SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2017
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Commission file number 1-14569
PLAINS ALL AMERICAN PIPELINE, L.P.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
333 Clay Street, Suite 1600, Houston, Texas
(Address of principal executive offices)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (713) 646-4100
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of Each Class
Name of Each Exchange on Which Registered
New York Stock Exchange
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes x No o
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes o No x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes x No o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). Yes x No o
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):
Large accelerated filer x
Accelerated filer o
Non-accelerated filer o
Smaller reporting company o
(Do not check if a smaller reporting company)
Emerging growth company o
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes o No x
The aggregate market value of the Common Units held by non-affiliates of the registrant (treating all executive officers and directors of the registrant and holders of 10% or more of the Common Units outstanding, for this purpose, as if they may be affiliates of the registrant) was approximately $11.3 billion on June 30, 2017, based on a closing price of $26.27 per Common Unit as reported on the New York Stock Exchange on such date. As of February 12, 2018, there were 725,206,904 Common Units outstanding.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant’s definitive Proxy Statement to be filed pursuant to Regulation 14A pertaining to the 2018 Annual Meeting of Common Unitholders are incorporated by reference into Part III hereof. The registrant intends to file such Proxy Statement no later than 120 days after the end of the fiscal year covered by this Form 10-K.
PLAINS ALL AMERICAN PIPELINE, L.P. AND SUBSIDIARIES
FORM 10-K—2017 ANNUAL REPORT
Table of Contents
All statements included in this report, other than statements of historical fact, are forward-looking statements, including but not limited to statements incorporating the words “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “expect,” “plan,” “intend” and “forecast,” as well as similar expressions and statements regarding our business strategy, plans and objectives for future operations. The absence of such words, expressions or statements, however, does not mean that the statements are not forward-looking. Any such forward-looking statements reflect our current views with respect to future events, based on what we believe to be reasonable assumptions. Certain factors could cause actual results or outcomes to differ materially from the results or outcomes anticipated in the forward-looking statements. The most important of these factors include, but are not limited to:
declines in the actual or expected volume of crude oil and NGL shipped, processed, purchased, stored, fractionated and/or gathered at or through the use of our assets, whether due to declines in production from existing oil and gas reserves, reduced demand, failure to develop or slowdown in the development of additional oil and gas reserves, whether from reduced cash flow to fund drilling or the inability to access capital, or other factors;
the effects of competition;
market distortions caused by over-commitments to infrastructure projects, which impacts volumes, margins, returns and overall earnings;
unanticipated changes in crude oil and NGL market structure, grade differentials and volatility (or lack thereof);
maintenance of our credit rating and ability to receive open credit from our suppliers and trade counterparties;
environmental liabilities or events that are not covered by an indemnity, insurance or existing reserves;
fluctuations in refinery capacity in areas supplied by our mainlines and other factors affecting demand for various grades of crude oil and natural gas and resulting changes in pricing conditions or transportation throughput requirements;
the occurrence of a natural disaster, catastrophe, terrorist attack (including eco-terrorist attacks) or other event, including attacks on our electronic and computer systems;
failure to implement or capitalize, or delays in implementing or capitalizing, on expansion projects, whether due to permitting delays, permitting withdrawals or other factors;
tightened capital markets or other factors that increase our cost of capital or limit our ability to obtain debt or equity financing on satisfactory terms to fund additional acquisitions, expansion projects, working capital requirements and the repayment or refinancing of indebtedness;
the successful integration and future performance of acquired assets or businesses and the risks associated with operating in lines of business that are distinct and separate from our historical operations;
the failure to consummate, or significant delay in consummating, sales of assets or interests as a part of our strategic divestiture program;
the impact of current and future laws, rulings, governmental regulations, accounting standards and statements, and related interpretations;
the currency exchange rate of the Canadian dollar;
continued creditworthiness of, and performance by, our counterparties, including financial institutions and trading companies with which we do business;
inability to recognize current revenue attributable to deficiency payments received from customers who fail to ship or move more than minimum contracted volumes until the related credits expire or are used;
non-utilization of our assets and facilities;
increased costs, or lack of availability, of insurance;
weather interference with business operations or project construction, including the impact of extreme weather events or conditions;
the availability of, and our ability to consummate, acquisition or combination opportunities;
the effectiveness of our risk management activities;
shortages or cost increases of supplies, materials or labor;
fluctuations in the debt and equity markets, including the price of our units at the time of vesting under our long-term incentive plans;
risks related to the development and operation of our assets, including our ability to satisfy our contractual obligations to our customers;
factors affecting demand for natural gas and natural gas storage services and rates;
general economic, market or business conditions and the amplification of other risks caused by volatile financial markets, capital constraints and pervasive liquidity concerns; and
other factors and uncertainties inherent in the transportation, storage, terminalling and marketing of crude oil, as well as in the storage of natural gas and the processing, transportation, fractionation, storage and marketing of natural gas liquids.
Other factors described herein, as well as factors that are unknown or unpredictable, could also have a material adverse effect on future results. Please read Item 1A. “Risk Factors.” Except as required by applicable securities laws, we do not intend to update these forward-looking statements and information.
Items 1 and 2. Business and Properties
Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. is a Delaware limited partnership formed in 1998. Our operations are conducted directly and indirectly through our primary operating subsidiaries. As used in this Form 10-K and unless the context indicates otherwise, the terms “Partnership,” “Plains,” “PAA,” “we,” “us,” “our,” “ours” and similar terms refer to Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. and its subsidiaries.
We own and operate midstream energy infrastructure and provide logistics services primarily for crude oil, natural gas liquids (“NGL”) and natural gas. We own an extensive network of pipeline transportation, terminalling, storage, and gathering assets in key crude oil and NGL producing basins and transportation corridors and at major market hubs in the United States and Canada. Our business activities are conducted through three operating segments: Transportation, Facilities and Supply and Logistics.
We were formed as a master limited partnership to acquire and operate the midstream crude oil businesses and assets of a predecessor entity and completed our initial public offering in 1998. From an economic perspective, we are owned 100% by our limited partners, which include common unitholders and Series A and Series B preferred unitholders. Our common units are publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “PAA”. Our Series A preferred units are convertible into common units on a one-for-one basis by the holders of such units or by us in certain circumstances. Our common units and Series A preferred units are collectively referred to as “Common Unit Equivalents.” Our Series B preferred units are not convertible into common units and are not included in Common Unit Equivalents.
Our non-economic general partner interest is held by PAA GP LLC (“PAA GP”), a Delaware limited liability company, whose sole member is Plains AAP, L.P. (“AAP”), a Delaware limited partnership. In addition to its ownership of PAA GP, as of December 31, 2017, AAP also owned a limited partner interest in us through its ownership of approximately 284.0 million of our common units (approximately 36% of our total outstanding Common Unit Equivalents).
Plains All American GP LLC (“GP LLC”), a Delaware limited liability company, is AAP’s general partner. Plains GP Holdings, L.P. (“PAGP”), a Delaware limited partnership that completed its initial public offering in October 2013, is the sole and managing member of GP LLC, and, at December 31, 2017, owned, directly and indirectly, an approximate 55% limited partner interest in AAP. Both PAGP and GP LLC have elected to be treated as corporations for United States federal income tax purposes. PAA GP Holdings LLC (“PAGP GP”), a Delaware limited liability company, is the general partner of PAGP.
References to the “PAGP Entities” include PAGP GP, PAGP, GP LLC, AAP and PAA GP. References to our “general partner,” as the context requires, include any or all of the PAGP Entities. References to the “Plains Entities” include us, our subsidiaries and the PAGP Entities.
Partnership Structure and Management
Our operations are conducted directly and indirectly through, and our operating assets are owned by, our subsidiaries. As the sole member of GP LLC, PAGP has responsibility for conducting our business and managing our operations; however, the board of directors of PAGP GP (the “PAGP GP Board”) has ultimate responsibility for managing the business and affairs of PAGP, AAP and us. Our general partner does not receive a management fee or other compensation in connection with its management of our business, but it is reimbursed for substantially all direct and indirect expenses incurred on our behalf.
The two diagrams below show our organizational structure and ownership as of December 31, 2017 in both a summarized and more detailed format. The first diagram depicts our legal structure in summary format, while the second diagram depicts a more comprehensive view of such structure, including ownership and economic interests and shares and units outstanding:
Summarized Partnership Structure
(as of December 31, 2017)
PAGP will hold annual meetings for the election of eligible PAGP GP directors beginning in May 2018. Through a “pass-through” voting right as a result of our ownership of Class C shares of PAGP, our common unitholders have the effective right to vote, pro rata with the holders of Class A and Class B shares of PAGP, for the election of eligible PAGP GP directors.
Represents percentage ownership of Common Unit Equivalents.
Detailed Partnership Structure
(as of December 31, 2017)
Represents the number of Class A units of AAP (“AAP units”) for which the outstanding Class B units of AAP (referred to herein as the “AAP Management Units”) will be exchangeable, assuming the conversion of all such units at a rate of approximately 0.941 AAP units for each AAP Management Unit.
Assumes conversion of all outstanding AAP Management Units into AAP units.
Each Class C share represents a non-economic limited partner interest in PAGP. Through a “pass-through” voting right as a result of our ownership of Class C shares of PAGP, our common unitholders have the effective right to vote, pro rata with the holders of Class A and Class B shares of PAGP, for the election of eligible PAGP GP directors.
Amount does not include 792,074 common units that will become issuable to AAP that relate to AAP Management Units that are outstanding but not earned. See Note 16 to our Consolidated Financial Statements for additional discussion of the AAP Management Units.
Represents percentage ownership of Common Unit Equivalents. Series B preferred units are not convertible into common units and are not included in Common Unit Equivalents.
The Partnership holds direct and indirect ownership interests in consolidated operating subsidiaries including, but not limited to, Plains Marketing, L.P., Plains Pipeline, L.P. and Plains Midstream Canada ULC (“PMC”).
The Partnership holds indirect equity interests in unconsolidated entities including Advantage Pipeline, L.L.C. (“Advantage”), BridgeTex Pipeline Company, LLC (“BridgeTex”), Caddo Pipeline LLC (“Caddo”), Cheyenne Pipeline LLC (“Cheyenne”), Diamond Pipeline LLC (“Diamond”), Eagle Ford Pipeline LLC (“Eagle Ford Pipeline”), Eagle Ford Terminals Corpus Christi LLC (“Eagle Ford Terminals”), Midway Pipeline LLC (“Midway Pipeline”), Saddlehorn Pipeline Company, LLC (“Saddlehorn”), Settoon Towing, LLC (“Settoon Towing”), STACK Pipeline LLC (“STACK”) and White Cliffs Pipeline, L.L.C. (“White Cliffs”).
Our principal business strategy is to provide competitive and efficient midstream transportation, terminalling, storage, processing, fractionation and supply and logistics services to producers, refiners and other customers. Toward this end, we endeavor to address regional supply and demand imbalances for crude oil and NGL in the United States and Canada by combining the strategic location and capabilities of our transportation, terminalling, storage, processing and fractionation assets with our supply, logistics and distribution expertise. We believe successful execution of this strategy will enable us to generate sustainable earnings and cash flow. We intend to manage and grow our business by:
developing and implementing growth projects that (i) address evolving crude oil and NGL needs in the midstream transportation and infrastructure sector and (ii) are well positioned to benefit from long-term industry trends and opportunities;
using our transportation, terminalling, storage, processing and fractionation assets in conjunction with our supply and logistics activities to provide flexibility for our customers, capture market opportunities, address physical market imbalances, mitigate inherent risks and increase margin;
running a safe, reliable, environmentally and socially responsible operation, which includes driving operational excellence, cost savings, asset optimization and improved efficiencies throughout the organization; and
selectively pursuing strategic and accretive acquisitions that complement our existing asset base and distribution capabilities.
We believe that the following competitive strengths position us to successfully execute our principal business strategy:
Many of our assets are strategically located and operationally flexible. The majority of our primary Transportation segment assets are in crude oil service, are located in well-established crude oil producing regions (with our largest asset presence in the Permian Basin) and other transportation corridors and are connected, directly or indirectly, with our Facilities segment assets. The majority of our Facilities segment assets are located at major trading locations and premium markets that serve as gateways to major North American refinery and distribution markets where we have strong business relationships. In addition, our assets include pipeline, rail, barge, truck and storage assets, which provide our customers and us with significant flexibility and optionality to satisfy demand and balance markets, particularly during a dynamic period of changing product flows and recent developments with respect to rising crude oil exports.
We possess specialized crude oil and NGL market knowledge. We believe our business relationships with participants in various phases of the crude oil and NGL distribution chain, from producers to refiners, as well as our own industry expertise (including our knowledge of North American crude oil and NGL flows), provide us with an extensive understanding of the North American physical crude oil and NGL markets.
Our supply and logistics activities typically generate a positive margin with the opportunity to realize incremental margins. We believe the variety of activities executed within our Supply and Logistics segment in combination with our risk management strategies provides us with a low-risk opportunity to generate incremental margin, the amount of which may vary depending on market conditions (such as commodity price levels, differentials and certain competitive factors).
We have the evaluation, integration and engineering skill sets and the financial flexibility to continue to pursue acquisition and expansion opportunities. Since 1998, we have completed and integrated over 90 acquisitions with an aggregate purchase price of approximately $13.2 billion. Since 1998, we have also implemented expansion capital projects totaling approximately $12.6 billion. In addition, considering our investment grade credit rating, liquidity and capital structure, we believe we have the financial resources and strength necessary to finance future strategic expansion and acquisition opportunities. As of December 31, 2017, we had approximately $3.0 billion of liquidity available, including cash and cash equivalents and availability under our committed credit facilities, subject to continued covenant compliance.
We have an experienced management team whose interests are aligned with those of our unitholders. Our executive management team has an average of 32 years of industry experience, and an average of 17 years with us or our predecessors and affiliates. In addition, through their ownership of common units, grants of phantom units and interests in our general partner, including interests in PAGP, AAP units and AAP Management Units, our management team has a vested interest in our continued success.
Targeted Credit Profile
We believe that a major factor in our continued success is our ability to maintain a competitive cost of capital and access to the capital markets. In that regard, we intend to maintain a credit profile that we believe is consistent with investment grade credit ratings. We target a credit profile with the following attributes:
an average long-term debt-to-total capitalization ratio of approximately 50% or less;
a long-term debt-to-adjusted EBITDA multiple averaging between 3.5x and 4.0x (adjusted EBITDA is earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization and further adjusted for selected items that impact comparability. See Item 7. “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Results of Operations—Non-GAAP Financial Measures” for a discussion of our selected items that impact comparability and our non-GAAP measures.);
an average total debt-to-total capitalization ratio of approximately 60% or less; and
an average adjusted EBITDA-to-interest coverage multiple of approximately 3.3x or better.
The first two of these four metrics include long-term debt as a critical measure. We also incur short-term debt in connection with our supply and logistics activities that involve the simultaneous purchase and forward sale of crude oil and NGL. The crude oil and NGL purchased in these transactions are hedged. We do not consider the working capital borrowings associated with these activities to be part of our long-term capital structure. These borrowings are self-liquidating as they are repaid with sales proceeds. As part of our Leverage Reduction Plan (as discussed further below), we have reduced our levels of hedged inventory related borrowings. We also incur short-term debt to fund New York Mercantile Exchange (“NYMEX”) and Intercontinental Exchange (“ICE”) margin requirements. In certain market conditions, these routine short-term debt levels may increase significantly above baseline levels. For example, our short-term debt levels at December 31, 2017 and 2016 included borrowings for $212 million and $410 million, respectively, of margin requirements, which were significantly elevated from historical levels primarily due to the increase in crude oil prices at the end of each year.
Typically, to maintain our targeted credit profile and achieve growth through acquisitions and expansion capital, we fund approximately 55% of the capital requirements associated with these activities with equity and cash flow in excess of distributions. From time to time, we may be outside the parameters of our targeted credit profile as, in certain cases, capital expenditures and acquisitions may be financed initially using debt or there may be delays in realizing anticipated synergies from acquisitions or contributions from expansion capital projects to adjusted EBITDA. As a result of a challenging environment and the impact of the gap in the timing between funding our capital program and the time the assets are placed in service and begin to generate cash flow, we expect our long-term debt-to-adjusted EBITDA to be above our target range for the near-term. We expect this leverage ratio will improve and return to our targeted levels as we execute our Leverage Reduction Plan (discussed further below), and as the industry recovers and we realize EBITDA growth from our capital investments.
Leverage Reduction Plan
On August 25, 2017, we announced that we were implementing an action plan to strengthen our balance sheet, reduce leverage, enhance our distribution coverage, minimize new issuances of common equity and position the Partnership for future distribution growth. See Item 7. “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Executive Summary” for a summary of this action plan and the status of our efforts to implement such plan.
The acquisition of midstream assets and businesses that are strategic and complementary to our existing operations constitutes an integral component of our business strategy and growth objectives. Such assets and businesses include crude oil and NGL logistics assets as well as other energy assets that have characteristics and provide opportunities similar to our existing business lines and enable us to leverage our assets, knowledge and skill sets.
The following table summarizes acquisitions greater than $200 million that we have completed over the past five years.
Approximate Purchase Price (2)
Alpha Crude Connector Gathering System
Recently constructed gathering system located in the Northern Delaware Basin
Spectra Energy Partners Western Canada NGL Assets
Integrated system of NGL assets located in Western Canada
50% Interest in BridgeTex Pipeline Company, LLC (“BridgeTex”)
BridgeTex owns a crude oil pipeline that extends from Colorado City, Texas to East Houston
Excludes our acquisition of all of the outstanding publicly-traded common units of PAA Natural Gas Storage, L.P. (“PNG”) on December 31, 2013 (referred to herein as the “PNG Merger”), as we historically consolidated PNG into our financial statements for financial reporting purposes in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the United States (“GAAP”). As consideration for the PNG Merger, we issued approximately 14.7 million PAA common units with a value of approximately $760 million.
