anticipate the first quarter will look much like the fourth quarter overall. I would also note that our results will likely be impacted by the timing of the planned divestitures, I just mentioned.

While we didn't see a material impact on the fourth quarter from pricing, we're having more pricing discussions with our customers today. We believe, we have differentiated capabilities that our customers value and as these discussions occur, will be focused on adding more stability to the revenue stream, through longer-term agreements, exclusive and priority vendor status, service offering expansion, and other arrangements to partner with our customers.

Despite some uncertainty in the macro view, we believe our customers have an ability to generate good returns at current crude oil pricing levels, and feel confident about our business and where we sit. While we can't control the number of wells being completed, we can't control our cost management and capital allocation strategy. We have an agile business model, which gives us flexibility to manage our cost and investments in a changing environment. We'll continue to drive a disciplined approach to capital deployment in 2019, with a focus on return on assets and free cash flow.

While the team continues to evaluate a number of additional infrastructure opportunities, the timing of such opportunities are difficult to predict. As such, we haven't incorporated any major infrastructure projects into our 2019 budget, other than the recently announced Northern Delaware system.

We're budgeting a 2019 capital program of $125 million to $145 million, which again does include the $25 million for the Northern Delaware infrastructure project. To reiterate what John said, we believe we've built the franchise water company to serve the development of US shale and looking back on 2018, we took a balanced approach in our capital allocation decisions, as we invested to maintain our core business, invested growth capital organically and through acquisitions, executed a modest share repurchase, and preserved our financial flexibility by reducing our debt by $30 million over the course of the year. You can expect a similar approach from us in 2019.

With that, I'd like to hand it over to Nick to walk through our financial performance in more details. Nick?

Nick Swyka -- Senior Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Thank you John, Holli, and good morning everyone. As Holli just mentioned, our operating cash flow for the quarter of $108 million, marked an all-time high for the company and our total operating cash flow for 2018 totaled $232 million. Continuing to generate strong cash flow is our overriding priority, regardless of market conditions, we are targeting $85 million to $100 million of free cash flow, again, after net CapEx for 2019. This is prior to the planned divestitures.

Supporting this cash flow target, we are planning a modestly reduced $125 million to $145 million CapEx budget for 2019. We expect that roughly half of this budget will be related to maintenance CapEx. Our forecast utilizes a conservative approach, following the CapEx forecast provided to-date by our customers,. While we believe current oil prices still provide our clients, with an attractive return on their investment, E&P capital forecasts are generally expected to be down year-over-year, and we've crafted our budget accordingly. The share buyback we executed in the fourth quarter, while limited in scope is indicative of the importance we place on returning value to shareholders, while operating under a disciplined capital allocation mindset.

We still see attractive investment opportunities, such as the recently announced fixed infrastructure project and we are committed to maintaining our strong balance sheet. With an expectation of 2019 free cash flow generation in excess of 2018 levels, we will continue to evaluate additional opportunities to return capital to shareholders during the year. We reported total revenues of $362 million for the fourth quarter of 2018, down 9% sequentially from the third quarter.

We believe this revenue decline is generally consistent with the industry completions activity declined quarter-on-quarter. Adjusted EBITDA of $56 million declined from $74 million in the third quarter, driven by both the decline in revenue and by segment specific factors, I'll detail shortly. Annually, revenue as reported, increased from $692 million in 2017 to $1.5 billion in 2018. Much of this impact, was driven by the merger with Rockwater. The activity growth drove a substantial effect as well.

Similarly, as reported adjusted EBITDA for the year grew from $117 million to $258 million in 2018. While there is no perfect macro indicator for our business, we do look to the completions count as a relevant and readily available metric, even if it is frequently subject to later revision. Fourth quarter is typically a seasonally difficult time for completions activity and this year the sharp decline in oil prices, during the quarter exacerbated this trend. We see completions activity improving in the first quarter from its Q4 low, would expect relatively flat quarter-over-quarter levels with limited visibility beyond that at this time.

