Kinder Morgan's (NYSE:KMI) founder Richard Kinder wanted to make one thing abundantly clear on its third-quarter conference call: Kinder Morgan is a natural gas story -- and that story is really good. Here are four things he wanted investors to know about that tale.
Kinder Morgan and natural gas
Kinder led off his comments by saying:
I want to give you some hard cold facts about the natural gas story, which is our single most important business. As many of you know our natural gas operations produce over half of our cash flow and we move about a third of all the gas consumed in the United States. So, to put it very simplistically as natural gas demand grows, so do we.
While Kinder Morgan is a diversified midstream company, its core business is natural gas pipelines, which Kinder noted produces half its cash flow. Because of this, natural gas is important to the company's current operations as well as its future.
Kinder then laid out the bull case for natural gas, using projections from respected industry research firm Wood Mackenzie. He said:
If you compare 2014 to 2015 Wood Mackenzie is now estimating there will be an increase in demand year-to-year of 5%. Its projected increase from today's level of 76 Bcf a day to about 110 Bcf a day by 2025, that's an increase of 40%.
This demand growth isn't a pipe dream because there are four major drivers fueling that growth, which are detailed on the slide below.
1. It's electric
Kinder continued by saying:
The first and probably the most interesting is electric generation. If you look at the 2015 mix of generating output -- and this is according to the EIA -- 32% is gas and 33% coal ... [and this] represents a dramatic shift to the positive for natural gas. If you flash ahead again -- these are EIA numbers -- to 2030 their projection of the mix of generation is 39% gas, 18% coal. ... If you want to look at Kinder Morgan specifically our gas transportation volumes for electric generation are up 18% year-to-date 2015 versus the same period 2014. ... So these are real numbers, real occurrences that are happening in the natural gas story.
Kinder first points out the fundamental shift away from coal and toward cleaner-burning natural gas. It's a shift that has significantly affected the coal industry with a number of producers in, or on the brink of, bankruptcy. Coal producer Peabody Energy (NYSE:BTU) is one of those in the brink. One reason for this is because demand for coal by utilities continues to sink. Peabody Energy noted in its third-quarter report that it "now projects utility coal demand to decline approximately 100 million tons in 2015, primarily due to lower natural gas prices" with gas pushing down coal's share of electric generation. Worse yet, Peabody Energy "expects 2016 utility coal consumption to be below 2015 levels based on current natural gas prices and expected plant closures." That said, Peabody's loss is Kinder Morgan's gain because it is building a number of pipelines to support additional gas demand by utilities.
2. Viva la Mexico
The natural gas story, however, extends far beyond its market share battle with coal in the U.S. Kinder noted:
The second demand driver is natural gas exports to Mexico. It's real and it's growing. Let me give you the facts. Natural gas exports to Mexico for 2015 are expected to average 2.6 Bcf a day versus a 2014 average of 1.8 Bcf a day. That's an increase of 44%. This summer we found that natural gas exports had at times exceeded 3 Bcf a day. Over the next four years, Mexico is expected to add 10.5 gigawatts of new natural gas capacity and it's expected that another 3.2 gigawatts of oil power capacity will switch to natural gas. Meanwhile as I think most of us know, Mexico's gas production continues into decline.
Kinder points out that an increasing amount of U.S. natural gas is making its way into Mexico for two reasons. First, like the U.S., Mexico is building more natural gas power plants, which is increasing its demand for gas. However, it's increasing its demand at a time when production in the country is declining, which has opened up a number of opportunities for Kinder Morgan to expand its pipelines to export gas to Mexico, including a $38 million expansion to its Mier-Monterrey pipeline.
3. The chemical reaction
Next, Kinder noted:
Third driver is the tremendous build-out of US industrial and petrochemical facilities. Let me give you the facts. The American Chemistry Council now counts 243 projects with a cumulative investment of $147 billion for the years 2010 to 2023.
Cheap natural gas is fueling an unprecedented amount of industrial and petrochemical expansion projects in the U.S. because these facilities are large consumers of natural gas. That's great news for Kinder Morgan because these facilities will need to be connected to the natural gas supply network, with Kinder Morgan benefiting from the potential to build pipelines to directly supply these new plants.
4. LNG is coming
Kinder concluded with:
Finally let's talk about LNG exports. These are no longer years away. FERC approved LNG export projects have 10.6 Bcf a day of capacity. By the end of this year Sabine Pass Train 1 will be in service with 650 million a day of capacity. By next year with Sabine Pass Trains 1 through 3 online LNG capacity will be 1.95 Bcf a day. By 2019 U.S. LNG export capacity will be 8.97 Bcf a day only counting FERC approved projects which have achieved final investment decision.
Kinder notes that the first of many LNG export facilities are expected to come online later this year when Cheniere Energy's (NYSEMKT:LNG) Sabine Pass offloads its first natural gas cargos. These projects directly benefit Kinder Morgan, which earlier this year signed a 20-year deal with Cheniere Energy to supply gas for its Corpus Christi facility. Kinder Morgan is investing $212 million to expand its facilities to support this agreement with Cheniere Energy.
If there's one thing Richard Kinder wanted to make abundantly clear on the company's third quarter conference call it is the fact that the natural gas story is real. Further, there are four drivers of that story, all of which have huge growth potential for the company both in the near and long term. This is why Kinder Morgan believes its best days appear to be ahead of it.