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AdvanSix Inc. (NYSE:ASIX)
Q4 2020 Earnings Call
Feb 19, 2021, 9:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good morning and welcome to the AdvanSix Fourth Quarter 2020 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions]

I would now like to turn the conference over to Adam Kressel, Director of Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Adam Kressel -- Director of Investor Relations

Thank you, Chad. Good morning and welcome to AdvanSix' fourth quarter 2020 earnings conference call. With me here today are President and CEO, Erin Kane; and Senior Vice President and CFO, Michael Preston. This call and webcast, including any non-GAAP reconciliations are available on our website at investors.advansix.com. Note that elements of this presentation contain forward-looking statements that are based on our best view of the world and of our business as we see it today. Those elements can change and the actual results could differ materially from those projected. And we ask that you consider them in that light. We refer you to the forward-looking statements included in our press release and earnings presentation.

In addition, we identified the principal risks and uncertainties that affect our performance in our SEC filings, including our Annual Report on Form 10-K as further updated in subsequent filings with the SEC. This morning, we'll review our financial results for the fourth quarter and full year of 2020 and share our outlook for our key product lines and end markets. Finally, we'll leave time for your questions at the end.

So with that, I'll turn the call over to AdvanSix' President and CEO, Erin Kane.

Erin N. Kane -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Adam and good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us and for your continued interest in AdvanSix. I hope that everyone listening today as well as their families and coworkers are remaining healthy and staying safe. As you saw in our press release, AdvanSix delivered a terrific 2020 with another strong quarter to finish the year. Through the many challenges brought on by the external environment last year, our organization demonstrated resilience, perseverance and strength of execution as we delivered on our commitments, driving positive sales volume growth, generating higher margins and earnings and delivering positive and robust free cash flow while also reducing leverage.

We maintain continuous operations across our facilities, including the execution of a large planned plant turnaround and successful implementation of health and safety protocols in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to protect our employees, contractors, assets and other key stakeholders. We mitigated the impacts of COVID-19 through proactive cost and productivity initiatives and ensured we remained in lockstep with changes in customer demand across our supply chain, while continuing to invest for growth and improving the underlying earnings power of the business. Our ability to withstand and overcome these challenges demonstrates the resilience and strength of our business model and portfolio diversity as well. The importance of our sustained efforts in building the foundation for long-term performance and shareholder return. I couldn't be prouder of our team.

Mike will detail our financials in a moment, but as you can see on the left side of slide 3, we've highlighted year-over-year variances for some key metrics in both the fourth quarter and full year. I won't mention them all, but you can see the significant improvement in performance, particularly our ability to generate an 11% increase in net income and $59 million improvement in free cash flow for the full year. Our fourth quarter 2020 EBITDA was the highest we've seen since the second quarter of 2018. As we look forward, we do recognize we continue to navigate a COVID environment. That said, we expect near-term improvement in nylon demand, increased ammonium sulfate fertilizer demand through the upcoming planting season and favorable acetone industry supply and demand balance to continue while also benefiting from our ongoing investments for a differentiated product growth.

With our focus and rigor around operational excellence, we are targeting a record year production output in 2021 supporting higher earnings and robust cash flow while making continued progress on our sustainability initiatives. We have a lot of excitement around our organization and the opportunities that lie ahead. Our strategic priorities remain consistent as we support continued operational excellence, and improving through cycle profitability, enhancing our portfolio resiliency through differentiated product growth and mix optimization and being strong and disciplined stewards of capital. Many have been waiting to look back on 2020 with hindsight. We are taking those lessons learned and momentum we built into 2021 and remain confident in our ability to deliver long-term shareholder value.

With that, I'll turn it over to Mike to discuss the details of the quarter.

Michael Preston -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Okay, great. Thanks. Erin and good morning, everyone. I'm now on slide 4 where I'll review the fourth quarter financial results. Overall, we executed once again very well in a dynamic environment highlighted by volume growth, margin expansion and strong cash generation. Sales totaled $340 million that's up about 4% compared to last year. Sales volume in the quarter increased roughly 8% versus the prior year, primarily due to higher production output and improved end market demand overall. Pricing overall was down approximately 4% due to lower raw material pass-through pricing which was unfavorable by about 4%. Market-based pricing was favorable by just under 1% reflecting improved industry dynamics in chemical intermediates particularly acetone. This was partially offset by lagging regional and market conditions in our nylon and caprolactam product lines. Notably, this quarter was the first time we've seen market pricing turned positive since the first quarter of 2019.

