An Investor s Guide to Plains All American Pipeline

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1 An Investor s Guide to Plains All American Pipeline Plains All American Pipeline: A Midstream Energy MLP Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. (PAA) is a midstream energy MLP headquartered in Houston. The company owns a network of pipelines, storage, and gathering assets in the United States and Canada. Midstream energy companies are primarily engaged in gathering, processing, transport, storage, and wholesale marketing of oil and gas products. Plains All American Pipeline isn t involved in exploration and production, which are upstream activities. The company provides logistics services for oil, natural gas, and NGLs (natural gas liquids). Plains GP Holdings LP (PAGP) owns GP (general partner) interests and IDRs (incentive distribution rights) of Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. The above chart shows the company s partnership structure. PAA forms ~7% of the Alerian MLP ETF (AMLP). In the above map, you can see the network of Plains All American Pipeline s significant assets in the United States and Canada. It highlights the company s crude oil and NGL pipelines, crude oil, NGL, natural gas, and refined products storage facilities, terminals, and fractionation and processing facilities. Plains All American Pipeline s competition Plains All American Pipeline competes with Enterprise Products Partners L.P. (EPD), Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. (SXL), and other pipeline MLPs. Competition in the pipeline transport segment is based on transport charges and access to producing areas and the market. Demand for crude oil and NGLs also impact transport volumes, which drive revenues. The company competes with other players for its supply, logistics, and storage businesses. In this series, we ll take a deeper look into Plains All American Pipeline s (PAA) business, its segments, revenue drivers, and factors that impact the company s performance. This will help investors make informed decisions about investing in the company. We ll also see how PAA s forward distribution yields compare with its peers. The three segments Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. (PAA) has three operational segments: Transportation, Facilities, and Supply and Logistics. For 2014, these segments contributed 40%, 26%, and 34%, respectively, to the company s total profits. Plains All American Pipeline s Transportation segment transports crude oil and NGLs (natural gas liquids) through pipelines, trucks, and barges. The company uses barges to transport oil and NGLs.

2 What are NGLs? NGLs are liquid elements generally extracted from natural gas wells. They re hydrocarbons, just like natural gas molecules. While natural gas is primarily methane, NGLs primarily consist of ethane, propane, butane, isobutane, and natural gasoline. In a given NGL barrel, ethane accounts for the largest share of all the elements. It s primarily used in the production of ethylene, which is used in plastics production. Natural gasoline is composed mainly of pentanes and heavier hydrocarbons. NGLs need to be transported for fractionation to separate the individual elements. Companies such as PAA provide this transportation for NGLs. The company s pipelines for crude oil and NGL transport spread across the Permian Basin in west Texas and southern New Mexico, the Eagle Ford shale in South Texas, offshore California, the Rocky Mountains, the Gulf Coast, and Canada. The above graph shows the Transportation segment s average daily volumes growth and segment profit over five years. The volumes include both crude oil and NGL volumes. Fee-based revenues The company s Transportation segment primarily earns fee-based revenues on the volume of crude oil and NGLs it transports. Its operations are thus not directly impacted by changes in commodity prices. Its revenues depend on the demand and supply for crude oil and NGLs, as lower demand results in lower volumes for transportation. Some of the other MLPs that have NGL pipelines include DCP Midstream Partners, LP (DPM), Enbridge Energy Partners, L.P. (EEP), and MarkWest Energy Partners, L.P. (MWE). DPM forms ~2.7% of the Alerian MLP ETF (AMLP). Services of the Facilities segment Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. s (PAA) Facilities segment contributes ~26% to the company s total profits. It provides storage, terminals, and throughput services for crude oil, NGLs (natural gas liquids), natural gas, and refined products. The segment also provides NGL fractionation services and processes natural gas and condensate. Condensate generally refers to heavier NGL components such as isobutane and natural gasoline. The Facilities segment receives oil or gas products at terminals. This process is commonly called terminalling. The segment generates revenues from fees charged for storage, terminalling, fractionation, and processing services offered for various oil and gas products. The majority of the segment s revenues are fee-based, so they re not directly sensitive to changes in commodity prices.

3 Storage capacity The Facilities segment has a storage capacity of ~73 million barrels where crude oil as well as refined products can be stored. It has an NGL storage capacity of ~23 million barrels and natural gas storage capacity of ~97 bcf (billion cubic feet). The segment has 11 natural gas processing plants. It owns a condensate processing facility, which extracts NGLs from condensate. The segment has seven fractionation plants. These plants process NGLs to separate them into various component products, as we saw in the previous article. Some fractionation plants have butane isomerization facilities as well. The isomerization process converts a molecule into another with the same atoms but a different arrangement. For example, n-butane is converted into isobutane through isomerization. Segment performance The Facilities segment owns crude oil loading and unloading rail terminals. The above graph shows the segment s average monthly volume and profit over five years. It includes natural gas, crude oil, refined products, and NGL terminalling and storage capacity, rail loading and unloading volumes, and NGL fractionation volumes. The segment s revenues increased in The decline in its profits was mainly related to natural gas storage and field operating costs. The company secured less favorable rates on renewed and new gas storage contracts. Additional costs were also incurred to manage deliveries in severe winters. The Facilities segment s field operating costs increased due to the additional cost of new rail terminals, the cancellation of some capital projects, and higher power costs. Key activities for Supply and Logistics Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. s (PAA) Supply and Logistics segment purchases crude oil, NGLs (natural gas liquids), and natural gas. It stores, transports, and resells these products. Since the segment s activities involve selling, it s exposed to credit risk. The segment makes money from the difference in the purchase and sale prices less the transportation, logistics, and other administrative costs incurred in the process. The segment s revenues are impacted by regional supply and demand for these commodities. Purchase and sale of crude oil and NGLs The Supply and Logistics segment purchases crude oil and NGLs directly from producers. It also purchases NGLs from refiners, oil companies, and NGL marketing companies. The segment