As applicable, the approximate purchase price includes total cash paid and debt assumed, including amounts for working capital and inventory.
Approximate purchase price of $180 million, net of cash, inventory and other working capital acquired.
Approximate purchase price of $1.075 billion, net of working capital acquired. We account for our 50% interest in BridgeTex under the equity method of accounting.
During 2016, we initiated a program to evaluate potential sales of non-core assets and/or sales of partial interests in assets to strategic joint venture partners to optimize our asset portfolio and strengthen our balance sheet and leverage metrics. Through December 31, 2017, we have completed asset sales totaling approximately $1.7 billion, of which approximately $0.6 billion closed in 2016 (net of amounts paid for the remaining interest in a pipeline that was subsequently sold) and approximately $1.1 billion closed in 2017. See Note 6 to our Consolidated Financial Statements for additional discussion of our dispositions and divestitures.
Ongoing Acquisition, Divestiture and Investment Activities
Consistent with our business strategy, we are continuously engaged in the evaluation of potential acquisitions, joint ventures and capital projects. As a part of these efforts, we often engage in discussions with potential sellers or other parties regarding the possible purchase of or investment in assets and operations that are strategic and complementary to our existing operations. In addition, we have in the past evaluated and pursued, and intend in the future to evaluate and pursue, the acquisition of or investment in other energy-related assets that have characteristics and opportunities similar to our existing business lines and enable us to leverage our assets, knowledge and skill sets. Such efforts may involve participation by us in processes that have been made public and involve a number of potential buyers or investors, commonly referred to as “auction” processes, as well as situations in which we believe we are the only party or one of a limited number of parties who are in negotiations with the potential seller or other party. These acquisition and investment efforts often involve assets which, if acquired or constructed, could have a material effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
From time to time, we may also (i) sell assets that we regard as non-core or that we believe might be a better fit with the business or assets of a third-party buyer or (ii) sell partial interests in assets to strategic joint venture partners, in each case to optimize our asset portfolio and strengthen our balance sheet and leverage metrics. With respect to a potential divestiture, we may also conduct an auction process or may negotiate a transaction with one or a limited number of potential buyers.
We typically do not announce a transaction until after we have executed a definitive agreement. However, in certain cases in order to protect our business interests or for other reasons, we may defer public announcement of a transaction until closing or a later date. Past experience has demonstrated that discussions and negotiations regarding a potential transaction can advance or terminate in a short period of time. Moreover, the closing of any transaction for which we have entered into a definitive agreement may be subject to customary and other closing conditions, which may not ultimately be satisfied or waived. Accordingly, we can give no assurance that our current or future acquisition or investment efforts will be successful, or that our strategic asset divestitures will be completed. Although we expect the acquisitions and investments we make to be accretive in the long term, we can provide no assurance that our expectations will ultimately be realized. See Item 1A. “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business—If we make acquisitions that fail to perform as anticipated, our future growth may be limited” and “—Acquisitions and divestitures involve risks that may adversely affect our business.”
Expansion Capital Projects
Our extensive asset base and our relationships with customers provide us with opportunities for organic growth through the construction of additional assets that are complementary to, and expand or extend, our existing asset base. Our 2018 expansion capital plan is representative of the diversity and balance of our overall project portfolio. The following expansion capital projects are included in our 2018 capital plan as of February 2018:
($ in millions)
Permian Basin Takeaway Pipeline Projects
Primarily includes (i) the Cactus II pipeline system project and (ii) the extension/looping of the Sunrise pipeline system
Q1 2019 - Q3 2019
Complementary Permian Basin Projects
Multiple projects to support the Permian Basin takeaway pipeline projects, including additional terminalling and storage facilities and intra-basin and gathering pipelines
Q1 2018 - Q4 2019
Includes projects at St. James, Fort Saskatchewan and other terminals
Q2 2018 - Q4 2018
Q1 2018 - 2019+
Total Projected Expansion Capital Expenditures
Represents the portion of the total project cost expected to be incurred during the year. Potential variation to current capital costs estimates may result from (i) changes to project design, (ii) final cost of materials and labor and (iii) timing of incurrence of costs due to uncontrollable factors such as receipt of permits or regulatory approvals and weather. Amounts reflect our expectation that certain projects will be owned in a joint venture structure with a proportionate share of the project cost dispersed among the partners.
Global Petroleum Market Overview
The health of the global petroleum market is dependent on the relative supply and demand of hydrocarbons, including crude oil and NGL. These supply and demand economics are greatly influenced by the broader global economic climate, exposing the petroleum market to the challenges and volatility associated with global economic development. For the period from 2004 through 2013, global liquids production increased 7.8 million barrels per day while global liquids consumption increased 9.2 million barrels per day. For the period from 2013 through 2016, global production growth outpaced global consumption growth by 1.2 million barrels per day resulting in a cumulative imbalance of 1.0 million barrels per day. In 2017, the global supply/demand gap tightened as global liquids consumption increased 1.4 million barrels per day, the third consecutive year of above trend demand growth. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (“OPEC”) supply growth was limited as a result of the November 2016 OPEC production agreement that aimed to limit OPEC crude oil output to 32.5 million barrels per day. The table below depicts historical OPEC and non-OPEC liquids production and global liquids consumption and is derived from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (“EIA”) Short-Term Energy Outlook, January 2018 (see EIA website at www.eia.doe.gov):
Annual Liquids Production / Consumption
(in millions of barrels per day) (1)
Total Consumption (Demand)
Global Supply / Demand Balance
Amounts may not recalculate due to rounding.
In November 2017, OPEC indicated a desire to continue managing crude oil production levels. Joined by certain non-OPEC countries such as Russia and Mexico, OPEC and non-OPEC producers agreed to manage market stability for the remainder of 2018. To the extent the production cut is executed, accumulated inventories should decline further, prices should remain firm and potentially rise, ultimately leading to increased activity levels.
Crude Oil Market Overview
The definition of a commodity is a “mass-produced unspecialized product” and implies the attribute of fungibility. Crude oil is typically referred to as a commodity; however, it is neither unspecialized nor fungible. The crude slate available to U.S. and world-wide refineries consists of a substantial number of different grades and varieties of crude oil. Each crude oil grade has distinguishing physical properties. For example, specific gravity (generally referred to as light or heavy), sulfur content (generally referred to as sweet or sour) and metals content, along with other characteristics, collectively result in varying economic attributes. In many cases, these factors result in the need for such grades to be batched or segregated in the transportation and storage processes, blended to precise specifications or adjusted in value.
The lack of fungibility of the various grades of crude oil creates logistical transportation, terminalling and storage challenges and inefficiencies associated with regional volumetric supply and demand imbalances. These logistical inefficiencies are created as certain qualities of crude oil are indigenous to particular regions or countries. Also, each refinery has a distinct configuration of process units designed to handle particular grades of crude oil. The relative yields and the cost to obtain, transport and process the crude oil drive the refinery’s choice of feedstock. In addition, from time to time, natural disasters and geopolitical factors such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, inclement weather, labor strikes, refinery disruptions, embargoes and armed conflicts may impact supply, demand, transportation and storage logistics.
Our assets and our business strategy are designed to serve our producer and refiner customers by addressing regional crude oil supply and demand imbalances that exist in the United States and Canada. The nature and extent of these imbalances change from time to time as a result of a variety of factors, including regional production declines and/or increases; refinery expansions, modifications and shut-downs; available transportation and storage capacity; and government mandates and related regulatory factors.
From 2011 through 2015, the combination of (i) a significant increase in North American production volumes, (ii) a change in crude oil qualities and related differentials and (iii) high utilization of existing pipeline and terminal infrastructure stimulated multiple industry initiatives to build new pipeline and terminal infrastructure, convert certain pipeline assets to alternative service or reverse flows and expand the use of trucks, rail and barges for the movement of crude oil and condensate. Increased production came from mature producing areas such as the Rockies, the Permian Basin in West Texas and the Mid-Continent region, as well as from less mature, but rapidly growing areas such as the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas and the Williston Basin in North Dakota. As a result, North American crude oil production increased 5.6 million barrels per day, or 33% between 2011 and 2015, with the increases coming primarily from Canada, the Eagle Ford Shale, the Permian Basin and the Williston Basin. Production increases in all of these regions strained existing transportation, terminalling and downstream infrastructure. The resulting opportunity for new crude oil infrastructure attracted significant investment in midstream oil assets, resulting in excess midstream capacity in the Permian, Eagle Ford, Williston, Midcontinent and Denver Julesburg basins. However, the combination during such period of surging North American liquids production, relatively flat liquids production for the rest of the world and relatively modest growth in global liquids demand led to a supply imbalance, which in turn led to a significant and rapid reduction in petroleum prices. The meaningful decrease in crude oil price levels during the second half of 2014 and throughout 2015 relative to the levels experienced during 2013 and the first half of 2014 led many producers, including North American producers, to significantly scale back capital programs. As a result, during 2015, 2016 and part of 2017, the rate of growth of North American crude oil production slowed and production levels began to decrease in some areas. The combination of a slowdown in the rate of North American crude oil production growth and significant commitments for new infrastructure created an environment in which margins have compressed and differentials have tightened, reaching levels that are less than transportation cost in some cases. As the rate of production growth increases and pipeline utilizations increase, differentials should increase. The improvement is expected to occur on a regional basis based on the speed and extent of reductions in excess transportation capacity.
In addition, significant shifts in the type and location of crude oil being produced in North America, relative to the types and location of crude oil being produced five years ago, have led to changes in the utilization of downstream infrastructure. From 2009 through 2015, refiners increased throughputs to take advantage of discounted domestic production, which led to lower use of imported crude oil by U.S. refineries. This decline in imports was a meaningful change in a multi-year trend whereby foreign imports of crude oil tripled over an approximately 23-year period from 1985 to 2007. In 2017, U.S. refinery inputs reached historically high levels fueled by price-driven demand growth and exports. U.S. petroleum consumption increased to 19.8 million barrels per day for the twelve-month period ended December 2017. The table below shows the overall domestic petroleum consumption projected through 2019 and is derived from the EIA Short-Term Energy Outlook, January 2018 (see EIA website at www.eia.doe.gov):
(in millions of barrels per day)
Domestic Crude Oil Production
Net Imports - Crude Oil
Other (Supply Adjustment / Stock Change)
Crude Oil Input to Domestic Refineries
Net Product Imports / (Exports)
Supply from Renewable Sources
Other (NGL Production, Refinery Processing Gain)
Total Domestic Petroleum Consumption
Amounts may not recalculate due to rounding.
U.S. Crude Oil Exports
The number of countries receiving exported U.S. crude oil has risen since the removal of restrictions on exporting U.S. crude oil in December 2015. U.S. crude oil exports have occurred despite uneconomic price spreads between international and domestic crude oil grades as global counterparties began to expand their sourcing options. U.S. crude oil exports averaged 1.0 million barrels per day in the first ten months of 2017, 0.45 (76%) million barrels per day more than the full-year 2016 and 0.58 (126%) million barrels per day more than full-year 2015. Continued increases in U.S. crude oil exports will likely depend on increases in U.S. crude oil production and wider price differences between domestic and international crude oil. The table below depicts historical U.S. crude oil exports and is derived from the EIA Monthly Energy Review, January 2018 (see EIA website at www.eia.doe.gov):
Annual U.S. Exports of Crude Oil
(in millions of barrels per day) (2)
Total U.S. Crude Oil Exports
Data reflects the first ten months of 2017.
Amounts may not recalculate due to rounding.
NGL Market Overview
NGL primarily includes ethane, propane, normal butane, iso-butane and natural gasoline, and is derived from natural gas production and processing activities, as well as crude oil refining processes. Liquefied petroleum gas (“LPG”) primarily includes propane and butane, which liquefy at moderate pressures thus making it easier to transport and store such products as compared to ethane. NGL refers to all NGL products including LPG when used in this Form 10-K.
NGL Demand. Individual NGL products have varying uses. Described below are the five basic NGL components and their typical uses:
Ethane. Ethane accounts for the largest portion of the NGL barrel and substantially all of the extracted ethane is used as feedstock in the production of ethylene, one of the basic building blocks for a wide range of plastics and other chemical products. When ethane recovery from a wet natural gas stream is uneconomic, ethane is left in the natural gas stream, subject to pipeline specifications.
Propane. Propane is used as heating fuel, engine fuel and industrial fuel, for agricultural burning and drying and also as petrochemical feedstock for the production of ethylene and propylene.
Normal butane. Normal butane is principally used for motor gasoline blending and as fuel gas, either alone or in a mixture with propane, and feedstock for the manufacture of ethylene and butadiene, a key ingredient of synthetic rubber. Normal butane is also used as a feedstock for iso-butane production and as a diluent in the transportation of heavy crude oil and bitumen, particularly in Canada.
Iso-butane. Iso-butane is principally used by refiners to produce alkylates to enhance the octane content of motor gasoline.
Natural Gasoline. Natural gasoline is principally used as a motor gasoline blend stock, a petrochemical feedstock, or as diluent in the transportation of heavy crude oil and bitumen, particularly in Canada.
NGL Supply. The bulk (approximately 88%) of the United States NGL supply comes from gas processing plants, which separate a mixture of NGL from the dry gas (primarily methane). This NGL mix (also referred to as “Y Grade”) is then either fractionated at the processing site into the five individual NGL components (known as purity products), which may be transported, stored and sold to end use markets, or transported as a Y-Grade to a regional fractionation facility.
The majority of gas processing plants in the United States are located along the Gulf Coast, in the West Texas/Oklahoma area, the Marcellus and Utica region and in the Rockies region. In Canada, the vast majority of the processing capacity is located in Alberta, with a much smaller (but increasing) amount in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.
NGL products from refineries represent approximately 8% of the United States supply and are by-products of the refinery conversion processes. Consequently, they have generally already been separated into individual components and do not require further fractionation. NGL products from refineries are principally propane, with lesser amounts of butane, refinery naphthas (products similar to natural gasoline) and ethane. Due to refinery maintenance schedules and seasonal demand considerations, refinery production of propane and butane varies on a seasonal basis.
NGL is also imported into certain regions of the United States from Canada and other parts of the world (approximately 4% of total supply). NGL (primarily propane and butane) is also exported from certain regions of the United States.
NGL Transportation and Trading Hubs. NGL, whether as a mixture or as purity products, is transported by pipelines, barges, railcars and tank trucks. The method of transportation used depends on, among other things, the resources of the transporter, the locations of production points and delivery points, cost-efficiency and the quantity of product being transported. Pipelines are generally the most cost-efficient mode of transportation when large, consistent volumes of product are to be delivered.
The major NGL infrastructure and trading hubs in North America are located at Mont Belvieu, Texas; Conway, Kansas; Edmonton, Alberta; and Sarnia, Ontario. Each of these hubs contains a critical mass of infrastructure, including fractionators, storage, pipelines and access to end markets, particularly Mont Belvieu.
NGL Storage. NGL must be stored under pressure to maintain a liquid state. The lighter the product (e.g., ethane), the greater the pressure that must be maintained. Large volumes of NGL are stored in underground caverns constructed in salt or granite; however, product is also stored in above ground tanks. Natural gasoline can be stored at relatively low pressures in tankage similar to that used to store motor gasoline. Propane and butane are stored at much higher pressures in steel spheres, cylinders, bullets, salt caverns or other configurations. Ethane is stored at very high pressures, typically in salt caverns. Storage is especially important for NGL as supply and demand can vary materially on a seasonal basis.
NGL Market Outlook. The growth of shale based production in both traditional and new producing areas has resulted in a significant increase in NGL supplies from gas processing plants over the past several years. This has driven extensive expansion and new development of midstream infrastructure in Canada, the Bakken, Marcellus/Utica, and throughout Texas.
The growth of production in non-traditional producing regions has shifted regional basis relationships and created new logistics and infrastructure opportunities. Growing NGL production has meant expansion into new markets, through exports or increased petrochemical demand. The continuation of a relatively low ratio of North American gas and NGL prices to world-wide crude oil prices will mean North American NGL can continue to be competitive on a world scale, either as feedstock for North American based manufacturing or export to overseas markets. In addition to substantially increased exports, a portion of the increased supply of NGL will be absorbed by the domestic petrochemical sector as low-cost feed stocks, as the North American petrochemical industry has enjoyed a supply cost advantage on a world scale.
While a low price environment may stunt production growth, we believe the fundamentals of an accessible resource base and improved midstream infrastructure should mean producers can continue to develop the most economic new supply and be ready to go back to rapid growth as prices recover. The NGL market is, among other things, expected to be driven by:
the absolute prices of NGL products and their prices relative to natural gas and crude oil;
drilling activity and wet natural gas production in developing liquids-rich production areas;
available processing, fractionation, storage and transportation capacity;
petro-chemical demand driven by the build-out or new builds of Ethylene Cracker capacity (ethane demand) and Propane Dehydrogenation facilities (propane demand);
increased export capacity for both ethane and propane;
diluent requirements for heavy Canadian oil;
regulatory changes in gasoline specifications affecting demand for butane;
seasonal demand from refiners;
seasonal weather related demand; and
inefficiencies caused by regional supply and demand imbalances.
As a result of these and other factors, the NGL market is complex and volatile, which, along with expected market growth, creates opportunities to solve the logistical inefficiencies inherent in the business.
Natural Gas Storage Market Overview
North American natural gas storage facilities provide a staging and warehousing function for seasonal swings in demand relative to supply, as well as an essential reliability cushion against disruptions in natural gas supply, demand and transportation by allowing natural gas to be injected into, withdrawn from or warehoused in such storage facilities as dictated by market conditions. Natural gas storage serves as the “shock absorber” that balances the market, serving as a source of supply to meet the consumption demands in excess of daily production capacity during high-demand periods and a warehouse for gas production in excess of daily demand during low-demand periods.
Overall market conditions for natural gas storage have been challenging during the last several years, driven by a variety of factors, including (i) increased natural gas supplies due to production from shale resources, (ii) a shift from Gulf of Mexico production to Northeast production causing less concern over supply disruptions from tropical weather and (iii) lower basis differentials in certain regions due to expansion and improved connectivity of natural gas transportation infrastructure.
