Williams Companies' (NYSE:WMB) growth engine has been giving it fits in recent quarters. However, the issues that have held the company back in the past should soon be in the rearview mirror. That's one of a couple of things investors should keep an eye on when looking over Williams' third-quarter results later this week.

See if its growth engine restarted again

Williams Companies' second-quarter earnings were a bit mixed due to the impact of an asset sale, higher costs, and some other issues. Many of those headwinds, though, should have started abating during the third quarter. For starters, one of the asset sales that weighed on earnings closed more than a year ago. Because of that time frame, it won't have as noticeable an impact going forward.

A person in a hard hat standing near a stack of pipelines.

Image source: Getty Images.

On top of that, Williams Companies recently partnered with private equity giant KKR (NYSE:KKR) to buy Discovery DJ Services for $1.173 billion. Williams and KKR expected the transaction to close in the third quarter, meaning it should have provided a boost to Williams' results in that period. Meanwhile, even more growth is on the way since the company finished construction of the $3 billion Atlantic Sunrise expansion project on its Transco system toward the end of the quarter. Because of that project, even if the company's third-quarter results sputter due to timing, those in future quarters should be meaningfully higher.  

Check if it locked up any more expansion projects

While Williams Companies' growth engine hasn't been very reliable in the past few quarters, that's about to change. That's because Atlantic Sunrise is only the beginning of what the company has coming down the pipeline. 

Initially, Williams anticipated that it would invest roughly $5.5 billion through the end of 2019 to expand its business. Those expansions would enable the company to grow its cash flow at a double-digit pace over that time frame, positioning the company to increase its dividend at a 10% to 15% annual rate through 2019.

However, thanks to its deal with KKR to buy the fast-growing Discovery DJ Services, as well as some other new project additions, Williams now expects to invest $6.5 billion over that period. That number could expand even further during the third quarter since the company has several other projects in development, including more than 20 additional ones on Transco. Some are very close to getting the green light, including the proposed Leidy South expansion project, which would move gas on Transco toward the Atlantic Seaboard. The company recently secured enough long-term contracts to move forward, which positions this project to potentially start up as early as the end of 2021.

Williams' ability to lock up additional expansion projects like Leidy South would enable it to continue growing earnings at a fast pace in the coming years. That could potentially position the company to maintain a double-digit dividend growth rate beyond next year, which would put it on the same level as many of its pipeline peers.

All eyes on growth

Williams Companies has hit a few speed bumps over the past year due to its conscious effort to improve its balance sheet so that it can more easily finance expansion projects. Those efforts, however, should have started paying dividends in the third quarter by driving earnings and cash flow higher. If that wasn't the case, it's likely due to a temporary issue since the company just completed a needle-moving project and had several more coming down the pipeline. That upcoming upside is what makes William Companies a great option for dividend growth investors to consider.