Turning to our segment results. Water solutions revenues decreased 12% sequentially to $248 million in the fourth quarter from $281 million in the third quarter. The segment generated gross profit before depreciation and amortization of $56 million compared to $73 million in the third quarter. Gross margin declined from 25.9% to 22.7%. We did see modestly lower than expected margins during the fourth quarter, impacting our bottom-line, driven largely by customer related job mix, as well as a lag in calibrating expenses with the rapid activity declines, as we continue to focus on retaining employees through the period.

For Q1, we expect water solutions revenue to stabilize in-line with the completions trend, margins should rebound somewhat, as we better align resources with our customers activity levels. Although pricing pressure is a factor in certain areas. While our Oilfield Chemicals segment revenues increased 5% to $67 million from $64 million. The segment generated gross profit before depreciation and amortization of $6 million during the fourth quarter, down from just under $8 million in the third quarter.

Margins were challenged by higher raw materials costs, driven partly by tariff and positions. While we expect to see flat revenue in this segment over the first quarter, we expect the gross margin percentage to recover a low teens as seen in the third quarter, as we recapture the higher raw materials costs. Our Wellsite services segment, which we'll see considerable changes going forward, with the upcoming the divestitures, saw revenues decline in Q4 to $47 million as compared to just under $52 million in Q3.

While the 2B divested Affirm in Canada businesses declined, we saw continued strength in our rental service line. This business known as Peak Oilfield Services, will be staying with the company going forward. We've seen continued growth alongside higher returns on this business, even through the recent market challenges and are excited to expand its potential.

Turning to our balance sheet. We repaid another $20 million of borrowings during the fourth quarter, while also executing on several strategic uses of cash. Our net CapEx for the quarter totaled $51 million. We ended the quarter with $45 million of borrowings on our revolver and cash on the balance sheet of $17 million for net debt of less than $30 million. There were a number of special items that drove adjustments to our consolidated Adjusted EBITDA during the quarter. I encourage you to review the reconciliation tables in our press release for additional detail. This measure includes adjustments for certain non-recurring and non-cash items, including $23 million of impairments.

This total is made up of $18 million of goodwill impairment, within our Affirm and Oilfield Chemicals businesses, driven primarily by the decline in external market conditions at year-end and $4 million of asset impairments relating to our Canadian operations, reflecting the continued deterioration of this market. Other adjustments included $4 million of non-recurring costs, resulting from sales tax audits for prior years dating back to 2011, including for previously acquired businesses, a $3 million non-cash, non-recurring charge related to a change in vacation policy and other smaller-items.

Finally , as we transitioned at year-end, from emerging growth company status into (inaudible) compliance, we identified a material weakness and the effectiveness of our internal controls, related to the identification and substantiation of fixed assets purchased. Specifically related to the purchase price allocation between goodwill and property and equipment in connection with the Rockwater merger. We will be correcting this purchase price allocation of approximately $16 million transferring from property, plant and equipment to goodwill and our upcoming 10-K, which will be filed in the coming days with no adjustment to our prior financials.

Looking forward, we expect depreciation and amortization to remain relatively flat in 2019 versus 2018, based on our current capital expenditure budget. We do not expect to be a significant cash taxpayer in 2019 and expect to incur a low to mid-single digit percentage of tax expense, primarily consisting of state obligations, as we continue to benefit from our remaining NOL carry forwards and other tax attributes. Additionally, we do not expect to have material cash related obligations, related to either our taxable income, or our tax receivable agreement.

With that, I'll hand it back to Holli for some concluding remarks.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Thanks, Nick. In conclusion, we're very proud of the strength of our cash flow generation in the fourth quarter and for the year and believe we're well-positioned to capitalize on opportunities in what will be a dynamic market in 2019.

We will continue to remain disciplined with our capital, seeking good, long-term, high return growth investments while prioritizing cash flow and we'll measure these opportunities against returning capital to shareholders, just as we did in 2018. With that, I'll turn it back over to the operator and we'll take your questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. We will now be conducting a question-and-answer session. (Operator Instructions) Our first question is from the line of Thomas Curran with B. Riley FBR.