Longer term, we believe several factors will contribute to meaningful growth in North American natural gas demand that will bolster the market need for and the commercial value of natural gas storage. These fundamental factors include (i) exports of North American volumes of LNG, (ii) increased exports of natural gas to Mexico, (iii) construction of new gas-fired power plants, (iv) sustained fuel switching from coal to natural gas among existing power plants and (v) growth in base-level industrial demand.
Description of Segments and Associated Assets
Our business activities are conducted through three segments—Transportation, Facilities and Supply and Logistics. We have an extensive network of pipeline transportation, terminalling, storage and gathering assets in key crude oil and NGL producing basins and transportation corridors and at major market hubs in the United States and Canada. The map and descriptions below highlight our more significant assets (including certain assets under construction or development) as of December 31, 2017. Unless the context requires otherwise, references herein to our “facilities” includes all of the pipelines, terminals, storage and other assets owned by us.
Following is a description of the activities and assets for each of our three business segments.
Our Transportation segment operations generally consist of fee-based activities associated with transporting crude oil and NGL on pipelines, gathering systems, trucks and barges. We generate revenue through a combination of tariffs, third-party pipeline capacity agreements and other transportation fees. Our Transportation segment also includes equity earnings from our investments in entities that own the Advantage, BridgeTex, Caddo, Cheyenne, Diamond, Eagle Ford, Midway, Saddlehorn, STACK and White Cliffs pipeline systems, as well as Settoon Towing. We account for these investments under the equity method of accounting.
As of December 31, 2017, we employed a variety of owned or, to a much lesser extent, leased long-term physical assets throughout the United States and Canada in this segment, including approximately:
18,700 miles of active crude oil and NGL pipelines and gathering systems;
32 million barrels of active, above-ground tank capacity used primarily to facilitate pipeline throughput and help maintain product quality segregation;
810 trailers (primarily in Canada); and
60 transport and storage barges and 30 transport tugs through our interest in Settoon Towing.
The following is a tabular presentation of our active crude oil and NGL pipeline assets in the United States and Canada as of December 31, 2017, grouped by geographic location:
Approximate System Miles (1)
2017 Average Net
Barrels per Day (2)
Crude Oil Pipelines:
Intra-basin pipelines (3)
50% - 100%
Export pipelines (3)
50% - 100%
South Texas/Eagle Ford
50% - 100%
50% - 100%
Gulf Coast (3)
54% - 100%
Rocky Mountain (3)
21% - 100%
Crude Oil Pipelines Total
Canadian NGL Pipelines
21% - 100%
Crude Oil and NGL Pipelines Total
Includes total mileage from pipelines owned by unconsolidated entities.
Represents average daily volumes for the entire year attributable to our interest. Average daily volumes are calculated as the total volumes (attributable to our interest) for the year divided by the number of days in the year. Volumes reflect tariff movements and thus may be included multiple times as volumes move through our integrated system.
Includes pipelines operated by a third party.
A significant portion of our pipeline assets are interconnected and are operated as a contiguous system. The following descriptions are organized by geographic location and represent a selection of our most significant assets. Pipeline capacities throughout these descriptions are based on our reasonable estimate of volumes that can be delivered from origin to final destination on our pipeline systems. We report pipeline volumes based on the tariffs charged for individual movements, some of which may only utilize a portion of a pipeline system (i.e. two short-haul movements on a pipeline from point A to point B and another point B to point C would double the pipeline tariff volumes on a particular system versus a point A to point C movement). As a result, at times, our reported tariff barrel movements may exceed our total capacity.
Crude Oil Pipelines
We are among the largest providers of crude oil midstream infrastructure and services in the Permian Basin located in west Texas and southeastern New Mexico. Our Permian Basin asset base represents an interconnected system that aggregates receipts from wellhead gathering lines and bulk truck injection locations into intra-basin trunk lines for transportation and delivery to a combination of owned and third-party mainline takeaway pipelines. Accordingly, our Permian Basin crude oil pipelines fall into one of three categories: Gathering, Intra-basin or Export.
We own and operate approximately 2,860 miles of gathering pipelines in the Permian Basin. Our gathering systems are in both the Midland Basin and the Delaware Basin and in aggregate represent approximately 2 million barrels per day of pipeline capacity. This gathering capacity includes pipeline capacity that delivers volumes to regional hubs and includes certain large diameter pipeline segments/systems. Approximately 75% of the capacity of our gathering systems is in the Delaware Basin. This total gathering capacity includes over 500,000 barrels per day of incremental capacity gained in 2017 through our acquisition of the Alpha Crude Connector (“ACC”) gathering system and the completion of various expansion projects.
We operate an approximately 2 million barrel per day intra-basin Permian Basin pipeline system that connects gathering and truck injection volumes to our owned and operated as well as third-party mainline pipelines that transport crude oil to major market hubs. This interconnected pipeline system is designed to provide shippers flow assurance, flexibility and access to multiple markets.
Two of our largest intra-basin pipelines are the Mesa and Sunrise Pipelines. The Mesa and Sunrise Pipelines extend from our Midland, Texas terminal to our Colorado City, Texas terminal where they have access to all of the Permian Basin takeaway pipelines that originate at Colorado City.
Mesa Pipeline. We own a 63% undivided interest in and are the operator of Mesa Pipeline, which transports crude oil from Midland, Texas to a refinery at Big Spring, Texas, and to connecting carriers at Colorado City, with capacity of up to 400,000 barrels per day (approximately 252,000 barrels per day attributable to our interest).
Sunrise Pipeline. We own and operate the Sunrise Pipeline, which transports crude oil from Midland to connecting carriers at Colorado City, with capacity of approximately 350,000 barrels per day. We have announced plans to loop the line from Midland to Colorado City (which will add an additional 550,000 barrels per day of capacity to Colorado City), and extend the line from Colorado City to Wichita Falls, Texas. In addition, in 2018 we sold 100,000 barrels per day of this new capacity from Midland to Wichita Falls to a refiner. These projects are underpinned by long-term shipper commitments and are expected to be placed into service in 2019.
We own interests in three export Permian Basin pipeline systems that, on a combined basis, represent approximately 1 million barrels per day of takeaway capacity (net to our ownership interests) out of the Permian Basin.
Basin Pipeline (Permian to Cushing). We own an 87% undivided joint interest in and are the operator of Basin Pipeline. Basin Pipeline has two primary origination locations at Wink, Texas and Midland and, in addition to making intra-basin movements, serves as the primary route for transporting crude oil from the Permian Basin to Cushing, Oklahoma. Basin Pipeline also receives crude oil from a facility in southern Oklahoma which aggregates South Central Oklahoma Oil Province (SCOOP) production.
BridgeTex Pipeline (Permian to Houston). We own a 50% interest in BridgeTex Pipeline Company, LLC, a joint venture with a subsidiary of Magellan Midstream Partners, L.P. (“Magellan”). Such joint venture owns a crude oil pipeline (the “BridgeTex Pipeline”) that originates at Colorado City, receiving volumes from our Basin and Sunrise Pipelines, and extends to Houston, Texas. In 2017, the joint venture expanded BridgeTex Pipeline by 100,000 barrels per day to 400,000 barrels per day of total capacity and subsequently announced an open season for a potential additional 40,000 barrel per day expansion. The BridgeTex Pipeline is operated by Magellan.
Cactus Pipeline (Permian to Corpus Christi). We own and operate the Cactus Pipeline, which originates at McCamey, Texas and extends to Gardendale, Texas. Cactus Pipeline volumes are interconnected to the Corpus Christi market through a connection at Gardendale to our Eagle Ford joint venture pipeline system. In 2017, we expanded Cactus Pipeline to 390,000 barrels per day of total capacity.
Cactus II Pipeline (Permian to Corpus Christi). In January 2018, we announced that we had received sufficient binding commitments on the initial open season launched mid-December, and would be proceeding with construction of a new Permian mainline system extending directly to the Corpus Christi market (the “Cactus II Pipeline”). Furthermore, in February 2018, we announced that Cactus II Pipeline is fully committed with long-term third-party contracts following the conclusion of a second binding open season. We expect that Cactus II Pipeline will be owned in a joint-venture structure, and that we will operate the pipeline and own a majority of the interest in the pipeline. Cactus II Pipeline will have initial capacity of 585,000 barrels per day and is expected to be placed into service in the second half of 2019.
South Texas/Eagle Ford Area
We own a 100% interest in and are the operator of gathering systems that feed into our Gardendale Station. Additionally, we own a 50% interest in Eagle Ford Pipeline LLC, a joint venture with a subsidiary of Enterprise Products Partners, L.P. (“Enterprise”). This joint venture owns a pipeline system, of which we serve as the operator, that has a total capacity of approximately 660,000 barrels per day and connects Permian and Eagle Ford area production to Corpus Christi refiners and terminals. Additionally, the joint venture system has connectivity to Houston via a connection with Enterprise’s pipeline at Lyssy, Texas.
We own and operate gathering and mainline pipelines that source crude oil from Western and Central Oklahoma, Southwest Kansas and the Eastern Panhandle for transportation and delivery into our terminal facilities at Cushing, Oklahoma. In addition, we own and operate various pipeline systems that extend from our Cushing facility with interconnectivity to various demand locations, including the following systems:
Diamond Pipeline (Cushing to Memphis). We own a 50% interest in Diamond Pipeline LLC, a joint venture with Valero Energy Corporation (“Valero”). This joint venture owns, and we operate, the Diamond Pipeline, which was placed into service in late 2017 and which extends from our Cushing Terminal to Valero’s refinery in Memphis, Tennessee. The Diamond Pipeline is underpinned by a long-term minimum volume commitment and currently has a total capacity of 200,000 barrels per day, which is expandable by an additional 150,000 barrels per day as conditions warrant.
Red River Pipeline (Cushing to Longview). The Red River Pipeline is an approximately 150,000 barrels per day capacity pipeline that extends from our Cushing Terminal to Longview, Texas, where it connects with various pipelines, including the Caddo Pipeline. The Red River Pipeline is supported by long-term shipper commitments and was placed into service in December 2016. We serve as operator of the pipeline. In January 2017, we sold an undivided 40% interest in a segment of the Red River Pipeline to a subsidiary of Valero Energy Partners LP. The undivided interest conveyed represents 60,000 barrels per day on the segment of the pipeline extending from Cushing to Hewitt, Oklahoma near Valero’s refinery in Ardmore, Oklahoma (the “Hewitt Segment”). We retained an undivided 60% interest in the Hewitt Segment and a 100% interest in the remaining portion of the pipeline that extends from Ardmore to Longview.
Caddo Pipeline. We own a 50% interest in Caddo Pipeline LLC, a joint venture with Delek Logistics Partners, LP (“Delek”). The joint venture owns, and we operate, the Caddo Pipeline, which is an approximately 80,000 barrels per day capacity pipeline that originates in Longview at the terminus of the Red River Pipeline and serves refineries in Shreveport, Louisiana and El Dorado, Arkansas. The Caddo Pipeline was placed into service in December 2016 and is underpinned by shipper commitments.
STACK Pipeline. In 2017, we formed a 50/50 joint venture with Phillips 66 Partners, L.P., known as STACK Pipeline LLC. This joint venture owns the STACK Pipeline, which serves producers in the STACK (Sooner Trend Anadarko Basin Canadian and Kingfisher Counties) resource play. We serve as operator of this joint-venture system and in 2017 expanded its capacity by 150,000 barrels per day to a total capacity of 250,000 barrels per day. The project is supported by producer commitments, which also warranted our extension of the system into the core areas of the STACK resource play. This extension was completed in late 2017.
We own and/or operate pipelines in the Gulf Coast area with transportation and delivery into connecting carriers, terminal facilities and a refinery. This includes a 54% undivided joint interest in the Capline Pipeline system (“Capline”). Capline is an approximately 1.1 million barrel per day capacity mainline pipeline that is operated by Marathon Pipeline LLC and has historically facilitated a south-to-north movement from St. James, Louisiana to Patoka, Illinois. The Capline owners are assessing the commercial potential to reverse the pipeline direction within the next several years, potentially enabling it to transport Canadian crude oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
We own and operate pipelines that provide gathering services in the Bakken and the Powder River Basin. We own a pipeline system that can move Bakken crude oil to the Enbridge mainline system at Regina, Saskatchewan. We own an undivided joint interest in a pipeline system that extends from the Canadian border to our terminal in Guernsey, Wyoming. This pipeline system receives crude oil from our Rangeland and Milk River Pipelines in Canada. In addition to these assets, our largest Rocky Mountain area systems include the following joint venture pipelines, both of which connect to our terminal in Cushing:
Saddlehorn Pipeline. We own a 40% interest in Saddlehorn Pipeline LLC (“SP LLC”), which owns 190,000 barrels per day of capacity in the Saddlehorn Pipeline that extends from the Niobrara and DJ Basin to Cushing. Magellan serves as operator of the Saddlehorn Pipeline. Saddlehorn Pipeline was placed into service in 2016 and is supported by minimum volume commitments.
White Cliffs Pipeline. We own an approximate 36% interest in White Cliffs Pipeline LLC, which owns an approximately 215,000 barrel per day capacity pipeline that extends from the DJ Basin to Cushing. Rose Rock Midstream, L.P. serves as the operator of the pipeline.
We own and operate pipeline systems in our Western region including the following:
Gathering. We own and operate gathering pipelines with aggregate capacity of over 150,000 barrels per day that source crude oil from the San Joaquin Valley in California and connect to our Line 63 and Line 2000 pipelines, as well as other third-party pipelines and terminals.
Line 63 and Line 2000. We own and operate the Line 63 and Line 2000 pipelines, which have an approximately 60,000 barrels per day and 130,000 barrels per day of pipeline capacity, respectively, and transport crude oil from the San Joaquin Valley to refineries and terminal facilities in the Los Angeles Basin and in Bakersfield, California. Additionally, we have a distribution pipeline system in the Los Angeles Basin that connects our storage assets with all major refineries and third-party pipelines and marine terminals in the Los Angeles Basin.
All American Pipeline. We own the All American Pipeline, which historically received crude oil from offshore oil producers at Las Flores, California and at Gaviota, California. The pipeline terminates at our Emidio Station. Between Gaviota and our Emidio Station, the All American Pipeline interconnects with our San Joaquin Valley Gathering System, Line 2000 and Line 63, as well as other third-party intrastate pipelines.
In May 2015, we experienced a crude oil release on the segment of the All American Pipeline known as Line 901 that runs from Las Flores to Gaviota in Santa Barbara County, California. The segment of the pipeline upstream of our Pentland station has been shut down since this incident. We are currently evaluating a replacement of the pipeline, subject to receipt of shipper commitments and regulatory approvals. See Note 17 to our Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information regarding the Line 901 incident.
Rainbow Pipeline. We own and operate the Rainbow Pipeline, which is an approximately 185,000 barrel per day capacity pipeline that extends from Zama, Alberta to Edmonton, Alberta. The pipeline transports both blended heavy and light crude oil and includes gathering and diluent pipelines.
Rangeland Pipeline. We own and operate the Rangeland Pipeline system, which transports NGL mix, butane, condensate, light sweet crude oil and light sour crude oil either north to Edmonton or south to the U.S./Canadian border near Cutbank, Montana.
South Saskatchewan Pipeline. We own and operate the South Saskatchewan system, which has approximately 65,000 barrels per day of capacity to transport heavy crude oil from gathering areas in southern Saskatchewan to the Enbridge mainline system at Regina.
Manito Pipeline. We own and operate the Manito heavy oil system, which is connected to our Kerrobert Terminal, which in turn is connected to the Enbridge mainline system. The Manito system includes blended crude oil lines with parallel diluent lines.
Canadian NGL Pipelines
Co-Ed NGL Pipeline. We own and operate the Co-Ed NGL pipeline, which has approximately 70,000 barrels per day of capacity to transport NGL that it gathers from approximately 27 field gas processing plants located in Alberta, including all of the NGL produced at the Cochrane Straddle Plant for delivery to our NGL facilities at Fort Saskatchewan.
PPTC Pipeline. We own and operate the Plains Petroleum Transmission Company Pipeline (the “PPTC Pipeline”), which has approximately 20,000 barrels per day of capacity to transport NGL from Empress, Alberta to the Fort Whyte Terminal in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The PPTC Pipeline also provides access to several truck terminals and rail loading facilities.
Our Facilities segment operations generally consist of fee-based activities associated with providing storage, terminalling and throughput services primarily for crude oil, NGL and natural gas, as well as NGL fractionation and isomerization services and natural gas and condensate processing services. We generate revenue through a combination of month-to-month and multi-year agreements.
Revenues generated in this segment primarily include (i) fees that are generated from storage capacity agreements, (ii) terminal throughput fees that are generated when we receive liquids from one connecting source and deliver the applicable product to another connecting source, (iii) fees from NGL fractionation and isomerization services, (iv) fees from natural gas and condensate processing services, (v) fees associated with natural gas park and loan activities, interruptible storage services and wheeling and balancing services and (vi) loading and unloading fees at our rail terminals.
As of December 31, 2017, we owned, operated or employed a variety of long-term physical assets throughout the United States and Canada in this segment, including:
approximately 77 million barrels of crude oil storage capacity primarily at our terminalling and storage locations;
approximately 34 million barrels of NGL storage capacity;
approximately 67 billion cubic feet (“Bcf”) of natural gas storage working capacity;
approximately 25 Bcf of owned base gas;
nine natural gas processing plants located throughout Canada and the Gulf Coast area of the United States;
a condensate processing facility located in the Eagle Ford area of South Texas with an aggregate processing capacity of approximately 120,000 barrels per day;
eight fractionation plants located throughout Canada and the United States with an aggregate net processing capacity of approximately 211,000 barrels per day, and an isomerization and fractionation facility in California with an aggregate processing capacity of approximately 15,000 barrels per day;
34 crude oil and NGL rail terminals located throughout the United States and Canada. See “Rail Facilities” below for an overview of various terminals and “Supply and Logistics” regarding our use of railcars;
five marine facilities in the United States; and
approximately 1,000 miles of active pipelines that support our facilities assets.