EBITDA was $48 million in the quarter, up about $36 million versus the prior year. I'll walk through the key year-over-year variances on the next slide. Earnings per share of $0.94 increased to $2 per share versus the prior year. In the quarter, we saw a lower effective tax rate compared to last year, primarily driven by an approximately $3.8 million energy tax credit associated with our natural gas boiler investments. And lastly, cash flow from operations reached $48 million in the quarter, that's up about $28 million compared to last year, primarily due to higher net income. Capex of $15 million was favorable by roughly $29 million year-over-year with a normalized level of capital spend as expected. Importantly, we generated positive free cash flow for the full year as we anticipated. A testament to the collective organization executing in a challenging environment. I would also point out that the expected approximately $12 million cash tax refund related to the CARES Act remains outstanding. It is now anticipated to be received in the first half of 2021.

Let's turn to slide 5. Here we highlight a few of the key drivers of our fourth quarter EBITDA performance year-over-year. Pricing of raw materials was roughly a $3 million tailwind year-over-year. Tracking our key variable margin drivers, performance in chemical intermediates reflected a continued favorable supply and demand environment for acetone over propylene spreads.

Ammonium sulfate, on a net price over natural gas and sulfur basis and caprolactam and nylon over benzene were both down year-over-year. The impact of planned plant turnarounds to pre-tax income was only $2 million in the fourth quarter of 2020 versus approximately $25 million in the fourth quarter of 2019 representing an approximately $23 million decrease year-over-year. As you may recall, we completed a larger Hopewell planned turnaround in the fourth quarter of 2019, including our sulfuric acid plant.

For the full year 2020, the total pre-tax income impact of turnarounds was approximately $31 million compared to $35 million in 2019, as we drive further efficiencies in our turnaround processes and execution. Our realign cumene supply chain and logistics productivity represented an approximately $4 million favorable impact in the quarter as we continue to reduce incremental cumene sourcing costs through supply chain, planning optimization and other efficiencies following the 2019 shut down of cumene supplier, Philadelphia Energy Solutions. Lastly, plant productivity, higher volume and other items were approximately $5 million favorable in the quarter.

Now let's turn to the next slide. We summarized our full year 2020 financial results on slide 6. We are very proud of what we delivered in 2020 in a challenging macro environment. I will not go through all the detail on the slide, but some of the key highlights include, first, growth in sales volume despite the ongoing impacts of COVID-19; second, higher earnings driven by strong productivity and cost management and the favorable impact of lower raw material costs more than offsetting lower market pricing and an unfavorable mix impact. For the full year, we saw an approximately $26 million cost reduction as we took a proactive approach to mitigate the impacts of COVID on our business. And as we disclosed previously, we estimate roughly half of the full year cost saving is a more temporary in nature with the remainder more permanent. Third, tax planning initiatives that resulted in a lower effective tax rate. And lastly, higher free cash flow, supported by an approximately $67 million reduction in capital expenditures.

Now let's turn to slide 7 to further discuss our cash flow and leverage exiting the year. On the left side of the page, we've highlighted the drivers of the robust $32 million of free cash flow in the fourth quarter supported by net income and lower capital spend rates. As anticipated free cash flow was positive for the full year. In the quarter, we saw working capital roughly neutral as ammonium sulfate pre-buy cash advances largely offset other increases including higher accounts receivable due to sharply higher sales in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter. As we previewed, our capex run rate has come down to more normalized run rates following the completion of several larger high return growth and cost savings investments and as we continue to drive disciplined in our capital processes.

On the right side of the page, we have once again shown our leverage ratios or net debt over trailing 12 months adjusted EBITDA, going back to the end of 2018. Both net debt and adjusted EBITDA are calculated in accordance with the terms of our revolving credit facility. As planned, our leverage was reduced in the fourth quarter of 2020 supported by continued robust cash generation, the normalization of the planned plant turnaround impact on our trailing 12 months of EBITDA as well as debt paydown. We exited the year at a leverage ratio of 2 times which is comfortably within our target range of 1 to 2.5 times. We continue to expect a robust cash flow outlook for 2021 and leverage to continue trending lower.