Tom curran -- B. Riley FBR -- Analyst

Good morning.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Good morning.

Tom curran -- B. Riley FBR -- Analyst

Holli for the 1Q guidance you gave -- when you say 1Q is likely to look like 4Q. If I understood correctly, that's inclusive of the pending divestitures and if so, when does it assume the divestitures occur within 1Q?

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Good question Tom. And maybe one thing I would clarify when I say Q1 will look similar to Q4, that's in sort of the total number. Certainly from a trajectory perspective, Q1 looks better we're in an upward slope versus Q4, it was obviously going down as we exited the year. But there will be some impact, Tom, in Q1 because, for example, we actually closed a portion of the sale of the Affirm business yesterday and brought-in about a $11 million of proceeds.

So over the course of March, we'll probably have other opportunities to go ahead and execute there. So activity level wise, I would say, Q1 with a different trajectory, but looks like Q4 with a slight impact from the asset sales that we're going through.

Tom curran -- B. Riley FBR -- Analyst

Great. And then just based on the visibility you have now, the latest customer indications. Should we assume given the ramp, you already have experienced coming out of 1Q, the 2Q would then be higher and you would expect a continued trajectory from there.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

I think that's fair that we would expect Q2 to be an improvement on Q1, not only from an activity level, but just also some additional, internal focus that we have on some efficiencies. So yes, beyond that, calling the second half of the year is maybe a little early. I do think, our customers are going to abide by their commitments to live within cash flow. So, I think, part of the Q1 challenges, we did have weather in a few regions that maybe completions were down. So, that still leaves activity that will get caught up. But I think, from your perspective, as you think about Q2 relative to Q1, your assumption is good.

Tom curran -- B. Riley FBR -- Analyst

Great. And then, but turning to the 2019 CapEx budget, taking that total of $125 million and $145 million, extracting the $25 million for the new Delaware pipeline system. Could you give us an idea of how the remaining $100 million to $120 million is expected to break-down in terms of allocations?

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Sure, we would have said that you know, that $125 million to $145 million, about half of it is maintenance. So obviously, once you pull out the Northern Delaware, that gives you a sense of that $60 million to $70 million for maintaining our current asset base. And beyond that, the types of other investments that we're looking at, would be around continued investment in technology. So adding things like automated proportioning systems, we are taking the fresh water stream and have produced water stream, given the shift in the space that require that.

Certainly things like automated manifolds, where we're able to assist our customers at the well-pad and certainly, that is going to continue to be something that we invest in because it makes us more sticky with our customers and it helps us hang on to pricing. And then, there will be other opportunities where we add a water source, water well, or reservoirs to help supplement the systems that we have. So when you think about that additional growth CapEx that's where you should expect us to put it.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from the line of Tommy Moll with Stephens.

Tommy Moll -- Stephens -- Analyst

Good morning, thanks for taking my questions.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Good morning. Tommy.

Tommy Moll -- Stephens -- Analyst

Wanted to start with the positive news on the infrastructure project in the Northern Delaware. Can you give us some background, just on how long that had been in the works? How it came together? Is it a new customer, is it an existing customer that -- just wanted to deepen the relationship. What are the milestones in order that you need to achieve, in order to be ready to start in 3Q. And then also you flagged some supply agreements with industrial sources. I wonder if you can give us any details on that. Thanks.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Sure. So first of all, if you just look at the history, when we acquired the GRR back in early 2017 that really solidified our presence in New Mexico. So that team has very deep relationships and that spans not only from the customer base, but also that ties into your last part of the question on the industrial sources that they were able to secure.

So this is a project that's been ongoing and it was active over the course of 2018 and this one was particularly interesting, as I've always described, you have to start with getting the right source at a high rate, you have to have the right-of-way to build them for deploy that into a region where your customer needs it. Interestingly enough, the water source was probably the larger challenge here because you don't find high rate water sources in New Mexico, very often.

