Rapid adoption of fracking for natural gas has boosted natural gas production beyond its current demand. That has been both a positive and negative, depending on your line of business. The same can be said for natural gas liquids, which are commonly found in the same rock formations as dry gas.
During periods of profitable prices, this is great for producers and midstream companies, but because of an abundance of supply, liquids such as ethane have seen prices plummet. Much to the delight of companies such as Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW) and Weslake Chemical (NYSE:WLK), ethane prices muddled through the first half of 2013 at just 45% of where they rang up a year ago. Margins have been rising rapidly for both as a result.
Unfortunately for companies such as ONEOK (NYSE:OKE) and its subsidiary MLP ONEOK Partners (NYSE:OKS), prices at these levels just are not economically viable to continue separating the liquid out. It has gone into ethane rejection mode, which we detail in the following video. While increased transportation volumes have helped, ethane rejection led to flat earnings for the second quarter versus 2012.