Now, let me turn the call back to Erin.

Erin N. Kane -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Mike. I'm now on slide 8 where we've included our typical pricing and spreads across our product lines. We've seen nylon industry spreads improving of trough levels as demand has modestly improved with the economies reopening around the globe. As we shared previously, Asia has led the recovery with the US and Europe lagging, which you see here in the difference between the Global Composite and Asia spreads. Although the industry remains in an oversupplied position globally and we're monitoring inventory levels through the value chain, we are encouraged by the recent improvement in demand and pricing. The Asia caprolactam to benzene spreads average around $700 per ton in the fourth quarter compared to roughly $600 per ton in the first nine months of 2020.

We saw benzene input cost increasing as we exited 2020 which caprolactam and resin prices closely followed. In addition, we continue to see global prices trending positively entering the new year. Overall, nitrogen industry pricing was subdued through the fall application season, but has picked up considerably as we've exited the year on the back of improved agricultural fundamentals including crop prices, farmer profitability and planted acres overall. As a reminder, urea is the largest nitrogen fertilizer by total consumption and tends to have an underlying influence on other nitrogen products. However, ammonium sulfate does have its own supply and demand dynamics influencing the premium earned for the softer nutrient.

Sequentially, ammonium sulfate prices were roughly flat as we enter the new ag season and were down year-over-year on the impact of lengthening supply and demand, as we continue to monitor competitive dynamics in light of North America supply additions as well as European imports. And lastly, industry realized acetone prices over refinery grade propylene costs continue to expand in the fourth quarter tracking a snug supply and demand balance in the US. We've seen the continued expansion of the premium in the small/medium buyer Acetone prices over the large biomarker on a year-over-year basis through the end of the year. As a reminder, the small/medium buyer price is reflective of roughly one-third of the domestic industry where pricing is predominantly freely negotiated. This has come at a time when propylene costs have continued to increase significantly on very tight supply and demand dynamics. We're seeing this trend play out into the first quarter with further industry price increases to keep pace with the rising input cost. Spot [Phonetic] refinery grade propylene prices have reached their highest level in over two years.

Let's turn to slide 9 to discuss some industry considerations as we progress into 2021. As shared in the past, we've included a breakdown of North American industry demand as well as our own 2020 sales mix to provide some context around our exposure to various end uses. Starting with nylon. We've seen some improvement in demand across its consumer oriented end markets. Carpet, which is the largest nylon end use in North America, while still faced with structural demand declines has rebounded from its 2Q COVID trough and mill rates have stabilized through the fourth quarter. This year's improvement from residential applications on the back of strong housing starts and existing home sales supported sequential demand improvement while commercial construction continues to lag.

We continue to expect commercial construction where nylon has a stronger foothold to remain soft in the near term until there is more visibility into office and hospitality trends post COVID. In engineered plastics where auto represents about 60% of nylon demand in that space, we've seen demand improving with global auto production rates increasing. To date, we haven't seen any impact back to our compounding customers related to the widely known silicon chip shortages which has impacted output at several OEMs further down the value chain. The remainder of our engineered plastics exposure in consumer and industrial and electric and electronics basis remains resilient with volume and demand back to pre-COVID levels.

Lastly, food packaging demand for nylon has remained robust during this period, which we expect to continue into 2021. Overall, we're encouraged by the trends we've seen actually in the fourth quarter and entering 2021. Moving forward, our efforts focused on asset flexibility, new product and application development and customer qualifications are helping to mitigate the temporal, unfavorable mix consideration we face throughout 2020 as we place the products where demand existed.

So, let's shift to ammonium sulfate. I will highlight a number of recent activities around the ammonium sulfate on the next slide, but from an industry perspective, sulfur demand remains robust. As a key nutrient supporting crop yields, and we expect ammonium sulfate fertilizer demand to increase with the 2021 planting season. A number of key indicators are trending favorably. Lowered expectations for ending stocks including corns and soybeans is translating into increased crop prices which have surged in recent weeks and months to multi-year highs. The supply and demand balance has been supporting crop prices at these higher levels while the profitability outlook for growers continues to improve.

