Kinder Morgan, Inc. (NYSE:KMI) is easily one of the largest midstream energy companies in the United States. But if you are looking for income, its roughly 2.2% yield is pretty small for the industry. And more important, the company chose to cut that dividend not too long ago so it could fund its growth plans. That's really bad for investors who had come to rely on the quarterly dividend payments. The mixture of a low yield and the dividend cut is why Enterprise Products Partners L.P. (NYSE:EPD) and Buckeye Partners, L.P. (NYSE:BPL) are better options.

An image of Enterprise Products Partners employees moving a giant pipe into place.

Enterprise Products Partners employees at work. Image source: Enterprise Products Partners L.P.  

On equal footing

When it comes to big in the midstream space, Kinder is among the largest. But so is Enterprise Products Partners. Both entities have roughly $50 billion market caps and have broad portfolios of assets (including pipelines, processing facilities, and more). Kinder Morgan's collection of businesses is probably a little more varied, but that doesn't mean it's better.

On the income front, Enterprise wins hands down with a distribution yield of nearly 6%. That's more than twice the yield offered by Kinder. And while Kinder has a dividend cut in its recent history, Enterprise has increased its distribution every quarter for 50 consecutive quarters -- that's over 12 years.  

A bar chart showing the $5.3 billion in capital projects Enterprise Products Partners is working on and the time frame for completion.

Enterprise is spending big and paying unitholders. Image source: Enterprise Products Partners L.P.  

You shouldn't own Enterprise if you expect swift distribution growth. But if slow and steady is your speed, the stock beats Kinder hands down. And here's the interesting thing: Kinder cut its distribution so it could pay for its growth plans, while Enterprise has $5.3 billion in projects in the works and isn't expecting any funding problems. Moreover, since it came public in 1998, it's spent $36 billion on organic growth projects and $26 billion on acquisitions -- without a distribution cut. That's a much better track record than Kinder Morgan's.  

Don't let its size fool you

The second name that should be on your list if you are considering Kinder Morgan is Buckeye Partners. This is a relatively small midstream player compared to Kinder and Enterprise, with a roughly $9 billion market cap. However, it's been in the midstream business in some fashion for 130 years. It hasn't been an independent entity that whole time, but it certainly isn't a newcomer to the space.

Longevity alone isn't reason enough you should buy Buckeye over Kinder. But Buckeye's lofty 7.6% distribution yield might be. Oh, and the fact that it's increased the annual distribution for 21 consecutive years. So if you are looking for income security, Buckeye looks like a better bet than Kinder.  

An image showing the changes in Buckeye Partners business mix since 2010.

Buckeye Partners has managed to make big changes without cutting the distribution. Image source: Buckeye Partners, L.P.  

And here's one more thing Buckeye has going for it: Since 2010, it has been aggressively reworking its portfolio. It's spent over $8 billion on acquisitions and internal growth products so it could diversify its business. The storage-focused company's domestic operations once made up over 75% of EBITDA. Today that number is down to around 55%, with global assets nearly doubling in importance. And all of the change, including some lean years for the company's business, transpired without a single distribution cut. That makes Kinder Morgan's choice to trim look much less shareholder-friendly by comparison.  

More than yield

It would be easy to suggest that Enterprise and Buckeye are better than Kinder Morgan because they have higher distribution yields. But that would miss an important point. Indeed, Kinder wound up in a position where it had to choose between growth and dividends -- and it chose growth. Investors relying on a steady dividend got hurt. Enterprise and Buckeye, meanwhile, have managed to offer lofty distributions, regular distribution growth, and business growth. If income is what you are looking for, you should forget about Kinder Morgan and take a long look at Enterprise Products Partners and Buckeye Partners.