The following is a tabular presentation of our active Facilities segment storage and service assets in the United States and Canada as of December 31, 2017, grouped by product and service type, with capacity and volume as indicated:
Crude Oil Storage Facilities
Mobile and Ten Mile
NGL Storage Facilities
Natural Gas Storage Facilities
Natural Gas Processing Facilities (2)
Spec Product (3)
United States Gulf Coast Area
Condensate Stabilization Facility
NGL Fractionation and Isomerization Facilities
Spec Product (3)
Crude Oil Rail Facilities
NGL Rail Facilities (4)
Amount includes approximately 2 million barrels of storage capacity associated with our crude oil rail terminal operations.
While natural gas processing volumes and capacity amounts are presented, they currently are not a significant driver of our segment results.
Represents average volumes net to our share for the entire year.
Our NGL rail terminals are predominately utilized for internal purposes specifically for our supply and logistics activities. See our “Supply and Logistics Segment” discussion following this section for further discussion regarding the use of our rail terminals.
The following discussion contains a detailed description of our more significant Facilities segment assets.
Crude Oil Facilities
Cushing Terminal. We are the largest provider of crude oil terminalling services in Cushing, Oklahoma, which is one of the largest physical trading hubs in the United States and is the delivery point for crude oil futures contracts traded on the NYMEX. Our Cushing Terminal has been designated by the NYMEX as an approved delivery location for crude oil delivered under the NYMEX light sweet crude oil futures contract. As the NYMEX delivery point and a cash market hub, the Cushing Interchange serves as a source of refinery feedstock for Midwest and Gulf Coast refiners and plays an integral role in establishing and maintaining markets for multiple grades of foreign and domestic crude oil.
Our Cushing Terminal is designed to serve the operational needs of refiners, with an emphasis on ensuring operational reliability and flexibility. Accordingly, we have access to all major inbound and outbound pipelines in Cushing and our facility is designed to handle multiple grades of crude oil while minimizing the interface and enabling deliveries to connecting carriers at their maximum rate. Since 1999, we have completed multiple expansions that have increased the capacity of our Cushing Terminal to over 25 million barrels, which includes approximately 2 million barrels of additional shell capacity that was completed in 2017. Additionally, our Cushing Terminal has 22 direct pipeline connections, both incoming and outgoing.
St. James Terminal. We have crude oil storage capacity at the St. James crude oil interchange in Louisiana, which is one of the three most liquid crude oil interchanges in the United States. Our facility is connected to major pipelines and other terminals and includes a manifold and header system that allows for receipts and deliveries with connecting pipelines at their maximum operating capacity. In addition, this facility includes a marine dock that is able to receive from, and deliver to, tankers and barges and is also connected to our rail unloading facility. See “Rail Facilities” below for further discussion.
L.A. Basin. We own four crude oil and black oil storage facilities in the Los Angeles area with storage capacity in commercial service and a distribution pipeline system of approximately 50 miles of pipeline in the Los Angeles Basin. We use the Los Angeles area storage and distribution system to service the storage and distribution needs of refining, pipeline and marine terminal facilities in the Los Angeles Basin. Our Los Angeles area system’s pipeline distribution assets connect our storage assets with major refineries and third-party pipelines and marine terminals in the Los Angeles Basin.
Patoka Terminal. Our Patoka Terminal includes crude oil storage and an associated manifold and header system at the Patoka Interchange located in Southern Illinois. Our terminal has access to all major pipelines and terminals at the Patoka Interchange, a growing regional hub serving both northbound and southbound movements. In 2017, we added approximately 0.5 million barrels of storage capacity.
Mobile and Ten Mile Terminal. We have a marine terminal in Mobile, Alabama (the “Mobile Terminal”) that has current useable capacity of 2 million barrels. Approximately 4 million barrels of additional storage capacity is available at our nearby Ten Mile Facility, which is connected to our Mobile Terminal. Of this capacity, approximately 2 million barrels supports our Facilities segment operations, with the remaining storage supporting our Transportation segment assets. The Mobile Terminal is equipped with a ship/tanker dock, barge dock, truck unloading facilities and various third-party connections for crude oil movements to area refiners. Our Ten Mile Facility is connected to our Pascagoula Pipeline.
Corpus Christi (Eagle Ford) Terminal. We own a 50% interest in Eagle Ford Terminals Corpus Christi LLC, a joint venture with a subsidiary of Enterprise. Eagle Ford Terminals is currently developing a terminal in Corpus Christi, Texas that, when completed, will be capable of loading ocean going vessels with either crude oil or condensate. Initial storage capacity of the terminal will be approximately 1 million barrels. The facility will have access to production from both the Eagle Ford and the Permian Basin through the Eagle Ford joint venture pipeline and is expected to be placed into service in 2018.
NGL Storage Facilities
Sarnia Area. Our Sarnia Area facilities in Southwestern Ontario have an aggregate useable storage capacity of 10 million barrels and consist of (i) our Sarnia facility, (ii) our Windsor storage terminal and (iii) our St. Clair terminal. The Sarnia facility is a large NGL fractionation and storage facility located in the Sarnia Chemical Valley that contains multiple rail and truck loading locations and is served by a network of 14 pipelines providing product delivery capabilities to our Windsor and St. Clair terminal facilities, in addition to refineries, chemical plants and other pipeline systems in the area.
Fort Saskatchewan. The Fort Saskatchewan facility is located near Edmonton, Alberta in one of the key North American NGL hubs. The facility is a receipt, storage, fractionation and delivery facility for NGL and is connected to other major NGL plants and pipeline systems in the area. The facility’s primary assets include 25 storage caverns with an aggregate of approximately 10 million barrels in useable storage capacity. The facility includes assets operated by us and assets operated by a third party. Our ownership in the various facility assets ranges from approximately 21% to 100%. See the section entitled “—NGL Fractionation and Isomerization Facilities” below for additional discussion of this facility.
In 2013, we began upgrading our Fort Saskatchewan storage capacity as part of a multi-phase expansion. The first phase of the expansion included the addition of 2.4 million barrels of new brine pond capacity and two new NGL storage caverns each with a capacity of 350,000 barrels in 2016. In addition, we converted approximately 3 million barrels of NGL mix storage to propane, butane and condensate storage in the first half of 2017. As part of the second phase of the project, in 2017 we added 2.7 million barrels of new brine pond capacity and two new ethane caverns totaling 1.6 million barrels of capacity which are supported by long-term commitments from third parties, and we will add an additional multi-purpose cavern in 2018 which will provide 600,000 barrels of storage.
Empress Area. We own a network of seven NGL terminals (Fort Whyte, Moose Jaw, Rapid City, Stewart Valley, Dewdney, Empress and Richardson) with an aggregate useable storage capacity of 4 million barrels. The facilities are complemented by various other NGL fractionation and extraction assets as described further below.
Bumstead. Our Bumstead facility is located at a major rail transit point near Phoenix, Arizona. With 3 million barrels of useable capacity, the facility’s primary assets include salt-dome storage caverns, a rail track and truck racks.
Natural Gas Storage Facilities
We own two U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) regulated natural gas storage facilities located in the Gulf Coast that are certificated for 120 Bcf of working gas capacity, and as of December 31, 2017, we had an aggregate working gas capacity of approximately 67 Bcf in service. Our facilities have aggregate certificated peak daily injection and withdrawal rates of 3.6 Bcf and 5.6 Bcf, respectively.
Our natural gas storage facilities are strategically located and have a diverse group of customers, including utilities, pipelines, producers, power generators, marketers and liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) exporters, whose storage needs vary from traditional seasonal storage services to hourly balancing. We are located near several major market hubs, including the Henry Hub (the delivery point for NYMEX natural gas futures contracts), the Carthage Hub (located in East Texas), and the Perryville Hub (located in North Louisiana). Our facilities have 17 interconnects with third-party interstate pipelines and gas-fired power plants, serving markets in the Gulf Coast, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and Southeast regions of the United States.
Natural Gas Processing Facilities
We own and/or operate four straddle plants and two field gas processing plants located in Western Canada. Through our August 2016 acquisition of the Empress straddle plant, we added 2.4 Bcf per day of gross NGL processing capacity with the ability to extract ethane and NGL liquids from TransCanada main lines. Cumulatively, our straddle plants have an aggregate gross natural gas processing capacity of approximately 7 Bcf per day and a long-term liquids supply contract relating to a third-party owned straddle plant with gross processing capacity of approximately 2.5 Bcf per day. We also own and operate three natural gas processing plants located in Louisiana and Alabama with an aggregate natural gas processing capacity of approximately 0.3 Bcf per day.
NGL Fractionation and Isomerization Facilities
Empress. We own the Empress fractionation facility, which is connected to and receives liquids from our Empress straddle plant and has a fractionation capacity of approximately 28,000 barrels per day of propane, butane and condensate. The facility is capable of producing spec NGL products and connects to our PPTC Pipeline network.
Fort Saskatchewan. Our recently expanded Fort Saskatchewan fractionation facility has a design capacity of 85,000 barrels per day and produces spec propane, butane, condensate and a C3/C4 mix, which is sent to our Sarnia facility for further fractionation. We are in the process of adding a merox sweetening unit that will increase our ability to handle a variety of feed streams providing more flexibility and flow assurance. This final stage of the expansion is expected to be completed in the first half of 2018 and is supported by long-term commitments from third parties. Through our 21% ownership in the Keyera Fort Saskatchewan fractionation plant, we have additional fractionation capacity, net to our share, of approximately 17,000 barrels per day.
Sarnia. The Sarnia Fractionator is the largest fractionation plant in Eastern Canada and receives NGL feedstock from the Enbridge Pipeline and from refineries, gas plants and chemical plants in the area. The fractionation unit has a net useable capacity of 90,000 barrels per day and produces specification propane, isobutane, normal butane and natural gasoline. Our ownership in the various processing units at the Sarnia Fractionator ranges from 62% to 84%.
Shafter. Our Shafter facility located near Bakersfield, California provides isomerization and fractionation services to producers and customers. The primary assets consist of approximately 200,000 barrels of NGL storage and a processing facility with butane isomerization capacity of approximately 15,000 barrels per day including NGL fractionation capacity of approximately 12,000 barrels per day.
Condensate Processing Facility
Our Gardendale condensate processing facility located in La Salle County, Texas is designed to extract natural gas liquids from condensate. The facility is adjacent to our Gardendale terminal and rail facility and is connected to a third-party pipeline that delivers NGL to Mont Belvieu. The facility has a total processing capacity of 120,000 barrels per day and useable storage capacity of 160,000 barrels. Throughput at the Gardendale processing facility is supplied by long-term commitments from producers.
Crude Oil Rail Loading Facilities
We own crude oil and condensate rail loading facilities with a combined loading capacity of approximately 380,000 barrels per day. These facilities are located at or near Carr, Colorado; Tampa, Colorado; Gardendale, Texas; McCamey, Texas; Manitou, North Dakota; Van Hook, North Dakota; and Kerrobert, Saskatchewan.
Crude Oil Rail Unloading Facilities
We own three crude oil rail unloading facilities that have a combined unloading capacity of approximately 350,000 barrels per day. Our St. James, Louisiana facility receives unit trains and has a capacity of 140,000 barrels per day. Our Yorktown, Virginia rail facility can receive unit trains and has an unload capacity of approximately 140,000 barrels per day. Our Bakersfield, California rail facility receives unit trains and has permitted capacity to unload 70,000 barrels per day.
NGL Rail Facilities
We own 26 operational NGL rail facilities (including our Fort Saskatchewan rail facility, as well as facilities that can provide both crude oil and NGL service) strategically located near NGL storage, pipelines, gas production or propane distribution centers throughout the United States and Canada. Our NGL rail facilities currently have 335 railcar rack spots and 1,515 railcar storage spots, and we have the ability to switch our own railcars at ten of these terminals.
Supply and Logistics Segment
Our Supply and Logistics segment operations generally consist of the following merchant-related activities:
the purchase of U.S. and Canadian crude oil at the wellhead, and the bulk purchase of crude oil at pipeline, terminal and rail facilities;
the storage of inventory during contango market conditions and the seasonal storage of NGL and natural gas;
the purchase of NGL from producers, refiners, processors and other marketers;
the resale or exchange of crude oil and NGL at various points along the distribution chain to refiners, exporters or other resellers; and
the transportation of crude oil and NGL on trucks, barges, railcars, pipelines and vessels from various delivery points, market hub locations or directly to end users such as refineries, processors and fractionation facilities.
Our purchase and resale of crude oil and NGL results in us generating a margin, which is reduced by the transportation, facilities and other logistical costs associated with delivering the crude oil or NGL to market as well as related operating and general and administrative expenses. A portion of our results is impacted by overall market structure and the degree of market volatility, as well as variable operating expenses. Our activities are designed to limit downside exposure, while generating upside potential associated with opportunities inherent in volatile market conditions (including opportunities to benefit from fluctuating differentials and market structure). The opportunity to realize upside potential through our Supply and Logistics operations has been materially reduced in recent years due to high levels of competition. See “—Impact of Commodity Price Volatility and Dynamic Market Conditions on Our Business Model” below for further discussion.
In addition to hedged working inventories associated with its merchant activities, as of December 31, 2017, our Supply and Logistics segment owned significant volumes of crude oil and NGL classified as long-term assets and linefill or minimum inventory requirements and employed a variety of owned or leased physical assets throughout the United States and Canada, including approximately:
14 million barrels of crude oil and NGL linefill in pipelines owned by us;
4 million barrels of crude oil and NGL linefill in pipelines owned by third parties and other long-term inventory;
730 trucks and 900 trailers; and
10,100 crude oil and NGL railcars.
In connection with its operations, our Supply and Logistics segment secures transportation and facilities services from our other two segments as well as third-party service providers under month-to-month and multi-year arrangements. Intersegment fees are based on posted tariff rates, rates similar to those charged to third parties or rates that we believe approximate market rates.
The following table shows the average daily volume of our supply and logistics activities for the year ended December 31, 2017:
Crude oil lease gathering purchases
Supply and Logistics segment total volumes
Crude Oil and NGL Purchases. We purchase crude oil and NGL from multiple producers under contracts and believe that we have established long-term, broad-based relationships with the crude oil and NGL producers in our areas of operations.
Our crude oil contracts generally range in term from thirty-day evergreen to five years, with the majority ranging from thirty days to one year and a limited number of contracts with remaining terms extending up to ten years. We utilize our truck fleet, railcars and pipelines as well as leased railcars, third-party pipelines, trucks and barges to transport crude oil to market. From time to time, we enter into various types of purchase and exchange transactions including fixed-price purchase contracts, collars, financial swaps and crude oil and NGL-related futures contracts as hedging devices.
We purchase NGL from producers, refiners and other NGL marketing companies under contracts that typically have ranged from immediate delivery to one year in term. In the last few years, we have implemented an increasing number of contracts with longer terms to ensure capacity utilization and base-load expansion projects. We utilize our trucking fleet and pipeline network, as well as leased railcars, third-party tank trucks and third-party pipelines to transport NGL.
In addition to purchasing crude oil from producers, we purchase both domestic and foreign crude oil in bulk at major hub locations, rail and dock facilities. We also purchase NGL in bulk at major pipeline terminal points and storage facilities from major integrated oil companies, large independent producers or other NGL marketing companies or processors. Crude oil and NGL are purchased in bulk when we believe additional opportunities exist to realize margins further downstream in the crude oil or NGL distribution chain. The opportunities to earn additional margins vary over time with changing market conditions. Accordingly, the margins associated with our bulk purchases will fluctuate from period to period.
Crude Oil and NGL Sales. The activities involved in the supply, logistics and distribution of crude oil and NGL are complex and require current detailed knowledge of crude oil and NGL sources and end markets, as well as a familiarity with a number of factors including individual refinery demand for specific grades of crude oil, area market price structures, location of customers, various modes and availability of transportation facilities to deliver crude oil and NGL to our customers.
We sell our crude oil to major integrated oil companies, independent refiners, exporters and other resellers in various types of sale and exchange transactions. Our crude oil sales contracts generally range in term from thirty-day evergreen to five years, with the majority ranging from thirty days to one year. We sell NGL primarily to propane and refined product retailers, petrochemical companies and refiners, and limited volumes to other marketers. The majority of our NGL contracts generally span a term of one year. For contracts greater than one year, pricing mechanisms are typically put in place to ensure any significant cost escalations are accounted for, which may include provisions for annual price negotiations designed to ensure both the buyer and seller remain at market-based pricing. We establish a margin for the crude oil and NGL we purchase by entering into physical sales contracts with third parties, or by entering into a future delivery obligation with respect to futures contracts on the NYMEX, ICE or over-the-counter exchanges. Through these transactions, we seek to maintain a position that is substantially balanced between purchases and sales and future delivery obligations. From time to time, we enter into various types of sale and exchange transactions, including fixed-price delivery contracts, collars, financial swaps and crude oil and NGL-related futures contracts as hedging devices.
Crude Oil and NGL Exchanges. We pursue exchange opportunities to enhance margins throughout the gathering and marketing process. When opportunities arise to increase our margin or to acquire a grade, type or volume of crude oil or NGL that more closely matches our physical delivery requirement, location or the preferences of our customers, we exchange physical crude oil or NGL, as appropriate, with third parties. These exchanges are effected through contracts called exchange or buy/sell agreements. Through an exchange agreement, we agree to buy crude oil or NGL that differs in terms of geographic location, grade of crude oil or type of NGL, or physical delivery schedule from crude oil or NGL we have available for sale. Generally, we enter into exchanges to acquire crude oil or NGL at locations that are closer to our end markets, thereby reducing transportation costs and increasing our margin. We also exchange our crude oil to be physically delivered at a later date, if the exchange is expected to result in a higher margin net of storage costs, and we enter into exchanges based on the grade of crude
oil, which includes such factors as sulfur content and specific gravity, in order to meet the quality specifications of our physical delivery contracts. See Note 2 to our Consolidated Financial Statements for further discussion of our accounting for exchange and buy/sell agreements.