Stronger anticipated nitrogen fertilizer demand coupled with regional supply constraints and increasing input cost has supported increases in urea pricing, which in turn has supported other nitrogen pricing including ammonium sulfate. In this space, we will continue to monitor increases in industry raw material inputs as well including natural gas and sulfur. Moving to chemical intermediates, we expect the favorable acetone industry supply and demand balance to continue into 2021. Acetone imports into the US remained low with global phenol industry utilization keeping supply and demand rather snug. Demand for acetone continues to be robust as a precursor into acrylic screens, continue to be used as protective equipment at retail, offices and other locations.

We also continue to see strong demand for our chemical intermediates into paints and coatings, particularly with do-it-yourself home improvement projects on the rise during the pandemic. As I mentioned, in regard to nylon, auto demand has been recovering and although, we are further back in the value chain, a number of our products in the intermediates portfolio also serve that end market. We also continue to see growth momentum for our Nadone product line, which is a solvent used in various high-value applications.

Let's turn to slide 10. As you may have seen in our press release earlier this quarter, we are further building on our long-standing leadership and expertise in ammonium sulfate and sulfur nutrition, while creating further opportunities for growth and efficiencies across the value chain. We continue to see increased demand for sulfur nutrition and ammonium sulfate is proven to deliver pound for pound, the most readily available sulfur and nitrogen to a wide variety of crops, including wheat, cotton, corn and soybeans. We highlighted a number of recent activities including the value of ammonium sulfate on soybeans, a crop where AS is not applied today.

We are continuing to educate growers and retailers about recent lab and field trial results, particularly the benefits of ammonium sulfate which had sulfur and supplemental nitrogen to their soybean crop management plans. We believe farmers have a great opportunity to boost production through new nutrient management strategies with research showing yield increases as much as ten or more bushels per acre. Operationally, recent efforts and enhancements in crystallizer technology has supported our production output of more high quality granular grade ammonium sulfate to meet the growing demand of our customers. We are now targeting conversion of approximately 65% of the ammonium sulfate produced into this higher value granular form, which is an increase of roughly 5%.

As a reminder, that granular products can earn a sales premium over the standard grade products of up to $50 per ton on average. And lastly, we announced the recent acquisition of certain assets of Commonwealth Industrial Services or CIS which enables us to expand our offering to directly supply packaged ammonium sulfate to customers, primarily in North and South America. It diversifies and optimize their offerings to include a spray grade adjuvant to support crop protection of high return and installation as well as other specialty fertilizers and products for industrial use. We also expect the addition of packaging and warehousing capabilities to bolster logistics and operational efficiency in our Richmond, Virginia area plants. We are very excited to welcome our new teammates and extend our industry leading value chain for ammonium sulfate.

Now let's turn to slide 11. As you may have seen in our December press release, I wanted to spend a moment highlighting a number of achievements and the progress we made in 2020 as we continue to build a broad platform for sustainability and corporate social responsibility across our organization and with stakeholders. We were proud to join with other industry leaders and a number of global sustainability initiatives including active participation with the EcoVadis Corporate Social Responsibility assessment that resulted in a gold rating placing us in the top 4% of chemical industry peers. In November, we joined together for sustainability, a global procurement driven initiative to assess and improve the sustainability performance of chemical companies and their suppliers. We were also a signatory to the UN Global Compact and made a pledge to operation clean suite.

Underpinning all of this is our ongoing commitment to being an ACC Responsible Care company including having all of our AdvanSix sites, RC-14001 certified. In the year, we also established a sustainability council under oversight of the newly created health, safety, environmental and sustainability committee of the Board. The sustainability council supported by subject matter experts throughout the organization to develop a holistic enterprisewide view of sustainability. We look forward to sharing our next sustainability report in the next -- in the coming months with you all building on the enhanced ESG disclosures published last year. Our sustainability efforts continue to mature in concert with our strategic priorities.

Let's turn to slide 12 to wrap up before moving to Q&A. Consistent with what we shared last quarter, our core focus areas for 2021 include continued operational excellence and improving through cycle profitability, enhancing portfolio resiliency and strong capital stewardship. We are targeting a record year of production output in 2021 supporting higher earnings and robust cash flow. We're maintaining a rigorous focus on productivity and cost savings, with approximately half of the 2020 cost savings living through based on structural and permanent actions taken throughout last year.