So while, we can't really disclose the details of our commitments there, we have long-term commitments on high rates of water that we'll be able to move over our system. And then what the team was able to do was leverage the right-of-ways. Many of which already exist as part of that GRR system. And as you can imagine, while it's never easy finding a customer in Eddy County, with an active development program for the next several years, was easier than the other things that the team had to do, none of which was easy, but hopefully that gives you a little more, little more context.

Tommy Moll -- Stephens -- Analyst

Yeah, absolutely. And thank you. As a follow-up. I just want to hit a couple of the modeling points again you've mentioned a few of these, but I just want to make sure I'm following you here. So for 1Q, I think, in terms of the as reported financials, we ought to expect revenue to roughly approximate 4Q and by that I mean, there will be some headwind due to the divestitures, but in terms of the numbers that you report, they ought to look similar. And then, as a follow on to that. Is the same true in terms of margin quarter-to-quarter and then below the line, are there any non-cash items that you anticipate may impact the quarter in terms of earnings per share?

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Sure. So I think you're correct on thinking about the top-line, very similar with the caveat of the divested businesses and knowing exactly when those fallout. From a margin perspective, we -- in Q4, we were just above 23% gross margin on our Water Solutions business. And while -- we're certainly having more conversations today, on pricing than we were in Q4. We think there's a lot of that -- that will not come to bear or will be able to mitigate. So I think, the right way to think about their margins is low-to-mid '20s for Water Solutions make sense and for chemicals, I think, low-teens is the right way to think about their gross margins for the first-half of the year with hopefully some opportunities to improve in that going forward. So hopefully that gives you some context.

Tommy Moll -- Stephens -- Analyst

Yeah. Absolutely. And I appreciate it. Thank you.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Sure.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Marty Malloy with Johnson Rice.

Marty Malloy -- Johnson Rice -- Analyst

Good morning.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Good morning, Marty.

Marty Malloy -- Johnson Rice -- Analyst

I was hoping maybe you could talk a little bit about initiatives that you have to grow in the post-frac produced water area and how you see that developing.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Sure. So we have a couple things going on. First you have where your operators are trying to live within free cash flow. So whether or not they want to continue to invest in water infrastructure. I think a lot of those conversations are ongoing today and that's an opportunity for us. Given our relationships and the key there is to be able to take an underutilized single user system and convert that into a multi-user system. If we can identify opportunities to do that, then the economics tend to make sense, but also on that front, what I'll tell you is we're focused on organic development. And we're probably more focused there just because we already have the relationships with the customers we have the surface-use agreement. So it's really about designing a complete solution for a particular customer. So it's definitely something that we're focused on, and have a few alternatives or options in the queue that the team is working on. And my comments largely relate to the Permian. Just to be clear because that's where you're seeing the high water cuts, associated with the increase in production there.

Marty Malloy -- Johnson Rice -- Analyst

Okay. And then just in terms of the trend toward using more recycled water in frac operations. Can you talk about how that -- how you see that impacting Select going forward? I guess the positives and negatives.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Sure. Relatively speaking, I would say on the balance, it's positive for us. Certainly one of the things that we've been seeing is that while we haven't seen a reduction in our demand for our services on fresh water. What we have seen is that we're moving more produced water and our water transfer. So in the Permian, 20% to 30% of our water transfer jobs are actually moving that impaired water. And then the demand for things like our automated proportioning systems is going up. Again, that's where you're taking a produced water stream and a fresh water stream and we can then essentially design a -- an output. And the system will solve to that. Also things like demand for our automated pumps become more important in a produced water world, just because it helps to mitigate some of the risks associated with spills.

And we've been very active with our customers as it relates to, not only on the pre-frac disinfection of the water stream, but also on the treatment of the produced water. So they can reuse that. So I guess, finally I'd note that on the chemical side, as you have changing water quality, that actually provides opportunities to be able to develop more customized frac -luid systems to help support the customer. So generally speaking, you're absolutely seeing more of a focus on that again in the Permian, not so much in other basins, but it is created more opportunities for us that we're seeing today.

Marty Malloy -- Johnson Rice -- Analyst

Thank you.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Sure.

Operator

And our next question is from the line of Mike Urban with Seaport.