4 makes bulk purchases of crude oil and NGLs when it believes it has opportunities for higher margins in downstream distribution. These margins tend to fluctuate with market conditions. The segment sells crude oil to oil companies, refiners, and resellers. It sells NGLs to propane retailers, petrochemical companies, refiners, and other marketers. The above graph shows the segment s average daily volumes and profit over five years. The volumes include crude oil lease gathering purchases and NGL sales. The fall in profits for 2014 was due mainly to increased purchases and related costs on account of an inventory valuation adjustment. The profits were also impacted due to infrastructure additions in key resource plays. These led to fewer opportunities to generate margins by capturing transportation constraints. Exchanges of crude oil and NGLs In some cases, the Supply and Logistics segment exchanges crude oil and NGLs with third parties. For example, suppose the company is required to deliver a certain grade of crude oil. A third party might have the product nearer to the delivery location. In this case, the company might enter into an exchange agreement with the third party, giving the third party crude oil of a different grade or at a different location in exchange. Such agreements are entered into with the objective of enhancing margins. Cash flows aren t dependent on commodity prices As we ve seen in the other parts of this series, revenues for Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. s (PAA) Transportation and Facilities segments are primarily fee-based and not directly dependent on commodity prices. The company expects these two segments to generally contribute about 70% 80% of base level segment profits. The two segments together contributed ~65% to the company s total profits in the first quarter of Profits from the company s Supply and Logistics segment are affected by the regional supply and demand for crude oil and NGLs. It s not affected directly by the price levels of these commodities. While allocating resources to its three segments, Plains All American Pipeline attempts to strike a balance so its cash flows aren t impacted by commodity market volatility. Opportunities during volatility Such a model is also intended to generate greater margins during volatile markets. One such scenario is when the market for a product is in contango. In a contango market, the futures price of a commodity is higher than its current price. In such a case, companies like Plains All American Pipeline that have accessible storage facilities can purchase the commodity at the current price, store it, and simultaneously sell it in the forward market at higher prices.

5 Growth in distributions The above graph shows growth in Plains All American Pipeline s quarterly distributions. Distributions grew at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 7.9% in five years. The company s distributions in the first quarter of 2015 were $0.685 per limited partner unit. Its distribution coverage ratio was Distribution coverage is the ratio of distributable cash flow to total distributions. The company s distribution coverage ratios were 1.11, 1.43, and 1.6 for the years 2014, 2013, and 2012, respectively. Generally, MLPs with stable earnings target a distribution coverage ratio in the range of times the distributable cash flow. On the other hand, MLPs whose operations are more sensitive to seasonal factors target a higher coverage ratio. Yield higher than selected peer group Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. s (PAA) forward distribution yield of 6.4% is ~130 bps (basis points) higher than its selected peer average. Peers included in the average calculation are Enterprise Products Partners (EPD), Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. (SXL), Enbridge Energy Partners, L.P. (EEP), and Magellan Midstream Partners, L.P. (MMP). Distribution yield is calculated as distribution per share divided by market price per share. Lower expected distribution growth For the next two years, PAA is expected to have a distribution growth of 6.5%. In comparison, EPD, SXL, EEP, and MMP are expected to have distribution growths of 6%, 17%, 5.2%, and 11.9%, respectively. So PAA s higher yield seems to be justified by its lower-than-average forward distribution growth. LIkewise, PAA s distribution growth estimates for the next one year are lower than its peers. The above graph compares forward distribution yields relative to distribution growth for PAA and its peers. The Alerian MLP ETF (AMLP) has traded at a yield of 7% over the last 12 months. AMLP seeks to track the performance of the Alerian MLP Infrastructure Index. While PAA s yield is higher than its selected peer group, it s lower than the average for MLP infrastructure companies, as represented by AMLP. PAA forms ~7% of the Alerian MLP ETF (AMLP). Distribution yields for MLPs that are less sensitive to commodity prices, such as PAA, tend to be lower than MLPs that are more sensitive to commodity price volatility. This is because investors expect higher risks to be compensated by higher yields. PAA s distribution coverage ratio is also greater than 1. This explains its lower yields compared to other MLPs represented by AMLP.

6 Yield close to five-year average Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. s (PAA) forward distribution yield is at its historical five-year average distribution yield level. PAA s yields, which were higher compared to the Alerian MLP Index (AMZ) until the first half of 2012, declined during Since then, the stock has been trading at a lower yield compared to AMZ. There are several possible reasons for the run-up of PAA s stock price during that period. They include a higher expected distribution growth, a stock split, the BP Canada Energy Company acquisition, and the expected IPO (initial public offering) of Plains GP Holdings (PAGP). Yields decrease as the price increases. Impact of oil prices The above graph compares PAA s historical distribution yields to its five-year average. It also shows the ten-year Treasury and AMZ yields. It should be noted that PAA s yield has increased to the current level after more than two years. The yield was mostly below 6% over the last two years. As you can see in the graph, PAA s yield is roughly tracking AMZ s yield, which also rose over the last few months. The recent rise in yields of energy sector MLPs can be partially attributed to the global petroleum supply imbalance, which has resulted in lower energy prices. It s believed that if energy prices remain low, companies might have to scale back production. This might lead to less business for midstream companies like PAA. Rising interest rates also have an impact on MLP yields. Higher rates make it more difficult to get debt financing for MLPs, since investors get higher returns on risk-free securities. It also results in higher interest expense for MLPs. In the case of rising rates, MLPs may increase distributions to prevent yields from rising over the long term.

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