Commercially, as I've highlighted, we're largely seeing the trends of the fourth quarter across the business continue into the first quarter of 2021, in addition to strengthening agricultural fundamentals. We have all seen the recent severe weather that has covered a large majority of the country, particularly down in the Gulf. This is an evolving situation real time and our focus at current is to protect our value chain and customers while minimizing disruptions. We are bolstering growth through investments in our Nadone and oximes product lines, serving differentiated and high-value applications, while continuing to optimize our nylon offerings amid carpet end market declines.

We do continue to expect capex to be $80 million to $90 million in 2021 which does include a modest amount of spend toward high return growth and cost savings projects. We are focused on improving our return on invested capital and we will remain disciplined in our approach as we look to drive long-term shareholder value. We expect leverage to remain within our target range and have approximately $60 million remaining under our share repurchase authorization. We're maintaining a disciplined inorganic framework as we assess opportunistic acquisitions that would have strong portfolio coherence with our product lines and technologies. CIS is a great example of this as to drive the sulfur nutrition value proposition while integrating their packaged ammonium sulfate business.

To close where I started, we are gaining momentum and remain confident that AdvanSix is well positioned to deliver long-term shareholder return. So with that, Adam, let's move to Q&A.

Adam Kressel -- Director of Investor Relations

Thanks, Erin. Chad, let's open the line for questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Certainly. We will now begin the question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] And the first question will come from Vincent Anderson with Stifel. Please go ahead.

Vincent Anderson -- Stifel -- Analyst

Yeah. Good morning, and wonderful end the year. So just started off in nylon, we've watched export prices out of Taiwan recover pretty rapidly ahead of their capital costs, which would seem to underscore the spreads that you've published in your slide deck. I guess should we still be looking to Taiwan is kind of a price setter for the Asian markets or is that maybe a naive view, especially since our exports have continued to decline since really 2016.

Erin N. Kane -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So, great question, Vincent, and thanks for the compliment on 2020. When we think about the global markets, as we've talked about in the past, it's important to kind of look where sort of the clearing house of sort of supply and demand needs. And as we've indicated, we used to look at China, where China sort of the anti-dumping components in place and expansion of their local, regional supply, when the clearinghouse markers went to Taiwan and South Korea. So I do think, and we still track those key markers, because that is where sort of the incremental imports around the world do go. And there is a strong sort of connection in that region to providing a global picture of where, so that the supply and demand have to meet.

So I do think that there is still the right place to look. As you know, we do see some disconnects and have seen a little bit more sort of volatility and where pricing has moved real time. And we may have to look at sort of a broader lens on a composite over a couple of weeks maybe months to see, because if we can see some temporal disconnects, and we saw that. If you look in that chart, a big jump in year-over-year, but that's really tied to sort of a one-month challenge in the prior year's quarter. So that can often skew some of those metrics. But I guess in short to answer your question. We still believe that that's -- to look at from a -- where the global dynamics have to sort themselves out.

Vincent Anderson -- Stifel -- Analyst

Perfect, thanks. And this is maybe going below far back, but if my memory serves, Goodrich used to operate a specialty nylon plant In Canada that was shut down kind of a while ago, but used to supply its tire manufacturing. It's one area that we haven't really heard you talk about potential applications for Nylon 6. Is it still used in entire applications and if so is that an area of opportunity for you to explore?

Erin N. Kane -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So one of the areas of opportunity that shutdown has presented itself is the growth in our wire and cable application space. So they did participate there and certainly our wire and cable growth continues to be a great sort of stand out in our differentiated application sort of growth for nylon. In tires, overall, historically, there was a large demand for tire cord into what I would say. So, the large non-performance tires, that sort of large bias, I think that we're going to construction type applications. That was a very large application in China at one point, and particularly could still be found there. And is Nylon 6 can still be found although I would say it's probably not as prevalent as it was years ago.

Vincent Anderson -- Stifel -- Analyst

Okay, perfect. Thanks for clearing that up. And then just one more quick one, then I'll let somebody else have a turn here. How many field trials, do you have scheduled for 2021 on soybean acres and rough split between University test fields and farmer fields?