Credit. Our merchant activities involve the purchase of crude oil and NGL for resale and require significant extensions of credit by our suppliers. In order to assure our ability to perform our obligations under the purchase agreements, various credit arrangements are negotiated with our suppliers. These arrangements include open lines of credit and, to a lesser extent, standby letters of credit issued under our hedged inventory facility or our senior unsecured revolving credit facility.
When we sell crude oil and NGL, we must determine the amount, if any, of credit to be extended to any given customer. We manage our exposure to credit risk through credit analysis, credit approvals, credit limits, prepayment, letters of credit and monitoring procedures. Additionally, in an effort to mitigate credit risk, a significant portion of our transactions with counterparties are settled on a net-cash basis. Furthermore, we also enter into netting agreements (contractual agreements that allow us to offset receivables and payables with those counterparties against each other on our balance sheet) for the majority of our net-cash arrangements.
Because our typical sales transactions can involve large volumes of crude oil, the risk of nonpayment and nonperformance by customers is a major consideration in our business. We believe our sales are made to creditworthy entities or entities with adequate credit support. Generally, sales of crude oil are settled within 30 days of the month of delivery, and pipeline, transportation and terminalling services settle within 30 days from the date we issue an invoice for the provision of services.
We also have credit risk exposure related to our sales of NGL (principally propane); however, because our sales are typically in relatively small amounts to individual customers, we do not believe that these transactions pose a material concentration of credit risk. Typically, we enter into annual contracts to sell NGL on a forward basis, as well as to sell NGL on a current basis to local distributors and retailers. In certain cases our NGL customers prepay for their purchases, in amounts ranging up to 100% of their contracted amounts.
Certain activities in our Supply and Logistics segment are affected by seasonal aspects, primarily with respect to NGL supply and logistics activities, which are sensitive to weather-related demand, particularly during the approximate five-month peak heating season of November through March.
Impact of Commodity Price Volatility and Dynamic Market Conditions on Our Business Model
Through our three business segments, we are engaged in the transportation, storage, terminalling and marketing of crude oil, NGL and natural gas. The majority of our activities are focused on crude oil, which is the principal feedstock used by refineries in the production of transportation fuels.
Crude oil, NGL and natural gas commodity prices have historically been very volatile. For example, since the mid-1980s, NYMEX West Texas Intermediate (“WTI”) crude oil benchmark prices have ranged from a low of approximately $10 per barrel during 1986 to a high of over $147 per barrel during 2008. During 2017, WTI crude oil prices traded within a range of approximately $43 to $60 per barrel. There has also been volatility within the propane and butane markets as seen through the North American benchmark price located at Mont Belvieu, Texas. Specifically, over the last ten years, propane prices have ranged from a low of approximately 40% of the WTI benchmark price for crude oil in 2015 to a high of approximately 65% of the WTI benchmark price for crude oil in 2011. During 2017, propane averaged 63% of WTI and on a daily basis traded within a range of 48% to 80% of WTI. During the same ten-year period, butane has seen a price range from a low of approximately 51% of the WTI benchmark price for crude oil in 2015 to a high of approximately 79% of the WTI benchmark price for crude oil in 2011. During 2017, butane averaged 72% of WTI and on a daily basis traded within a range of 51% to 111% of WTI.
Absent extended periods of lower crude oil or NGL prices that are below production replacement costs or higher crude oil or NGL prices that have a significant adverse impact on consumption, demand for the services we provide in our fee-based Transportation and Facilities segments and our financial results from these activities have little correlation to absolute commodity prices. Relative contribution levels will vary from quarter-to-quarter due to seasonal and other similar factors, but we project that (absent material outperformance in our Supply and Logistics business) our fee-based Transportation and Facilities segments should comprise approximately 90% or greater of our aggregate segment results.
Results from our supply and logistics activities depend on our ability to sell crude oil and NGL at prices in excess of our aggregate cost. Although segment results may be adversely affected during certain transitional periods as discussed further below, our crude oil and NGL supply, logistics and distribution operations are not directly affected by the absolute level of prices, but are affected by overall levels of supply and demand for crude oil and NGL and relative fluctuations in market-related indices.
In developing our business model and allocating our resources among our three segments, we attempt to anticipate the impacts of shifts between supply-driven markets and demand-driven markets, seasonality, cyclicality, regional surpluses and shortages, economic conditions and a number of other influences that can cause volatility and change market dynamics on a short, intermediate and long-term basis. Our objective is to position the Partnership such that our overall annual cash flow is not materially adversely affected by the absolute level of energy prices, shifts between demand-driven markets and supply-driven markets or other similar dynamics. Beginning in the second half of 2014 to present, however, the market has experienced impacts from aggressive competition and overbuilt infrastructure in certain regions, which has caused supply and demand imbalances and price volatility. In some of the areas where we operate, there has been significantly increased competition for marginal or incremental volumes from shippers on third-party pipelines who have committed to ship more production than they have and are purchasing barrels in the market for shipment on the applicable third-party pipeline to satisfy their transportation commitments, often doing so at a loss because the loss on sale of the purchased crude oil will be less than the amount of the take-or-pay obligation on the pipeline. This type of activity has put downward pressure on margins across our three business segments. During such transitional markets, our Supply and Logistics segment may not be able to fully recover its costs on certain transactions.
While recent market conditions have been challenging, we believe the complementary, integrated nature of our business activities and diversification of our asset base among varying regions and demand-driven and supply-driven markets provides flexibility for our customers and plays a valuable role in driving the growth of our fee-based Transportation and Facilities segments. Additionally, this approach is also intended to provide opportunities to realize incremental margin during volatile market conditions. While these opportunities have been reduced in recent years, the possibility for upside potential remains. For example, if crude oil prices are high relative to historical levels, we may hedge some of our expected pipeline loss allowance barrels, and if crude oil prices are low relative to historical prices, we may hedge a portion of our anticipated diesel purchases needed to operate our trucks and barges. Also, during periods when supply exceeds the demand for crude oil, NGL or natural gas in the near term, the market for such product is often in contango, meaning that the price for future deliveries is higher than current prices. In a contango market, entities that have access to storage at major trading locations can purchase crude oil, NGL or natural gas at current prices for storage and simultaneously sell forward such products for future delivery at higher prices.
In executing our business model, we employ a variety of financial risk management tools and techniques, predominantly in our Supply and Logistics segment. These are discussed in greater detail below.
In order to hedge margins involving our physical assets and manage risks associated with our various commodity purchase and sale obligations and, in certain circumstances, to realize incremental margin during volatile market conditions, we use derivative instruments. We also use various derivative instruments to manage our exposure to interest rate risk and currency exchange rate risk. In analyzing our risk management activities, we draw a distinction between enterprise level risks and trading-related risks. Enterprise level risks are those that underlie our core businesses and may be managed based on management’s assessment of the cost or benefit of doing so. Conversely, trading-related risks (the risks involved in trading in the hopes of generating an increased return) are not inherent in our core business; rather, those risks arise as a result of engaging in trading activities. Our policy is to manage the enterprise level risks inherent in our core businesses, rather than trying to profit from trading activity. Our commodity risk management policies and procedures are designed to monitor NYMEX, ICE and over-the-counter positions, as well as physical volumes, grades, locations, delivery schedules and storage capacity, to help ensure that our hedging activities address our risks. Our interest rate and currency exchange rate risk management policies and procedures are designed to monitor our derivative positions and ensure that those positions are consistent with our objectives and approved strategies. We have a risk management function that has direct responsibility and authority for our risk policies, related controls around commercial activities and procedures and certain other aspects of corporate risk management. Our risk management function also approves all new risk management strategies through a formal process. Our approved strategies are intended to mitigate and manage enterprise-level risks that are inherent in our core businesses.
Our policy is generally to structure our purchase and sales contracts so that price fluctuations do not materially affect our operating income, and not to acquire and hold physical inventory or derivatives for the purpose of speculating on outright commodity price changes. Although we seek to maintain a position that is substantially balanced within our supply and logistics activities, we purchase crude oil, NGL and natural gas from thousands of locations and may experience net unbalanced positions for short periods of time as a result of production, transportation and delivery variances as well as logistical issues associated with inclement weather conditions and other uncontrollable events that may occur. When unscheduled physical inventory builds or draws do occur, they are monitored constantly and managed to a balanced position over a reasonable period of time. This activity is monitored independently by our risk management function and must take place within predefined limits and authorizations.
Geographic Data; Financial Information about Segments
See Note 19 to our Consolidated Financial Statements.
Marathon Petroleum Corporation and its subsidiaries accounted for 19%, 18% and 17% of our revenues for the years ended December 31, 2017, 2016 and 2015, respectively. ExxonMobil Corporation and its subsidiaries accounted for 11%, 14% and 13% of our revenues for the years ended December 31, 2017, 2016 and 2015, respectively. Phillips 66 Company and its subsidiaries accounted for 11% of our revenues for each of the years ended December 31, 2017 and 2016. No other customers accounted for 10% or more of our revenues during any of the three years ended December 31, 2017. The majority of revenues from these customers pertain to our supply and logistics operations. The sales to these customers occur at multiple locations and we believe that the loss of these customers would have only a short-term impact on our operating results. There is risk, however, that we would not be able to identify and access a replacement market at comparable margins. For a discussion of customers and industry concentration risk, see Note 14 to our Consolidated Financial Statements.
Competition among pipelines is based primarily on transportation charges, access to producing areas and supply regions and demand for crude oil and NGL by end users. Although new pipeline projects represent a source of competition for our business, there are also existing third-party owned pipelines with excess capacity in the vicinity of our operations that expose us to significant competition based on the relatively low operating cost associated with moving an incremental barrel of crude oil or NGL through such unutilized capacity. In the current environment, competition for marginal or incremental volumes has been exacerbated in some areas by shippers on third-party pipelines who have committed to ship more production than they own or have secured under contract and are purchasing barrels in the market and shipping them on the applicable third-party pipeline in satisfaction of their transportation commitment. This type of activity reduces the pool of incremental barrels that would otherwise be available for transport on our pipelines. In addition, in areas where additional infrastructure is necessary to accommodate new or increased production or changing product flows, we face competition in providing the required infrastructure solutions as well as the risk of building capacity in excess of sustainable demand levels. Depending upon the specific movement, pipelines, which generally offer the lowest cost of transportation, may also face competition from other forms of transportation, such as truck, rail and barge. Although these alternative forms of transportation are typically higher cost, they can provide access to alternative markets at which a higher price may be realized for the commodity being transported, thereby overcoming the increased transportation cost.
We also face competition with respect to our supply and logistics and facilities services. Our competitors include other crude oil and NGL pipeline and terminalling companies, other NGL processing and fractionation companies, the major integrated oil companies and their marketing affiliates, independent gatherers, private equity backed entities, banks that have established a trading platform, brokers and marketers of widely varying sizes, financial resources and experience. Some of these competitors have capital resources greater than ours.
With respect to our natural gas storage operations, the principal elements of competition are rates, terms of service, supply and market access and flexibility of service. An increase in competition in our markets could arise from new ventures or expanded operations from existing competitors. Our natural gas storage facilities compete with several other storage providers, including regional storage facilities and utilities. Certain pipeline companies have storage facilities connected to their systems that compete with some of our facilities.
Our assets, operations and business activities are subject to extensive legal requirements and regulations under the jurisdiction of numerous federal, state, provincial and local agencies. Many of these agencies are authorized by statute to issue, and have issued, requirements binding on the pipeline industry, related businesses and individual participants. The failure to comply with such legal requirements and regulations can result in substantial fines and penalties, expose us to civil and criminal claims, and cause us to incur significant costs and expenses. See Item 1A. “Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Business—Our operations are also subject to laws and regulations relating to protection of the environment and wildlife, operational safety, climate change and related matters that may expose us to significant costs and liabilities.” At any given time there may be proposals, provisional rulings or proceedings in legislation or under governmental agency or court review that could affect our business. The regulatory burden on our assets, operations and activities increases our cost of doing business and, consequently, affects our profitability. We can provide no assurance that the increased costs associated with any new or proposed laws, rules or regulations will not be material. We may at any time also be required to apply significant resources in responding to governmental requests for information and/or enforcement actions.
The following is a summary of certain, but not all, of the laws and regulations affecting our operations.
Environmental, Health and Safety Regulation
Our operations involving the storage, treatment, processing and transportation of liquid hydrocarbons, including crude oil, are subject to stringent federal, state, provincial and local laws and regulations governing the discharge of materials into the environment or otherwise relating to protection of the environment. As with the industry generally, compliance with these laws and regulations increases our overall cost of doing business, including our capital costs to construct, maintain and upgrade equipment and facilities as regulations are updated or new regulations are invoked. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations could result in the assessment of administrative, civil and criminal penalties, the imposition of investigatory and remedial liabilities and the issuance of injunctions or other orders that may subject us to additional operational constraints. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations could also result in negative public perception of our operations or the industry in general, which may adversely impact our ability to conduct our business. Environmental and safety laws and regulations are subject to changes that may result in more stringent requirements, and we cannot provide any assurance that compliance with current and future laws and regulations will not have a material effect on our results of operations or earnings. A discharge of hazardous liquids into the environment could, to the extent such event is not insured, subject us to substantial expense, including both the cost to comply with applicable laws and regulations and any claims made by third parties. The following is a summary of some of the environmental, health and safety laws and regulations to which our operations are subject.
Pipeline Safety/Integrity Management
A substantial portion of our petroleum pipelines and our storage tank facilities in the United States are subject to regulation by the Department of Transportation’s (“DOT”) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (“PHMSA”) pursuant to the Hazardous Liquids Pipeline Safety Act of 1979, as amended (the “HLPSA”). The HLPSA imposes safety requirements on the design, installation, testing, construction, operation, replacement and management of pipeline and tank facilities. Federal regulations implementing the HLPSA require pipeline operators to adopt measures designed to reduce the environmental impact of oil discharges from onshore oil pipelines, including the maintenance of comprehensive spill response plans and the performance of extensive spill response training for pipeline personnel. These regulations also require pipeline operators to develop and maintain a written qualification program for individuals performing covered tasks on pipeline facilities. Comparable regulation exists in some states in which we conduct intrastate common carrier or private pipeline operations. Regulation in Canada is under the National Energy Board (“NEB”) and provincial agencies.
The HLPSA was amended by the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 and the Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement and Safety Act of 2006. These amendments have resulted in the adoption of rules by the DOT that require transportation pipeline operators to implement integrity management programs, including frequent inspections, correction of identified anomalies and other measures, to ensure pipeline safety in “high consequence areas” such as high population areas, areas unusually sensitive to environmental damage, and commercially navigable waterways. In the United States, our costs associated with the inspection, testing and correction of identified anomalies were approximately $137 million in 2017, $89 million in 2016 and $107 million in 2015. Based on currently available information, our preliminary estimate for 2018 is that
we will incur approximately $63 million in capital expenditures and approximately $24 million in operational expenditures associated with our required pipeline integrity management program. Significant additional expenses could be incurred if new or more stringently interpreted pipeline safety requirements are implemented. In addition to required activities, our integrity management program includes several voluntary, multi-year initiatives designed to prevent incidents. Costs incurred in connection with these voluntary initiatives were approximately $39 million in 2017, $48 million in 2016 and $33 million in 2015, and our preliminary estimate for 2018 is that we will incur approximately $41 million of such costs.
PHMSA was reauthorized and the HLPSA was amended in 2011 and 2016. The regulatory changes precipitated by these actions have increased our cost to operate. We anticipate that future rulemaking will have the potential to contribute to a higher cost to operate. For example, PHMSA is expected to finalize new rules in 2018 that will impose new reporting and integrity management requirements on hazardous liquids pipelines.
In October 2015, the Governor of California signed the Oil Spill Response: Environmentally and Ecologically Sensitive Areas Bill (“AB-864”) which requires automatic shut offs for pipelines located in environmentally sensitive areas. Efforts to draft and implement regulations to adopt the provisions of AB-864 continue and are expected to be finalized in the first half of 2018. We anticipate that the regulations promulgated in response to AB-864 will have a material impact on our pipeline operations in California.
The DOT has issued guidelines with respect to securing regulated facilities against terrorist attack. We have instituted security measures and procedures in accordance with such guidelines to enhance the protection of certain of our facilities; however, we cannot provide any assurance that these security measures would fully protect our facilities from an attack.
The DOT has generally adopted American Petroleum Institute Standard 653 (“API 653”) as the standard for the inspection, repair, alteration and reconstruction of steel aboveground petroleum storage tanks subject to DOT jurisdiction. API 653 requires regularly scheduled inspection and repair of tanks remaining in service. In the United States, our costs associated with this program were approximately $37 million, $29 million and $33 million in 2017, 2016 and 2015, respectively. For 2018, we have budgeted approximately $56 million in connection with continued API 653 compliance activities and similar new EPA regulations for tanks not regulated by the DOT. Certain storage tanks may be taken out of service if we believe the cost of compliance will exceed the value of the storage tanks or replacement tankage may be constructed.
In Canada, the NEB and provincial agencies regulate the safety and integrity management of pipelines and storage tanks used for hydrocarbon transmission. We have incurred and will continue to incur costs related to such regulatory requirements.
The Pipeline Safety Act, SC 2015, c. 21 (the “Pipeline Safety Act” or the “Act”) became effective in June 2016, amending the National Energy Board Act and the Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act in order to strengthen the safety and security of pipelines regulated under those acts. It reinforces the “polluter pays” principle, such that operators of pipelines are liable for costs and damages for all unintended or uncontrolled releases of oil, gas, or other substances. The Act introduces absolute liability for costs and damages up to $1 billion from an uncontrolled release of oil, gas or other commodity from a major pipeline (i.e. those with capacity over 250,000 barrels per day). Additionally, operators will be required to maintain the financial resources necessary to meet the applicable absolute liability obligations imposed under the Act. The total transportation capacity of our pipelines regulated by the NEB exceeds 250,000 barrels per day, so information about financial resources we have available to respond to a pipeline release was filed with the NEB. Finally, the NEB imposes requirements with respect to abandoned pipelines, including an obligation to maintain adequate funds to pay for abandonment costs.