Mike Urban -- Seaport Global -- Analyst

Thanks, good morning.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Good morning.

Mike Urban -- Seaport Global -- Analyst

Great job on the free cash flow this quarter and love to hear the outlook for '19. Did wanted to get into that a little bit more just to be completely clear the CapEx includes the $25 million for the new project but the free cash flow number excludes any proceeds that you're getting? Is that correct?

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

That's right. The way we're thinking about it, Mike is that essentially maybe stepping back just a little bit, as you think about our business model. About one-third of our EBITDA or less, should be going to maintenance CapEx, then that leaves us two-third's to go to allocate. And as we look forward into '19, what we're saying is, after you consider some of the growth opportunities around technology, I mentioned as you consider the -- the Northern Delaware system. We still have at least $80 million that has been, they'll say it's unallocated. And then, if you add sales of Wellsite Services proceeds on that becomes a larger number that we have yet to allocate to either -- you think about additional growth opportunities around infrastructure. Debt reduction is probably lower on our list, but -- you know, certainly it wouldn't be completely out of the question that we could pay that down, just have dry powder to impact -- fund future investments. But then returning value to our shareholders is certainly part of our capital allocation strategy as well.

Mike Urban -- Seaport Global -- Analyst

Great, thanks. And you've also done a good job in kind of pulling back in some of the working capital and really good result there in the fourth quarter. How much more do you have to go there, is there more to harvest there and how should we think about the working capital element of that free cash flow guidance.

Nick Swyka -- Senior Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Sure, Mike. So we pulled in about $40 million to $45 million of accounts receivable, purely through days sales outstanding, reducing that total there. We'd given a total on our last call between $50 million and $75 million expectation between fourth quarter through the first half of this year. So I'd say we're pretty well on our way to reaching that. And it probably moves toward the high-end of that expectation versus the low end. So we do believe there is a little more value there. I would say, we had $108 million of operating cash flow. This effort delivered about $40 million to $45 million of it. So there is a significant chunks there that's coming from the business. The majority, and so we don't want to obscure that with the success that we're having on the working capital front.

Mike Urban -- Seaport Global -- Analyst

Okay. So a little bit more to do there, but most of that improvement in free cash flow is operating -- is the way to interpret that.

Nick Swyka -- Senior Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

That's right.

Mike Urban -- Seaport Global -- Analyst

Okay, that's all from me. I'll come back if I have any other questions. Thank you.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Thanks.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Kurt Hallead with RBC.

Kurt Hallead -- RBC Capital -- Analyst

Hi, good morning.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Good morning, Kurt.

Kurt Hallead -- RBC Capital -- Analyst

So Holli just wanted to get general sense, as you think about this new pipeline contract that you have, take or pay contract. Can you give some general sense on what we can anticipate as maybe kind of annualized revenue generation from that and how should we think about the payback period of that investment.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Sure. So as I mentioned that -- it will come online sometime in the third quarter, and it always takes a little bit of time to get those things, operating efficiently but maybe that the right way to think about is on annualized basis, it should add $6 million to $7 million of gross margin. And we'll refer oftentimes too, as we think about our capital allocation being capital discipline, it has to meet a particular return threshold for us. And just for you all's benefit, the way we think about that is, our internal hurdle rate is two times to three times, times return. So we start also, as we've said in the past, we look at paybacks and say the system, we want to have an anchor tenant that gets us a four-year payback. And then we can commercialize the system further to bring that in. But we also balance that with the times return that two to three, that I mentioned.

Kurt Hallead -- RBC Capital -- Analyst

Got you. And then, I think my general understanding is that the take or pay deal. I think, only accounts for about 40% of the total pipeline capacity. And so when you think about how should we think about the potential aggregate annualized say, gross margin for this pipeline, given the fact that it -- you have 60% incremental capacity to use.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

I think the right way to think about it is you'll seldom get to a 100% utilization because you can't fill the pipe to its full extent every day. But I think, it's not unreasonable to think that we could double that sort of gross margin contribution once we have the system fully commercialized.