Erin N. Kane -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I'm going to ask that we will get you that detail in the exact numbers. I would say that certainly our field trials continue. And it's, I can -- in our press release, we had a link to a new microsite that we have up and running, providing information about our soybeans when added can follow up, but it was in the press release there. I can say that we have been receiving positive feedback from our customers. And I think anecdotally we believe there actually could be -- it's actually moving to fields and potentially move into the fields this spring as well. I apologize, I don't have the exact split here for you top of mind. But, I think we are seeing positive trends, absolutely.

Vincent Anderson -- Stifel -- Analyst

Okay, perfect. Thank you very much.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] The next question comes from Chris Moore with CJS Securities. Please go ahead.

Chris Moore -- CJS Securities -- Analyst

Hey, good morning, guys.

Michael Preston -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Good morning.

Erin N. Kane -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Chris Moore -- CJS Securities -- Analyst

Good morning. So projecting turnaround costs in the $25 million to $30 million range in fiscal '21 and I guess the question, kind of what are the drivers there versus historically more in the $35 million to $40 million range and is this level, the new normal?

Michael Preston -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, it's good point, Chris and I appreciate you pointing that out and what we provided in the back up presentation is the year-by-year and quarter-by-quarter impact of the planned plant turnarounds. And to your point, we have seen an improvement in the spend, if you go back a number of years and this year, we're looking at $25 million to $30 million, which is down from last year of $31 million and in 2019 roughly $35 million. Yeah. And we do believe $30 million is, in that sort of range, $25 million to $30 million is roughly our new run rate. This is an area that we've been very focused on in terms of driving efficiencies, better planning, managing the scope, the duration really driving the cost down, so I would say we -- this has been an area we've been trying to drive productivity and efficiency and effectiveness. And we do believe that's roughly our new range. Now, I will say from year-to-year, depending on whether or not we do the sulfuric acid plant turnaround or the ammonia plant turnaround from year-to-year, you could see a bit of a fluctuation in that total amount, but over time, we're seeing a reduction.

Chris Moore -- CJS Securities -- Analyst

Got it. Helpful. It looks like nylon sales for consumer carpet doing well, can you just kind of remind me what the mix normally is between consumer and commercial and what that mix looks like currently?

Erin N. Kane -- President and Chief Executive Officer

And a great question. If you kind of I think back around the overall North American carbon market, overall, let's say fibers, right, you've got about 70% is residential, 30% is commercial. So that's kind of when you think about all mix. In the residential space, Chris, about 55% of that is going to be non-nylon and about 15% is going to be nylon. And then most of the commercial has been historically Nylon 6 or Nylon 66. So it's certainly, when we look at -- where the mill rates were down sort of year-on-year. We kind of ended on down about 10%. We think, and certainly the residential space here had been a big sort of backfill, if you will, I think just in the surge right with every home sale, you get a renovation turn. And then with new builds, you can get for going in as well. So hard to say again our, it's been nice to see sort of the rebound. I mean our corporate customers are pulling at rates that were sort of pre-COVID. And, but I think it is definitely on the -- on the residential side that is bolstering that.

Chris Moore -- CJS Securities -- Analyst

Got it. Helpful. Last one for me, there's been lots of headlines recently regarding severe weather, particularly some disruptions down in the Gulf. Are you seeing any challenges to your supply chain?

Erin N. Kane -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks for that question, Chris. And I guess, first let me, you'd point out the -- some positive as we came into this week. As you know, right, there is a number of headlines, number force majeure situation is evolving real time. We came into this running very strong, uncannily through Q4, all the way through January goods out utilization 90% plus, 91%, across our value chain with Hopewell performing very well in to -- mid to high 90s. Again a continued demonstration that our operational discipline and so that reinvestment efforts are truly paying off. We also have robust roles. And I would say, with inventories, so I would think about that as our intermediate chemicals, all those levels in place to buffer what is typically through this time of year seasonal supply chain challenges with storms and also, we knew that they were going to be known refinery turnarounds to be executed early in the first quarter.

But as you say, lots of headlines, the situation is evolving very quickly by the day. In some cases, it's rather opaque as we learn sort of hour by hour here. And while we are located geographically away from the heart of the storm impact, as you point out as widely known, we do source our key raw material from the Gulf. And at current all North American producers of cumene have declared force majeure. And also earlier in the week, we did have some water supply instability from a supplier in Hopewell due to some icing that occurred through the Mid-Atlantic.