In addition to required activities, our Canadian integrity management program includes several voluntary, multi-year initiatives designed to prevent incidents. Costs incurred for all integrity management activities were approximately $57 million, $56 million and $66 million in 2017, 2016 and 2015, respectively, and our preliminary estimate for 2018 is that we will incur approximately $72 million of such costs.
We cannot predict the potential costs associated with additional, future regulation. Significant additional expenses could be incurred, and additional operational requirements and constraints could be imposed, if new or more stringently interpreted pipeline safety requirements are implemented.
Occupational Safety and Health
In the United States, we are subject to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, as amended (“OSHA”) and comparable state statutes that regulate the protection of the health and safety of workers. In addition, the OSHA hazard communication standard requires that certain information be maintained about hazardous materials used or produced in operations and that this information be provided to employees, state and local government authorities and citizens. Certain of our facilities are subject to OSHA Process Safety Management (“PSM”) regulations, which are designed to prevent or minimize the consequences of catastrophic releases of toxic, reactive, flammable or explosive chemicals. These regulations apply to any process which involves a chemical at or above specified thresholds or any process that involves 10,000 pounds or more of a flammable liquid or gas in one location.
Similar regulatory requirements exist in Canada under the federal and provincial Occupational Health and Safety Acts, Regulations and Codes. The agencies with jurisdiction under these regulations are empowered to enforce them through inspection, audit, incident investigation or investigation of a public or employee complaint. In some jurisdictions, the agencies have been empowered to administer penalties for contraventions without the company first being prosecuted. Additionally, under the Criminal Code of Canada, organizations, corporations and individuals may be prosecuted criminally for violating the duty to protect employee and public safety.
We generate wastes, including hazardous wastes, which are subject to the requirements of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, as amended (“RCRA”), and analogous state and provincial laws. Many of the wastes that we generate are not subject to the most stringent requirements of RCRA because our operations generate primarily oil and gas wastes, which currently are excluded from consideration as RCRA hazardous wastes. It is possible, however, that in the future, oil and gas waste under RCRA may be revisited and our wastes subject to more rigorous and costly disposal requirements, resulting in additional capital expenditures or operating expenses. For example, pursuant to a settlement agreement with environmental organizations, the EPA must determine by 2019 whether currently exempt oil and gas wastes should be regulated under RCRA’s hazardous waste provisions.
The federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, as amended (“CERCLA”), also known as “Superfund,” and comparable state laws impose liability, without regard to fault or the legality of the original act, on certain classes of persons that contributed to the release of a “hazardous substance” into the environment. These persons include the owner or operator of the site or sites where the release occurred and companies that disposed of, or arranged for the disposal of, the hazardous substances found at the site. Such persons may be subject to strict, joint and several liability for the costs of cleaning up the hazardous substances that have been released into the environment, for damages to natural resources, and for the costs of certain health studies. It is not uncommon for neighboring landowners and other third parties to file claims for personal injury and property damage allegedly caused by hazardous substances or other pollutants released into the environment. In the course of our ordinary operations, we may generate waste that falls within CERCLA’s definition of a “hazardous substance.” Canadian federal and provincial laws also impose liabilities for releases of certain substances into the environment.
We are subject to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) Risk Management Plan regulations at certain facilities. These regulations are intended to work with OSHA’s PSM regulations (see “—Occupational Safety and Health” above) to minimize the offsite consequences of catastrophic releases. The regulations require us to develop and implement a risk management program that includes a five-year accident history, an offsite consequence analysis process, a prevention program and an emergency response program. In January 2016, the EPA finalized revisions to the Risk Management Plan (“RMP”) rules, including requirements for the use of third-party compliance audits, root cause analyses for facilities that experience releases, process hazard analyses and enhanced information-sharing provisions, effective March 2017. However, the EPA has since published a rule delaying implementation of the RMP revisions until February 2019 while the agency considers whether to amend or repeal the rule. OSHA has announced that it is considering similar revisions to the PSM rule, but, to date, has not issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The potential for revisions to either the RMP or PSM rule is uncertain at this time.
We currently own or lease, and in the past have owned or leased, properties where hazardous liquids, including hydrocarbons, are or have been handled. These properties may be subject to CERCLA, RCRA and state and Canadian federal and provincial laws and regulations. Under such laws and regulations, we could be required to remove or remediate hazardous liquids or associated wastes (including wastes disposed of or released by prior owners or operators) and to clean up contaminated property (including contaminated groundwater).
We maintain insurance of various types with varying levels of coverage that we consider adequate under the circumstances to cover our operations and properties. The insurance policies are subject to deductibles and retention levels that we consider reasonable and not excessive. Consistent with insurance coverage generally available in the industry, in certain circumstances our insurance policies provide limited coverage for losses or liabilities relating to gradual pollution, with broader coverage for sudden and accidental occurrences.
Assets we have acquired or will acquire in the future may have environmental remediation liabilities for which we are not indemnified. We have in the past experienced and in the future may experience releases of crude oil into the environment from our pipeline and storage operations. We may also discover environmental impacts from past releases that were previously unidentified.
Our United States operations are subject to the United States Clean Air Act (“Clean Air Act”), comparable state laws and associated state and federal regulations. In October 2015, the EPA promulgated a revised national ambient air standard for ozone. The revised standard may make air permits for sources of volatile organic compounds (such as crude oil tank farms) more difficult to obtain in some areas. In addition, in June 2016, the EPA finalized rules regarding criteria for aggregating multiple small surface sites into a single source for air-quality permitting purposes applicable to the oil and gas industry. This rule could cause small facilities, on an aggregate basis, to be deemed a major source, thereby triggering more stringent air permitting processes and control requirements. Our Canadian operations are also subject to federal and provincial air emission regulations.
As a result of the changing air emission requirements in both Canada and the United States, we may be required to incur certain capital and operating expenditures in the next several years to install air pollution control equipment and otherwise comply with more stringent federal, state, provincial and regional air emissions control requirements when we attempt to obtain or maintain permits and approvals for sources of air emissions. We can provide no assurance that future air compliance obligations will not have a material adverse effect on our financial condition or results of operations.
Climate Change Initiatives
The EPA has adopted rules for the reporting the emission of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases (“GHG”) from certain sources. Fewer than ten of our facilities are presently subject to the federal GHG reporting requirements. These include facilities with combustion GHG emissions and potential fugitive emissions above the reporting thresholds. We import sufficient quantities of finished fuel products into the United States to be required to report that activity as well.
In June 2016, the EPA finalized regulations affecting new, modified and reconstructed sources of air emissions in the oil and natural gas sector that require significant reductions in fugitive methane emissions from certain upstream and midstream oil and gas facilities. These new rules also require operators to implement fugitive emission leak detection and repair requirements for compressor stations. However, over the past year the EPA has taken several steps to delay implementation of its methane rules, and the agency proposed a rulemaking in June 2017 to stay the requirements for a period of two years and revisit implementation of the methane rules in their entirety. The EPA has not yet published a final rule but, as a result of these developments, future implementation of the 2016 rules is uncertain at this time. However, several states have either proposed or finalized similar regulations related to the reduction of methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector.
California has implemented a GHG cap-and-trade program, authorized under Assembly Bill 32 (“AB32”). Through 2014, California’s cap-and-trade program has only applied to large industrial facilities. The California Air Resources Board has published a list of facilities that are subject to this program. At this time, the list only includes one of our facilities, the Lone
Star Gas Liquids facility in Shafter, California because it is a significant combustion source. As a result, compliance instruments for GHG emissions have been purchased since 2013.
Effective January 1, 2015, the AB32 regulations also covered finished fuel providers and importers. California finished fuels providers (refiners and importers) are required to purchase GHG emission credits for finished fuel sold in or imported into California. Plains Marketing was included in this portion of the regulation due to propane imports and completed its first year of compliance in 2016. The compliance requirements of the GHG cap-and-trade program through 2020 are being phased in.
Executive Order B-30-15 was signed by California’s Governor in mid-year 2015. This Executive Order requires a 40% reduction in GHG emissions from the 1990 baseline level by 2030. The current 2020 goals for GHG emissions reductions are at 15% below the 1990 baseline level. Compliance with this reduction requirement may necessitate the lowering of the threshold for industrial facilities required to participate in the GHG cap and trade program.
While it is not possible at this time to predict how federal or state governments may choose to regulate GHG emissions, any new regulatory restrictions on GHG emissions could result in material increased compliance costs, additional operating restrictions and an increase in the cost of feedstock and products produced by our refinery customers.
In December 2015, the Paris Agreement was signed at the 21st annual Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (“UNFCCC”). The Paris Agreement, which came into effect in November 2016, requires signatory parties to develop and implement carbon emission reduction policies with a goal of limiting the rise in average global temperatures to 2°C or less. The United States and Canada are currently signatories to the Agreement; however, in June 2017, President Trump stated that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, but may enter into a future international agreement related to GHGs. In August 2017, the U.S. State Department officially informed the United Nations of the intent of the United States to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The United States’ adherence to the exit process is uncertain and/or the terms on which the United States may reenter the Paris Agreement or a separately negotiated agreement are unclear at this time. This Agreement is likely to become a significant driver for future potential GHG reduction programs in participating countries. Notwithstanding potential risks related to climate change, the International Energy Agency estimates that global energy demand will continue to rise and will not peak until after 2040 and that oil and gas will continue to represent a substantial percentage of global energy use over that time. Finally, to the extent increasing concentrations of GHGs in the Earth’s atmosphere may produce climate changes that have significant physical effects, such as increased frequency and severity of storms, droughts, floods and other climatic events, such events could have a material adverse effect on our assets, particularly those located in coastal or flood prone areas.
Although it is not possible at this time to predict how legislation or new regulations that may be adopted to address GHG emissions would impact our business, any such future laws and regulations could result in increased compliance costs or additional operating restrictions, and could have a material adverse effect on our business, demand for our services, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
Federal Regulations. Along with 194 other countries, Canada is a signatory to the UNFCCC “Durban Platform” committing it to develop a legally binding agreement to reduce GHG emissions by 2020. Since 2004, large emitters of GHG were required to report their emissions under the Canadian Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting Program. Three PMC facilities meet the current 50 thousand tonnes per year (“kt/y”) reporting threshold.
Effective January 1, 2018, the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change lowered the reporting threshold for all facilities from 50 kt/y to 10 kt/y. This may result in up to four additional PMC facilities (for a total of seven) being required to prepare annual reports of their emissions; however, the associated costs with this requirement would not be material.
In October 2016, the Government of Canada implemented a pan-Canadian approach to pricing carbon pollution requiring all Canadian provinces and territories to have carbon pricing in place by 2018. The provinces and territories will have flexibility in deciding how they implement carbon pricing either by placing a direct price on carbon pollution or adopting a cap-and-trade system. The price on carbon pollution will start at $10/tonne in 2018 and rise by $10 a year to reach $50/tonne in 2022.
More recently, in May 2017, the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change proposed regulations designed to reduce methane emissions by up to 45% by 2025 (from 2012 levels) from oil and natural gas facilities. The scope and requirements of the proposed rule are similar to the EPA methane rules described above.
Ontario. In February 2015, the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change issued a discussion paper that identified carbon pricing as a critical action necessary to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. In April 2015, the Ontario government announced it would be implementing a GHG cap and trade program, which would be implemented through the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), which includes Quebec and California. Mandatory participants for the program were responsible for their emissions starting on January 1, 2017. PMC’s facility at Sarnia is considered to be a mandatory participant in the program (threshold >25,000 tonnes GHG emissions). At this time, we do not believe that participation in Ontario’s cap and trade program will have a material adverse effect on our operations.
Alberta. The Alberta Climate Change and Emissions Management Act provides a framework for managing GHG emissions by reducing specified gas emissions to 50% of 1990 levels by December 31, 2020. The Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (“SGER”) imposed GHG emissions limits on large emitters and required reductions in GHG emissions intensity. PMC has two facilities (Fort Saskatchewan Storage and Fractionation Facility and Empress VI) which do not meet the reduction obligations. As such, PMC has been required to submit compliance payments to the Climate Change Emissions Management Fund. In January 2018, the SGER has been replaced with the Carbon Competitive Incentive Regulation (CCIR) for compliance years 2018 onwards. Although various elements of the SGER are carried through into the CCIR, the CCIR has fundamental differences both in the way a facility’s regulated emissions are calculated as well as how the emission intensity reduction is measured. Compliance options under the CCIR are similar to those under the previous SGER and significant penalties may apply for non-compliance.
The U.S. Federal Water Pollution Control Act, as amended, also known as the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), and analogous state and Canadian federal and provincial laws impose restrictions and strict controls regarding the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters of the United States and Canada, as well as state and provincial waters. Federal, state and provincial regulatory agencies can impose administrative, civil and/or criminal penalties for non-compliance with discharge permits or other requirements of the CWA, and can also pursue injunctive relief to enforce compliance with the CWA and analogous laws.
The U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (“OPA”) amended certain provisions of the CWA, as they relate to the release of petroleum products into navigable waters. OPA subjects owners of facilities to strict, joint and potentially unlimited liability for containment and removal costs, natural resource damages and certain other consequences of an oil spill. State and Canadian federal and provincial laws also impose requirements relating to the prevention of oil releases and the remediation of areas.
In addition, for over 35 years, the Army Corps of Engineers (the “Corps”) has authorized construction, maintenance and repair of pipelines under a streamlined nationwide permit program under the CWA known as Nationwide Permit 12 (“NWP”). The NWP program is supported by strong statutory and regulatory history and was originally approved by Congress in 1977. From time to time, environmental groups have challenged the NWP program; however, to date, federal courts have upheld the validity of NWP program under the CWA. We cannot predict whether future lawsuits will be filed to contest the validity of NWP; however, in the event that a court wholly or partially strikes down the NWP program, which we believe to be unlikely, we could face significant delays and financial costs when seeking project approvals from the Corps.
In May 2015, the EPA published a final rule that attempted to clarify federal jurisdiction under the CWA over waters of the United States. This clarification greatly expanded the definition of “waters of the United States” thus increasing the jurisdiction of the Corps. A number of legal challenges to this rule are pending. Additionally, following the issuance of a presidential executive order to review the rule, the EPA and the Corps proposed a rulemaking in June 2017 to repeal the May 2015 rule. The EPA and Corps also announced their intent to issue a new rule defining the CWA’s jurisdiction and recently finalized a stay delaying implementation of the rule for two years. Several states and environmental organizations have already announced their intent to challenge the stay and any attempt by the EPA and the Corps to rescind or revise the rule. As a result, future implementation of the May 2015 rule is uncertain at this time. To the extent any final rule on the scope of the CWA rule expands the scope of the CWA’s jurisdiction, we could face increased costs and delays with respect to obtaining permits for dredge and fill activities in wetland areas.
New projects may require approvals and environmental analysis under federal, state and provincial laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act in the United States and the Species at Risk Act in Canada. The resulting costs and liabilities associated with lengthy regulatory review and approval requirements could materially and negatively affect the viability of such projects.
Our transportation activities are subject to regulation by multiple governmental agencies. Our historical operating costs reflect the recurring costs resulting from compliance with these regulations. The following is a summary of the types of transportation regulation that may impact our operations.
General Interstate Regulation in the United States. Our interstate common carrier liquids pipeline operations are subject to rate regulation by the FERC under the Interstate Commerce Act (“ICA”). The ICA requires that tariff rates for liquids pipelines, which include both crude oil pipelines and refined products pipelines, be just and reasonable and non-discriminatory.
State Regulation in the United States. Our intrastate liquids pipeline transportation activities are subject to various state laws and regulations, as well as orders of state regulatory bodies, including the Railroad Commission of Texas (“TRRC”) and the California Public Utility Commission (“CPUC”). The CPUC prohibits certain of our subsidiaries from acting as guarantors of our senior notes and credit facilities.
U.S. Energy Policy Act of 1992 and Subsequent Developments. In October 1992, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (“EPAct”), which, among other things, required the FERC to issue rules to establish a simplified and generally applicable ratemaking methodology for petroleum pipelines and to streamline procedures in petroleum pipeline proceedings. The FERC responded to this mandate by establishing a formulaic methodology for petroleum pipelines to change their rates within prescribed ceiling levels that are tied to an inflation index. The FERC reviews the formula every five years. Effective July 1, 2016, the annual index adjustment for the five year period ending June 30, 2021 will equal the producer price index for finished goods for the applicable year plus an adjustment factor of 1.23%. Pipelines may raise their rates to the rate ceiling level generated by application of the annual index adjustment factor each year; however, a shipper may challenge such increase if the increase in the pipeline’s rates was substantially in excess of the actual cost increases incurred by the pipeline during the relevant year. If the FERC’s annual index adjustment reduces the ceiling level such that it is lower than a pipeline’s filed rate, the pipeline must reduce its rate to conform with the lower ceiling unless doing so would reduce a rate “grandfathered” by the EPAct (see below) to below the grandfathered level. A pipeline must, as a general rule, use the indexing methodology to change its rates. The FERC, however, retained cost-of-service ratemaking, market-based rates and settlement rates as alternatives to the indexing approach that may be used in certain specified circumstances. Because the indexing methodology for the next five-year period is tied to an inflation index and is not based on pipeline-specific costs, the indexing methodology could hamper our ability to recover cost increases.
Under the EPAct, petroleum pipeline rates in effect for the 365-day period ending on the date of enactment of EPAct are deemed to be just and reasonable under the ICA, if such rates had not been subject to complaint, protest or investigation during such 365-day period. Generally, complaints against such “grandfathered” rates may only be pursued if the complainant can show that a substantial change has occurred since the enactment of EPAct in either the economic circumstances of the oil pipeline or in the nature of the services provided that were a basis for the rate. EPAct places no such limit on challenges to a provision of an oil pipeline tariff as unduly discriminatory or preferential.