Kurt Hallead -- RBC Capital -- Analyst

Okay. And is that fully commercialized, meaning what you step into 2020, or does it take longer than that.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

I would say, we're working on it today and I'll have more feedback for you probably on the next call.

Kurt Hallead -- RBC Capital -- Analyst

Okay. Great, thanks and then follow up I had was, as you divest the Affirm business, when you extract that -- what's the annualized kind of revenue run rate for the remaining businesses within Wellsite.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

So, I think the way that we've thought about it. Sorry. And I'm going to let Nick, clean me up here a little bit, is that as we described will divest of the Affirm which is our construction -- Wellsite construction business will divest of Canada, we'll be getting out of the sand hauling business. So what that leaves is the rentals business Peak. And that -- something that actually fits quite well into our Water Solutions offering and it's been a business that has performed well through actually even through the fourth quarter. And so I think, we'll have more information to give you on the total impact, but we did indicate that the gross margin for the businesses that we divesting was about $3 million in the fourth quarter Nick. No, what else you'd add.

Nick Swyka -- Senior Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. That's right. Holli. And Kurt, to give you an idea going forward Peak accounts for under half of the revenues of that segment there, but on a gross profit basis, it's about two-third's of that segment. So it's really the core performer there and we were excited about getting to invest in it a bit more and hopefully expand its contribution to the whole company.

Kurt Hallead -- RBC Capital -- Analyst

Okay, that's great color. Appreciate that. Thank you.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Jud Bailey with Wells Fargo.

Jud Bailey -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Thanks, good morning.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Good morning.

Jud Bailey -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Hi. Holli question on Water Solutions margins, you talked about the first quarter expectation. How would you help us maybe directionally, think about year-over-year for 2019 given -- given the headwinds for completions. But you guys have done a nice job of maintaining margins is keeping margins at the same level year-on-year broadly speaking achievable in your mind? Or is there a scenario where they could be higher or is the by slower maybe help us think about kind of full year versus '18.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Sure. Obviously, these are somewhat dependent on activity levels. But we're baking in some activity level declines in 2019. Just given where operators capital budgets are. And we do think, that there'll be some headwinds around pricing. But we have line of sight to some improvements we can continue to make in our business.

And as we continue to invest in things like technology. I think that -- that will continue to drive cost out of the system. So I -- to maintain the 2018 margins, which you know, if you think about that in total for the businesses that we're retaining, it's just over 22%. I think that's probably the right way, plus or minus that there's probably more down downward pressure than there is uplift on that number, but I don't think we expect it to be materially different.

Jud Bailey -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Okay, fine. I appreciate the color on that. And then my follow up is after this latest in Mexico pipeline project, how would you assess the outlook for future opportunities in that kind of same opportunity set. Are you more likely to do something like that, you think, or is there anything on the chemical side. That is of interest from a growth opportunity standpoint, maybe give us your thoughts on that.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Sure. I think on the chemical side. It's more, more of an inwardly focused, operational efficiency getting our volumes up to capture that operating leverage. So we're more focused there, less capital going into that business in more process and volume-oriented and technology oriented and adding new product lines to service our customers when we think about the other Water Solutions and the growth opportunities around infrastructure. We think that, again, we have a queue of projects that we're continuing to work on and we're focused there. We are looking at pre-frac and post-frac. But we're focused on the Permian in the Bakken and the Permian. Because it's a natural. We think about our footprint that our ability to be able to build off of that is good And then in the Bakken, we have, we still have opportunities as it relates to our unique water source up there and our Thompson intake. So there -- we are still I think optimistic about being able to bring good options forward for us to then consider as we think about how to allocate that additional cash flow that the business is going to generate.

Jud Bailey -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

Okay, I appreciate that. I'll turn it back. Thanks.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Thanks.

Operator

And our next question is from the line of J.B. Lowe with Citi.

J.B. Lowe -- Citi -- Analyst

Hey, good morning, everyone.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Good morning.