I think it's important to note, Chris, that we are running all of our plan. However, given the evolving nature of the situation, we have elected and it wouldn't be uncommon with patterns like this. So we would de-rate our plants. I mean, proactively think about how we minimize disruption. So what we have done is proactively turned on rates. We have brought forward what would have been planned maintenance already in the quarter, predominantly in March. Forward into the back half of February again when it gives us time to assess the situation and gain some clarity on what's going to happen, a lot of indication that refiners are going to be restarting over the weekend, but certainly there are power, utility transportation disruptions. We are actively [Phonetic] focused on protecting our customers, I mean, certainly minimizing this destruction -- our -- this is when our execution DNA kicks in, which is I think a strength for us. And we demonstrate that strength last year as well. So, we do at current have everything from suppliers, competitors and customers all impacted.

And obviously, we're working to navigate both the opportunity and the risk that this situation kind of brings and really focus just staying in lock step right now, Chris, with the situation with our suppliers and our customers as sort of the evolving situation unfolds.

Chris Moore -- CJS Securities -- Analyst

I appreciate the color. I'll jump back in line.

Erin N. Kane -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Okay, thanks.

Michael Preston -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Chris.

Operator

And the next question comes from David Silver with C. L. King. Please go ahead.

David Silver -- C. L. King -- Analyst

Yeah, hi. Thank you. I just wanted to follow-up maybe on the previous question regarding the impacts from the situation in Texas. You focused right in on, I guess the cumene supply situation. But could you just take a moment and just clarify whether you're reliant on US Gulf sources for either natural gas or sulfur or anything else to think about right, as you said, right in this kind of fast evolving real time kind of situation just, are there alternative sources from non-US Gulf sources that you're comfortable with for the other inputs to your overall production chain. Thank you.

Erin N. Kane -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. And I'm happy to provide that clarity, David and thanks for the follow-on here. So, certainly even with cumene, right. I think when we've talked about how we have worked to mitigate, even the 2019 shut down of the East Coast supplier, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, we talked about broadening the basket of suppliers. So we do have suppliers that are outside the Gulf, which is important to note, and I know, including the ability to import. And so all those levers are things that we are pulling and have been pulling forward for the performance of the Company and value chain kind of going forward. When it comes to natural gas, I mean certainly, you have seen restrictions. We, from where we sit geographically, we are predominantly pulling from molecules that are tied to the basins closer to us, right, in our pipeline. So there are not restrictions in the area. Certainly this time of year, it's not uncommon for us to see some curtailment from time to time, just as natural gas lines are managing both residential as well as industry, but there is no disruption to natural gas for us at this point.

And sulfur as you well know is also coming off the refinery complex again given, we're moving molten sulfur, logistics are important. So I think it's fair to say that a vast majority of our sulfur comes from refineries outside the Gulf that are going to be geographically closer located to us. And again we see supply, it's one of the things that I pointed on, why we built up inventories through the end of 2020. On one hand, you could see that based on how refineries will be -- we're operating just with COVID impacts and people are not traveling, that all of these materials kind of coming off the system could be challenged though we've been proactively making sure that we were buying molecules ahead of time to keep our value chain protected.

David Silver -- C. L. King -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you for that. And again, as you pointed out, real-time kind of evolving situation. I was wondering if Mike could help me with the next one. But in the release you talked about the year-over-year change, here you broke down the revenue change to 4% growth in terms of volume plus 8%, and then price both kind of I guess list price increase, and then the pass-through effect of about minus 4%. I was wondering if you could do something similar on a sequential basis. In other words, how much of the 21% sequential bump in revenues was volume driven versus the price? However, you might have that, that would be much appreciated. Thanks.

Michael Preston -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, sure. Yeah, happy to give that. As you saw -- as you noted, we did have quite an increase in revenue in the fourth quarter relative to the third quarter. And the way you want to think about that as volumes were up sequentially and sort of the mid-teens range from a top line perspective. And we saw there is some domestic granular ammonium sulfate growth some seasonality with that acetone, and as well as caprolactam and nylon improvement overall in volume, particularly in North America. So volumes were up strong in the fourth quarter relative to the third. Yeah, I'd say market pricing, net of raw materials was pretty, pretty neutral. We did have an unfavorable impact fourth quarter versus third from a natural gas perspective, a lot of that you would typically see from a seasonal perspective.