Pipeline Rate Regulation in the United States. The FERC historically has not investigated rates of liquids pipelines on its own initiative when those rates have not been the subject of a protest or complaint by a shipper. The majority of our Transportation segment profit in the United States is produced by rates that are either grandfathered or set by agreement with one or more shippers. FERC issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on October 20, 2016 that addressed issues related to FERC’s indexing methodology and liquids pipeline reporting practices. If implemented, the proposals in this rulemaking could affect the profitability of certain liquids pipelines. On December 15, 2016, FERC issued a Notice of Inquiry regarding certain matters related to FERC’s income tax allowance policy. Parties submitted comments in response to this notice, and FERC could, after review of those comments, decide to propose changes to its current policy.
Canadian Regulation. Our Canadian pipeline assets are subject to regulation by the NEB and by provincial authorities. With respect to a pipeline over which it has jurisdiction, the relevant regulatory authority has the power, upon application by a third party, to determine the rates we are allowed to charge for transportation on, and set other terms of access to, such pipeline. In such circumstances, if the relevant regulatory authority determines that the applicable terms and conditions of service are not just and reasonable, the regulatory authority can impose conditions it considers appropriate.
We operate a fleet of trucks to transport crude oil and oilfield materials as a private, contract and common carrier. We are licensed to perform both intrastate and interstate motor carrier services. As a motor carrier, we are subject to certain safety regulations issued by the DOT. The trucking regulations cover, among other things: (i) driver operations, (ii) log book maintenance, (iii) truck manifest preparations, (iv) safety placard placement on the trucks and trailer vehicles, (v) drug and alcohol testing and (vi) operation and equipment safety. We are also subject to OSHA with respect to our trucking operations.
Our trucking assets in Canada are subject to regulation by both federal and provincial transportation agencies in the provinces in which they are operated. These regulatory agencies do not set freight rates, but do establish and administer rules and regulations relating to other matters including equipment, facility inspection, reporting and safety. We are licensed to operate both intra- and inter-provincially under the direction of the National Safety Code (“NSC”) that is administered by Transport Canada. Our for-hire service is primarily the transportation of crude oil, condensates and NGL. We are required under the NSC to, among other things, monitor: (i) driver operations, (ii) log book maintenance, (iii) truck manifest preparations, (iv) safety placard placement on the trucks and trailers, (v) operation and equipment safety and (vi) many other aspects of trucking operations. We are also subject to Occupational Health and Safety regulations with respect to our trucking operations.
We own and operate a number of railcar loading and unloading facilities in the United States and Canada. In connection with these rail terminals, we own and lease a significant number of railcars. Our railcar operations are subject to the regulatory jurisdiction of the Federal Railroad Administration of the DOT, the OSHA, as well as other federal and state regulatory agencies and Canadian regulatory agencies for operations in Canada.
Railcar accidents involving trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation have led to increased regulatory scrutiny. PHMSA issued a safety advisory warning that Bakken crude may be more flammable than other grades of crude oil and reinforcing the requirement to properly test, characterize, classify, and where appropriate sufficiently degasify hazardous materials prior to and during transportation. PHMSA also initiated “Operation Classification”, a compliance initiative involving unannounced inspections and testing of crude oil samples to verify that offerors of the materials have properly classified, described and labeled the hazardous materials before transportation. In May 2015, PHMSA adopted a final rule that, among other things, imposes a new tank car design standard, a phase out by as early as January 2018 for older DOT-111 tank cars that are not retrofitted, and a classification and testing program for unrefined petroleum based products, including crude oil. The rule also includes new operational requirements such as speed restrictions. In December 2015, Congress passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (“FAST”) Act which was subsequently signed by the President. This legislation clarified the parameters around the timeline and requirements for railcars hauling crude oil in the United States. We believe our railcar fleet is in compliance in all material respects with current standards for crude oil moved by rail.
In December 2014, the North Dakota Industrial Commission adopted new standards to improve the safety of Bakken crude oil for transport. The new standard, Commission Order 25417, was effective April 1, 2015, and requires operators/producers to condition Bakken crude oil to certain vapor pressure limits. Under the order, all Bakken crude oil produced in North Dakota will be conditioned with no exceptions. The order requires operators/producers to separate light hydrocarbons from all Bakken crude oil to be transported and prohibits the blending of light hydrocarbons back into oil supplies prior to shipment. We are not directly responsible for the conditioning or stabilization of Bakken crude oil; however, under the order, it is our responsibility to notify the State of North Dakota upon discovering that Bakken crude oil received at our rail facility exceeds the permitted vapor pressure limits.
Cross Border Regulation
As a result of our cross border activities, including transportation and importation of crude oil, NGL and natural gas between the United States and Canada, we are subject to a variety of legal requirements pertaining to such activities including presidential permit requirements, export/import license requirements, tariffs, Canadian and U.S. customs and taxes and requirements relating to toxic substances. U.S. legal requirements relating to these activities include regulations adopted pursuant to the Short Supply Controls of the Export Administration Act (“EAA”), the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”) and the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”), as well as presidential permit requirements of the U.S. Department of State. In addition, the importation and exportation of natural gas from and to the United States and Canada is subject to regulation by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Department of Energy and the NEB. Violations of these licensing, tariff and tax reporting requirements or failure to provide certifications relating to toxic substances could result in the imposition of significant administrative, civil and criminal penalties. Furthermore, the failure to comply with U.S. federal, state and local tax requirements, as well as Canadian federal and provincial tax requirements, could lead to the imposition of additional taxes, interest and penalties.
Market Anti-Manipulation Regulation
In November 2009, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) issued regulations pursuant to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, intended to prohibit market manipulation in the petroleum industry. Violators of the regulations face civil penalties of up to approximately $1.2 million per violation per day (adjusted annually for inflation). In July 2010, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act, which incorporated an expansion of the authority of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) to prohibit market manipulation in the markets regulated by the CFTC. This authority, with respect to crude oil swaps and futures contracts, is similar to the anti-manipulation authority granted to the FTC with respect to crude oil purchases and sales. In July 2011, the CFTC issued final rules to implement their new anti-manipulation authority. The rules subject violators to a civil penalty of up to the greater of approximately $1.1 million (adjusted annually for inflation) or triple the monetary gain to the person for each violation.
Natural Gas Storage Regulation
Our natural gas storage operations are subject to regulatory oversight by numerous federal, state and local regulatory agencies, many of which are authorized by statute to issue, and have issued, rules and regulations binding on the natural gas storage and pipeline industry, related businesses and market participants. The failure to comply with such laws and regulations can result in substantial penalties and fines.
The following is a summary of the kinds of regulation that may impact our natural gas storage operations. However, our unitholders should not rely on such discussion as an exhaustive review of all regulatory considerations affecting our natural gas storage operations.
Our natural gas storage facilities provide natural gas storage services in interstate commerce and are subject to comprehensive regulation by the FERC under the Natural Gas Act of 1938 (“NGA”). Pursuant to the NGA and FERC regulations, storage providers are prohibited from making or granting any undue preference or advantage to any person or subjecting any person to any undue prejudice or disadvantage or from maintaining any unreasonable difference in rates, charges, service, facilities, or in any other respect. The terms and conditions for services provided by our facilities are set forth in natural gas tariffs on file with the FERC. We have been granted market-based rate authorization for the services that our facilities provide. Market-based rate authority allows us to negotiate rates with individual customers based on market demand.
The FERC also has authority over the siting, construction, and operation of United States pipeline transportation and storage facilities and related facilities used in the transportation, storage and sale for resale of natural gas in interstate commerce, including the extension, enlargement or abandonment of such facilities. The FERC’s authority extends to maintenance of accounts and records, terms and conditions of service, acquisition and disposition of facilities, initiation and discontinuation of services, imposition of creditworthiness and credit support requirements applicable to customers and relationships among pipelines and storage companies and certain affiliates. Our natural gas storage entities are required by the FERC to post certain information daily regarding customer activity, capacity and volumes on their respective websites. Additionally, the FERC has jurisdiction to impose rules and regulations applicable to all natural gas market participants to ensure market transparency. FERC regulations require that buyers and sellers of more than a de minimis volume of natural gas report annual numbers and volumes of relevant transactions to the FERC. Our natural gas storage facilities and related marketing entities are subject to these annual reporting requirements.
Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (“EPAct 2005”) and related regulations, it is unlawful in connection with the purchase or sale of natural gas or transportation services subject to FERC jurisdiction to use or employ any device, scheme or artifice to defraud; to make any untrue statement of material fact or omit to make any such statement necessary to make the statements made not misleading; or to engage in any act or practice that operates as a fraud or deceit upon any person. EPAct 2005 gives the FERC civil penalty authority to impose penalties for certain violations of up to approximately $1.2 million per day for each violation (adjusted annually for inflation). FERC also has the authority to order disgorgement of profits from transactions deemed to violate the NGA and the EPAct 2005.
In December 2016, PHMSA issued an interim final rule (“IFR”) that establishes minimum federal standards for salt dome underground natural gas storage facilities. The IFR imposes new requirements on “downhole facilities,” including wells, wellbore tubing and casings at underground natural gas storage facilities. The IFR addresses construction, maintenance, risk management and integrity management procedures for these facilities and includes registration and reporting obligations. The IFR adopts and incorporates by reference the requirements and recommendations contained in American Petroleum Institute (“API”) Recommended Practice 1170. Existing salt dome underground natural gas storage facilities must meet the appropriate requirements and mandatory recommendations of API 1170 by January 18, 2018. However, PHMSA issued a partial stay of the IFR’s requirements in June 2017. A final rule is expected in 2018. We do not anticipate that compliance with the final rule will have a significant adverse effect on our operations.
The natural gas industry historically has been heavily regulated. New rules, orders, regulations or laws may be passed or implemented that impose additional costs, burdens or restrictions on us. We cannot give any assurance regarding the likelihood of such future rules, orders, regulations or laws or the effect they could have on our business, financial condition, and results of operations or ability to make distributions to our unitholders.
Operational Hazards and Insurance
Pipelines, terminals, trucks or other facilities or equipment may experience damage as a result of an accident, natural disaster, terrorist attack, cyber event or other event. These hazards can cause personal injury and loss of life, severe damage to and destruction of property and equipment, pollution or environmental damage and suspension of operations. We maintain various types and varying levels of insurance coverage that we consider adequate under the circumstances to cover our operations and properties, and we self-insure certain risks, including gradual pollution and named windstorm. With respect to our insurance, our policies are subject to deductibles and retention levels that we consider reasonable and not excessive. However, such insurance does not cover every potential risk that might occur, associated with operating pipelines, terminals and other facilities and equipment, including the potential loss of significant revenues and cash flows.
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States Government has issued numerous warnings that energy assets, including our nation’s pipeline infrastructure, may be future targets of terrorist organizations. These developments expose our operations and assets to increased risks. We have instituted security measures and procedures in conformity with DOT or the Transportation Safety Administration guidance. We will institute, as appropriate, additional security measures or procedures indicated by the DOT or the Transportation Safety Administration. However, there can be no assurance that these or any other security measures would protect our facilities from an attack. Any future terrorist attacks on our facilities, those of our customers and, in some cases, those of our competitors, could have a material adverse effect on our business, whether insured or not.
The occurrence of a significant event not fully insured, indemnified or reserved against, or the failure of a party to meet its indemnification obligations, could materially and adversely affect our operations and financial condition. We believe that we maintain adequate insurance coverage, although insurance will not cover many types of interruptions that might occur, will not cover amounts up to applicable deductibles and will not cover all risks associated with certain of our assets and operations. Additionally we self-insure certain risks including, gradual pollution and named windstorm. With respect to our insurance coverage, no assurance can be given that we will be able to maintain adequate insurance in the future at rates we consider reasonable. As a result, we may elect to self-insure or utilize higher deductibles in certain other insurance programs. In addition, although we believe that we have established adequate reserves and liquidity to the extent such risks are not insured, costs incurred in excess of these reserves may be higher or we may not receive insurance proceeds in a timely manner, which may potentially have a material adverse effect on our financial conditions, results of operations or cash flows.
Title to Properties and Rights-of-Way
Our real property holdings generally consist of: (i) parcels of land that we own in fee, (ii) surface leases and underground storage leases and (iii) easements, rights-of-way, permits, crossing agreements or licenses from landowners or governmental authorities permitting the use of certain lands for our operations. In all material respects, we believe we have satisfactory title or the right to use the sites upon which our significant facilities are located, subject to customary liens, restrictions or encumbrances. Except for challenges that we do not regard as material relative to our overall operations, we believe that we have satisfactory rights pursuant to all of our material leases, easements, rights-of-way, permits and licenses. Some of our real property rights (mainly for pipelines) may be subject to termination under agreements that provide for one or more of: periodic payments, term periods, renewal rights, revocation by the licensor or grantor and possible relocation obligations.
Employees and Labor Relations
To carry out our operations, our general partner or its affiliates (including PMC) employed approximately 4,850 employees at December 31, 2017. Of these employees, 158 are covered by four separate collective agreements, all of which expire in 2019. Our general partner and its affiliates consider employee relations to be good.
Summary of Tax Considerations
The following is a brief summary of material tax considerations of owning and disposing of common units, however, the tax consequences of ownership of common units depends in part on the owner’s individual tax circumstances. It is the responsibility of each unitholder, either individually or through a tax advisor, to investigate the legal and tax consequences, under the laws of pertinent U.S. federal, states and localities of the unitholder’s investment in us. Further, it is the responsibility of each unitholder to file all U.S. federal, state and local tax returns that may be required of the unitholder. Also see Item 1A. “Risk Factors—Tax Risks to Common Unitholders.”
Partnership Status; Cash Distributions
We are treated for federal income tax purposes as a partnership based upon our meeting the “Qualifying Income Exception” imposed by Section 7704 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”), which we must meet each year. The owners of our common units are considered partners in the Partnership so long as they do not loan their common units to others to cover short sales or otherwise dispose of those units. Accordingly, we are not liable for U.S. federal income taxes, and a common unitholder is required to report on the unitholder’s federal income tax return the unitholder’s share of our income, gains, losses and deductions. In general, cash distributions to a common unitholder are taxable only if, and to the extent that, they exceed the tax basis in the common units held. In certain cases, we are subject to, or have paid Canadian income and withholding taxes. Canadian withholding taxes are due on intercompany interest payments and dividend payments and are treated as income tax expenses as a result of our restructuring of how we hold our Canadian investment on January 1, 2011. Unitholders may be eligible for foreign tax credits with respect to allocable Canadian withholding and income taxes paid.
In general, our income and loss is allocated to the general partner and the unitholders for each taxable year in accordance with their respective percentage interests in the Partnership, as determined annually and prorated on a monthly basis and subsequently apportioned among the general partner and the unitholders of record as of the opening of the first business day of the month to which they relate, even though unitholders may dispose of their units during the month in question. In determining a unitholder’s U.S. federal income tax liability, the unitholder is required to take into account the unitholder’s share of income generated by us for each taxable year of the Partnership ending with or within the unitholder’s taxable year, even if cash distributions are not made to the unitholder. As a consequence, a unitholder’s share of our taxable income (and possibly the income tax payable by the unitholder with respect to such income) may exceed the cash actually distributed to the unitholder by us.
Basis of Common Units
A unitholder’s initial tax basis for a common unit is generally the amount paid for the common unit and the unitholder’s share of our nonrecourse liabilities (or liabilities for which no partner bears the economic risk of loss). A unitholder’s basis is generally increased by the unitholder’s share of our income and by any increases in the unitholder’s share of our nonrecourse liabilities. That basis will be decreased, but not below zero, by the unitholder’s share of our losses and
distributions (including deemed distributions due to a decrease in the unitholder’s share of our nonrecourse liabilities), and the amount of any excess business interest allocated to the unitholder.
Limitations on Deductibility of Partnership Losses
The deduction by a unitholder of that unitholder’s allocable share of our losses will be limited to the amount of that unitholder’s tax basis in his or her common units and, in the case of an individual unitholder or a corporate unitholder who is subject to the “at risk” rules (generally, certain closely-held corporations), to the amount for which the unitholder is considered to be “at risk” with respect to our activities, if that is less than the unitholder’s tax basis. A unitholder must recapture losses deducted in previous years to the extent that distributions cause the unitholder’s at risk amount to be less than zero at the end of any taxable year. Losses disallowed to a unitholder or recaptured as a result of these limitations will carry forward and will be allowable as a deduction to the extent that his at-risk amount is subsequently increased, provided such losses do not exceed such unitholder’s tax basis in his common units. Upon the taxable disposition of a common unit, any gain recognized by a unitholder can be offset by losses that were previously suspended by the at risk limitation but may not be offset by losses suspended by the basis limitation. Any loss previously suspended by the at risk limitation in excess of that gain could no longer be used.
In addition to the basis and at-risk limitations described above, a passive activity loss limitation generally limits the deductibility of losses incurred by individuals, estates, trusts, some closely-held corporations and personal service corporations from “passive activities” (generally, trade or business activities in which the taxpayer does not materially participate). The passive loss limitations are applied separately with respect to each publicly-traded partnership. Consequently, any passive losses we generate will be available to offset only passive income generated by us, and will not be available to offset income from other passive activities or investments, including investments in other publicly traded partnerships or salary, active business or other income. Passive losses that exceed a unitholder’s share of passive income we generate may be deducted in full when the unitholder disposes of all of its units in a fully taxable transaction with an unrelated party. The passive activity loss rules are generally applied after other applicable limitations on deductions, including the at risk and basis limitations.