J.B. Lowe -- Citi -- Analyst

It sounds like, as produced water transfer is something it's becoming a pretty sizable chunk of your transfer business. Is there any margin differential between moving fresh water versus moving produced water? Is one higher cost of the other. And do you make up for it on revenue side, just what's kind of a rule of thumb there?

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Excuse me. Yeah. What you'll tend to find is there are fewer people that operators will trust to move produced water just because of the implications of if you have an issue and the fact that we have things like the automated pumps -- that help mitigate some of those risks that certainly distinguishes us and it does allow you to think about how you're going to price that sort of activity. Our cost is really not different in the sense of you don't have a different set of tools, we're using to execute that. But again, it's more of a benefit to us in the sense of. There are fewer people that are capable or maybe I should say that operators choose to use to assist them as they're moving an impaired water.

J.B. Lowe -- Citi -- Analyst

I guess, would maintenance costs be higher, like do you have to replace your lay flat more often given the more corrosive nature produced water, anything like that.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

We haven't seen that yet. I think to anticipate some of that over the life of the hose is probably not unreasonable. But then as you can imagine, it absolutely depends on the different varying quality of the water right, sometimes impaired water is actually not going to be any more or very much more corrosive than another water stream. We're using a brackish water or something. But it's something that we'll continue to monitor over time.

J.B. Lowe -- Citi -- Analyst

Okay, thanks. And then just on the Oilfield Chemicals, the tariff cost that you guys saw in 4Q. It sounds like you're going to get margins back up in 1Q, how are you mitigating the higher raw materials cost. And where did those tariffs -- were you sourcing material from China or what was the tariff impact there?

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Sure. And maybe to stepping back, what you find on your raw material costs in the Chemicals, is it usually has a sort of a quarter lag and then it's going to depend on, is the product that we're manufacturing an oil-based product or aqueous. So what you'll find is that it seems sort of odd that our raw material costs will go up in Q4, as oil prices were falling, but that's because that was based on more Q3 pricing.

And then the tariffs were something that came into impact us in Q4, and it was certain materials that we import from China and the way you get that back is, generally speaking. Again the pressure pumper is our customer for these products and we're able to pass-through changes in the raw material cost like that to them. But you can't do it immediately. So that's why we believe that we'll be able to improve our margins. Part of that in Q1 is due to being able to pass that -- those additional costs though.

J.B. Lowe -- Citi -- Analyst

All right. Thanks. And then last one for me at the beginning of the year, there was probably a better opportunity to buy back some of your own stock. Did you guys do any repurchases early in the quarter?

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

I think you know maybe the best answer there is that you may be familiar or aware that where -- we go into blackout periods and that starts for us 15 days before a year or quarter-end, that we have to abide by.

Operator

Okay. Thank you, this concludes today's question-and-answer session. I would like to turn the floor back to Holli Ladhani for closing comments.

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Yeah, just a couple of key thoughts guys, that we want to make sure we leave you with. We certainly we were proud of the free cash flow that the team generated in 2018 and that's what we absolutely will hold ourselves accountable to -- is to generate at least that much again in 2019. And then again there is some uncertainty around '19 and we're just going to have to be nimble. And I do think, we're positioned well. But what you're going to see us focused on is really four things in '19 and that's around our operational execution, it's going be around identifying additional high return growth opportunities, delivering free cash flow. And then just ensuring that we have a disciplined approach to how we allocate that free cash flow. So that's what you all should expect from us in 2019, but thanks for joining us today.

Operator

Thank you, this concludes today's teleconference. You may disconnect your lines at this time and thank you for your participation.

Duration: 47 minutes

Call participants:

Chris George -- Vice President, Investor Relations & Treasurer

John Schmitz -- Executive Chairman

Holli Ladhani -- Chief Executive Officer & President

Nick Swyka -- Senior Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Tom curran -- B. Riley FBR -- Analyst

Tommy Moll -- Stephens -- Analyst

Marty Malloy -- Johnson Rice -- Analyst

Mike Urban -- Seaport Global -- Analyst

Kurt Hallead -- RBC Capital -- Analyst

Jud Bailey -- Wells Fargo -- Analyst

J.B. Lowe -- Citi -- Analyst

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