And that was offset by better pricing for Acetone sequentially and then you sort of left with the planned turnaround impacts in the fourth quarter relative to the third. And that's an $80 million change, obviously we had a large impact in the third quarter and much less an impact in the fourth. So on an EBITDA basis, that's about an $80 million change. So those are the -- I would say the biggest changes when you look sequentially from third to the fourth quarter.

David Silver -- C. L. King -- Analyst

Okay, thanks. I have one -- maybe one more and then I'll get back in queue. Just -- where did that go -- could you just talk about the effect of the CARES Act on your cash flow? I apologize.

Michael Preston -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, sure. You know we're, and that's the one thing we wanted to make clear to everyone, because we did -- as part of the CARES act, we were able to carry back our NOLs. A lot of companies took advantage of that and we did claim a refund of $12 million. And we had been -- had been anticipating, receiving that before the end of the year, but it seems things with the IRS have been quite slow in terms of processing those refunds and we were pleased to see, we were able to generate the cash and have a very strong conversion, cash conversion quarter even though we did not receive the $12 million refund, but we do anticipate to receive that here in the first half of the year. Hope going to push it, and if we can drive that and get that in the first quarter, we will. But that is the primary benefit that we're seeing from the CARES Act. The other element of the CARES Act, which you may recall relates to payroll taxes, where we were able to defer about $6.5 million of payroll taxes in 2020 of which we have to pay that -- pay 50% of that back in '21 and 50% of that back in 2022. I would say those were the key elements of the CARES Act that we took advantage of, and -- but that refund is still outstanding.

David Silver -- C. L. King -- Analyst

Yeah. No. Thanks. And I was going to ask you just about how that affects the cash flows from the CARES Act, both the receipt and then the repayment. So thanks, you anticipated that. And just real quick, but the energy tax credit, $3.8 million, is that a one-time item or is your investment in the new boiler and what not, is that eligible for additional tax credits going forward?

Michael Preston -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

No, I mean -- I would consider that one-time event. And if you recall back in the second quarter of 2019, we did claim this credit on our return and we felt, and it doesn't really to the natural gas boilers. And at the time we concluded that, we certainly had enough authority to claim the credit, but needed some more analysis, some technical analysis as well as discussions with the DOE, to be comfortable that we can reverse that and take the financial statement recognition of that. And the hurdle for that is getting to a more likely than now position on an uncertain tax position. We claimed it on our return in the second quarter, booked the uncertain tax position. And in the fourth quarter, we got comfortable enough that we were able to reverse that and then take the financial statement impact which reduced the effective tax rate, as you saw.

Again $3.8 million, a majority of that is part of that $12 million refund that were -- that we've claimed. And as you point out, it was roughly a $0.13 per share impact in the -- in the fourth quarter. And it had the impact, on a full year effective tax rate basis, an impact of roughly 6.5% on our ETR. But it is one-time, but what I will say, Dave, is that, we continue to look for opportunities and how we optimize tax on opportunities that we could drive on planning to manage our rate and also manage our cash taxes and we've been doing a lot of good things on that front. And we'll continue to look for opportunities going forward.

David Silver -- C. L. King -- Analyst

Okay, that's great. I do have one more question, but I'm going to get back in queue. Thank you.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes our question-and-answer session. I would like to turn the conference back over to Erin Kane for any closing remarks.

Erin N. Kane -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you all again for your time and interest this morning. Facing one of the most challenging external set of circumstances, this business has ever encountered, our collective organization delivered terrific results in 2020. We optimize our positions across the portfolio and executed levers in our control to drive best possible outcomes. We will leverage that momentum into 2021 as we execute against our focused strategy that we believe will allow us to outperform and deliver strong shareholder returns into the future. So with that, we'll look forward to speaking with you again next quarter. Stay safe and be well.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 48 minutes

Call participants:

Adam Kressel -- Director of Investor Relations

Erin N. Kane -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Michael Preston -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Vincent Anderson -- Stifel -- Analyst

Chris Moore -- CJS Securities -- Analyst

David Silver -- C. L. King -- Analyst

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