For taxpayers other than corporations in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017, and before January 1, 2026, an “excess business loss” limitation further limits the deductibility of losses by such taxpayers. An excess business loss is the excess (if any) of a taxpayer’s aggregate deductions for the taxable year that are attributable to the trades or businesses of such taxpayer (determined without regard to the excess business loss limitation) over the aggregate gross income or gain of such taxpayer for the taxable year that is attributable to such trades or businesses plus a threshold amount. The threshold amount is equal to $250,000, or $500,000 for taxpayers filing a joint return. Disallowed excess business losses are treated as a net operating loss carryover to the following tax year. Any losses we generate that are allocated to a unitholder and not otherwise limited by the basis, at risk, or passive loss limitations will be included in the determination of such unitholder’s aggregate trade or business deductions. Consequently, any losses we generate that are not otherwise limited will only be available to offset a unitholder’s other trade or business income plus an amount of non-trade or business income equal to the applicable threshold amount. Thus, except to the extent of the threshold amount, our losses that are not otherwise limited may not offset a unitholder’s non-trade or business income (such as salaries, fees, interest, dividends and capital gains). This excess business loss limitation will be applied after the passive activity loss limitation.
Section 754 Election
We have made the election provided for by Section 754 of the Code, which will generally result in a unitholder being allocated income and deductions calculated by reference to the portion of the unitholder’s purchase price attributable to each asset of the Partnership.
Disposition of Common Units
A unitholder who sells common units will recognize gain or loss equal to the difference between the amount realized and the adjusted tax basis of those common units (taking into account any basis adjustments attributable to previously disallowed interest deductions). A unitholder may not be able to trace basis to particular common units for this purpose. Thus, distributions of cash from us to a unitholder in excess of the income allocated to the unitholder will, in effect, become taxable income if the unitholder sells the common units at a price greater than the unitholder’s adjusted tax basis even if the price is less than the unitholder’s original cost. Moreover, a portion of the amount realized (whether or not representing gain) will be taxed as ordinary income due to potential recapture items, including depreciation recapture. In addition, because the amount realized includes a unitholder’s share of our nonrecourse liabilities, a unitholder may incur a tax liability in excess of the amount of cash the unitholder receives from the sale.
State, Local and Other Tax Considerations
In addition to federal income taxes, unitholders will likely be subject to other taxes, including state and local income taxes, unincorporated business taxes, and estate, inheritance or intangible taxes that are imposed by the various jurisdictions in which a unitholder resides or in which we conduct business or own property. We own property and conduct business in most states in the United States as well as several provinces in Canada. A unitholder may also be required to file state income tax returns and to pay taxes in various states, even if they do not live in those jurisdictions. As our entire Canadian source income passes through Canadian taxable entities, our unitholders do not have a separate Canadian tax filing obligation as it relates to this income. Unitholders who are not resident in the United States may have additional tax reporting and payment requirements.
A unitholder may be subject to interest and penalties for failure to comply with such requirements. In certain states, tax losses may not produce a tax benefit in the year incurred (if, for example, we have no income from sources within that state) and also may not be available to offset income in subsequent taxable years. Some states may require us, or we may elect, to withhold a percentage of income from amounts to be distributed to a unitholder who is not a resident of the state. Withholding, the amount of which may be more or less than a particular unitholder’s income tax liability owed to a particular state, may not relieve the unitholder from the obligation to file an income tax return in that state. Amounts withheld may be treated as if distributed to unitholders for purposes of determining the amounts distributed by us.
Ownership of Common Units by Tax-Exempt Organizations and Certain Other Investors
An investment in common units by tax-exempt organizations (including Individual Retirement Accounts (“IRAs”) and other retirement plans) and non-U.S. persons raises issues unique to such persons. Virtually all of our income allocated to a unitholder that is a tax-exempt organization is unrelated business taxable income and, thus, is taxable to such a unitholder. A unitholder who is a nonresident alien, non-U.S. corporation or other non-U.S. person is regarded as being engaged in a trade or business in the United States as a result of ownership of a common unit and, thus, is required to file federal income tax returns and to pay tax on the unitholder’s share of our taxable income. Finally, distributions to non-U.S. unitholders are generally subject to federal income tax withholding at the highest applicable rate.
We make available, free of charge on our Internet website at http://www.plainsallamerican.com, our annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file the material with, or furnish it to, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). The public may read and copy any materials filed by PAA with the SEC at the SEC’s Public Reference Room at 100 F Street, NE., Room 1580, Washington, DC 20549. The public may obtain information on the operation of the Public Reference Room by calling the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330. The SEC maintains an Internet site that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC at http://www.sec.gov.
Item 1A. Risk Factors
Risks Related to Our Business
Our profitability depends on the volume of crude oil, natural gas and NGL shipped, processed, purchased, stored, fractionated and/or gathered at or through the use of our facilities, which can be negatively impacted by a variety of factors outside of our control.
Our profitability could be materially impacted by a decline in the volume of crude oil, natural gas and NGL transported, gathered, stored or processed at or through our facilities. A material decrease in crude oil or natural gas production or crude oil refining, as a result of depressed commodity prices, natural decline rates attributable to crude oil and natural gas reservoirs, a decrease in exploration and development activities, supply disruptions, economic conditions or otherwise, could result in a decline in the volume of crude oil, natural gas or NGL handled by our facilities.
During the latter half of 2014 and continuing into 2016, benchmark crude oil prices declined significantly; as a result, many of the companies that produce oil and gas significantly reduced capital expenditures. Such reduced expenditure levels, coupled with high decline rates for many horizontal wells in the shale resource plays, led to production declines in many areas in the Lower 48 United States (excluding Gulf of Mexico production). Other factors that could adversely impact production include reduced capital market access, increased capital raising costs for producers or adverse governmental or regulatory
action. In turn, such developments could lead to reduced throughput on our pipelines and at our other facilities, which, depending on the level of production declines, could have a material adverse effect on our business.
Also, except with respect to some of our recently constructed pipeline assets, third-party shippers generally do not have long-term contractual commitments to ship crude oil on our pipelines. A decision by a shipper to substantially reduce or cease to ship volumes of crude oil on our pipelines could cause a significant decline in our revenues.
To maintain the volumes of crude oil we purchase in connection with our operations, we must continue to contract for new supplies of crude oil to offset volumes lost because of reduced drilling activity by producers, natural declines in crude oil production from depleting wells or volumes lost to competitors. If production declines, competitors with under-utilized assets could impair our ability to secure additional supplies of crude oil.
We may not be able to compete effectively in our transportation, facilities and supply and logistics activities, and our business is subject to various risks associated with the general capacity overbuild of midstream energy infrastructure in some of the areas where we operate.
We face competition in all aspects of our business and can give no assurances that we will be able to compete effectively against our competitors. In general, competition comes from a wide variety of participants in a wide variety of contexts, including new entrants and existing participants and in connection with day-to-day business, expansion capital projects, acquisitions and joint venture activities. Some of our competitors have capital resources many times greater than ours and control greater supplies of crude oil, natural gas or NGL.
A significant driver of competition in some of the markets where we operate (including, for example, the Eagle Ford, Permian Basin, and Rockies/Bakken areas) stems from the rapid development of new midstream energy infrastructure capacity that was driven by the combination of (i) significant increases in oil and gas production and development in the applicable production areas, both actual and anticipated, (ii) relatively low barriers to entry and (iii) generally widespread access to relatively low cost capital. While this environment presented opportunities for us, many of these areas have become overbuilt, resulting in an excess of midstream energy infrastructure capacity. In addition, as an established participant in some markets, we also face competition from aggressive new entrants to the market who are willing to provide services at a lower rate of return in order to establish relationships and gain a foothold in the market. Current expectations for oil and gas development in many of the areas where we operate are not as robust as they were during the last few years. This adversely impacts both our existing assets and growth projects in such areas. We also face competition for incremental volumes from shippers on third-party pipelines who overcommitted relative to their actual production or committed supplies and are now purchasing barrels on the open market and shipping them on such third-party pipelines in order to satisfy their minimum commitment levels. This puts downward pressure on our throughput and margins and, together with other adverse competitive effects, could have a significant adverse impact on our financial position, cash flows and ability to pay or increase distributions to our unitholders.
With respect to our crude oil activities, our competitors include other crude oil pipelines, the major integrated oil companies, their marketing affiliates, refiners, private equity-backed entities, and independent gatherers, brokers and marketers of widely varying sizes, financial resources and experience. We compete against these companies on the basis of many factors, including geographic proximity to production areas, market access, rates, terms of service, connection costs and other factors.
With respect to our natural gas storage operations, the principal elements of competition are rates, terms of service, supply and market access and flexibility of service. Our natural gas storage facilities compete with several other storage providers, including regional storage facilities and utilities. Certain pipeline companies have existing storage facilities connected to their systems that compete with some of our facilities.
With regard to our NGL operations, we compete with large oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids companies that may, relative to us, have greater financial resources and access to supplies of natural gas and NGL. The principal elements of competition are rates, processing fees, geographic proximity to the natural gas or NGL mix, available processing and fractionation capacity, transportation alternatives and their associated costs, and access to end-user markets.
Fluctuations in supply and demand, which can be caused by a variety of factors outside of our control, can negatively affect our operating results.
Supply and demand for crude oil and other hydrocarbon products we handle is dependent upon a variety of factors, including price, the impact of future economic conditions, fuel conservation measures, alternative fuel adoption, governmental regulation, including climate change regulations, and technological advances in fuel economy and energy generation devices. For example, the adoption of legislation or regulatory programs to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases could increase the
cost of consuming crude oil and other hydrocarbon products, thereby causing a reduction in the demand for such products. Demand also depends on the ability and willingness of shippers having access to our transportation assets to satisfy their demand by deliveries through those assets. The supply of crude oil depends on a variety of global political and economic factors, including the reliance of foreign governments on petroleum revenues. Excess global supply of crude oil may negatively impact our operating results by decreasing the price of crude oil and making production and transportation less profitable in areas we service.
Fluctuations in demand for crude oil, such as those caused by refinery downtime or shutdowns, can have a negative effect on our operating results. Specifically, reduced demand in an area serviced by our transportation systems will negatively affect the throughput on such systems. Although the negative impact may be mitigated or overcome by our ability to capture differentials created by demand fluctuations, this ability is dependent on location and grade of crude oil, and thus is unpredictable.
Fluctuations in demand for NGL products, whether because of general or industry specific economic conditions, new government regulations, global competition, reduced demand by consumers for products made with NGL products, increased competition from petroleum-based feedstocks due to pricing differences, mild winter weather for some NGL products, particularly propane, or other reasons, could result in a decline in the volume of NGL products we handle or a reduction of the fees we charge for our services. Also, increased supply of NGL products could reduce the value of NGL we handle and reduce the margins realized by us.
NGL and products produced from NGL also compete with products from global markets. Any reduced demand or increased supply for ethane, propane, normal butane, iso-butane or natural gasoline in the markets we access for any of the reasons stated above could adversely affect demand for the services we provide as well as NGL prices, which could negatively impact our operating results.
Our results of operations are influenced by the overall forward market for crude oil, and certain market structures or the absence of pricing volatility may adversely impact our results.
Results from our Supply and Logistics segment are influenced by the overall forward market for crude oil. A contango market is favorable to commercial strategies that are associated with storage capacity as it allows a party to simultaneously purchase crude oil at current prices for storage and sell at higher prices for future delivery. Wide contango spreads combined with price structure volatility generally have a favorable impact on our results. A backwardated market (meaning that the price of crude oil for future deliveries is lower than current prices) can have a positive impact on lease gathering margins because in certain circumstances crude oil gatherers can capture a premium for prompt deliveries; however, in this environment there is little incentive to store crude oil as current prices are above future delivery prices. In either case, margins can be improved when prices are volatile. The periods between these two market structures are referred to as transition periods. If the market is in a backwardated to transitional structure, our results from our Supply and Logistics segment may be less than those generated during the more favorable contango market conditions. Additionally, a prolonged transition period or a lack of volatility in the pricing structure may further negatively impact our results. Depending on the overall duration of these transition periods, how we have allocated our assets to particular strategies and the time length of our crude oil purchase and sale contracts and storage agreements, these transition periods may have either an adverse or beneficial effect on our aggregate segment results. A prolonged transition from a backwardated market to a contango market, or vice versa (essentially a market that is neither in pronounced backwardation nor contango), represents the least beneficial environment for our Supply and Logistics segment.
A natural disaster, catastrophe, terrorist attack (including eco-terrorist attacks), process safety failure or other event, including pipeline or facility accidents and attacks on our electronic and computer systems, could interrupt our operations and/or result in severe personal injury, property damage and environmental damage, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations and cash flows.
Some of our operations involve risks of personal injury, property damage and environmental damage that could curtail our operations and otherwise materially adversely affect our cash flow. Virtually all of our operations are exposed to potential natural disasters or other natural events, including hurricanes, tornadoes, storms, floods, earthquakes, shifting soil and/or landslides. The location of some of our assets and our customers’ assets in the U.S. Gulf Coast region makes them particularly vulnerable to hurricane or tropical storm risk. Our facilities and operations are also vulnerable to accidents caused by process safety failures, equipment failures or human error. In addition, since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S. government has issued warnings that energy assets, specifically the nation’s pipeline infrastructure, may be future targets of terrorist organizations. Terrorists may target our physical facilities and hackers may attack our electronic and computer systems.
If one or more of our pipelines or other facilities, including electronic and computer systems, or any facilities or businesses that deliver products, supplies or services to us or that we rely on in order to operate our business, are damaged by severe weather or any other disaster, accident, catastrophe, terrorist attack or event, our operations could be significantly interrupted. These interruptions could involve significant damage or injury to people, property or the environment, and repairs could take from a week or less for minor incidents to six months or more for major interruptions. Any such event that interrupts the revenues generated by our operations, or which causes us to make significant expenditures not covered by insurance, could reduce our cash available for paying distributions to our partners and, accordingly, adversely affect our financial condition and the market price of our securities.
We may also suffer damage (including reputational damage) as a result of a disaster, accident, catastrophe, terrorist attack or other such event. The occurrence of such an event, or a series of such events, especially if one or more of them occurs in a highly populated or sensitive area, could negatively impact public perception of our operations and/or make it more difficult for us to obtain the approvals, permits, licenses or real property interests we need in order to operate our assets or complete planned growth projects.
We may face opposition to the development or operation of our pipelines and facilities from various groups.
We may face opposition to the development or operation of our pipelines and facilities from environmental groups, landowners, tribal groups, local groups and other advocates. Such opposition could take many forms, including organized protests, attempts to block or sabotage our operations, intervention in regulatory or administrative proceedings involving our assets, or lawsuits or other actions designed to prevent, disrupt or delay the development or operation of our assets and business. For example, repairing our pipelines often involves securing consent from individual landowners to access their property; one or more landowners may resist our efforts to make needed repairs, which could lead to an interruption in the operation of the affected pipeline or other facility for a period of time that is significantly longer than would have otherwise been the case. In addition, acts of sabotage or eco-terrorism could cause significant damage or injury to people, property or the environment or lead to extended interruptions of our operations. Any such event that interrupts the revenues generated by our operations, or which causes us to make significant expenditures not covered by insurance, could reduce our cash available for paying distributions to our partners and, accordingly, adversely affect our financial condition and the market price of our securities.
Recently, activists concerned about the potential effects of climate change have directed their attention towards sources of funding for fossil-fuel energy companies, which has resulted in certain financial institutions, funds and other sources of capital restricting or eliminating their investment in energy-related activities. Ultimately, this could make it more difficult to secure funding for exploration and production activities or energy infrastructure related projects, and consequently could both indirectly affect demand for our services and directly affect our ability to fund construction or other capital projects.
Cybersecurity breaches and other disruptions could compromise our information and operations, and expose us to liability, which would cause our business and reputation to suffer.
In the ordinary course of our business, we collect and store sensitive data in our data centers and on our networks, including intellectual property, proprietary business information, information regarding our customers, suppliers, royalty owners and business partners, and personally identifiable information of our employees. The secure processing, maintenance and transmission of this information is critical to our operations and business strategy. Despite our security measures, our information technology and infrastructure may be vulnerable to attacks by hackers or breached due to employee error, malfeasance or other disruptions. Any such breach could compromise our networks and the information stored there could be accessed, publicly disclosed, lost or stolen. Any such access, disclosure or other loss of information could result in legal claims or proceedings, liability under laws that protect the privacy of personal information, regulatory penalties for divulging shipper information, disruption of our operations, damage to our reputation, and loss of confidence in our services, which could adversely affect our business.
Our information technology infrastructure is critical to the efficient operation of our business and essential to our ability to perform day-to-day operations. Breaches in our information technology infrastructure or physical facilities, or other disruptions, could result in damage to our assets, safety incidents, damage to the environment, potential liability or the loss of contracts, and have a material adverse effect on our operations, financial position and results of operations.
Loss of our investment grade credit rating or the ability to receive open credit could negatively affect our borrowing costs, ability to purchase crude oil, NGL and natural gas supplies or to capitalize on market opportunities.
We believe that, because of our strategic asset base and complementary business model, we will continue to benefit from swings in market prices and shifts in market structure during periods of volatility in the crude oil, NGL and natural gas markets. The extent to which we are able to capture that benefit, however, is subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, including whether we will be able to maintain an attractive credit rating and continue to receive open credit from our suppliers and trade counterparties. Our senior unsecured debt is currently rated as “investment grade” by Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings Inc. In August 2017, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded its rating of our senior unsecured debt to a level below investment grade. A further downgrade by Standard & Poor’s or Fitch Ratings, Inc. to a level below our current ratings levels assigned by such rating agencies could increase our borrowing costs, reduce our borrowing capacity and cause our counterparties to reduce the amount of open credit we receive from them. This could negatively impact our ability to capitalize on market opportunities. For example, our ability to utilize our crude oil storage capacity for merchant activities to capture contango market opportunities is dependent upon having adequate credit facilities, both in terms of the total amount of credit facilities and the cost of such credit facilities, which enables us to finance the storage of the crude oil from the time we complete the purchase of the crude oil until the time we complete the sale of the crude oil. Loss of our remaining investment grade credit ratings could also adversely impact our cash flows, our ability to make distributions at our current levels and the value of our outstanding equity and debt securities.
If we make acquisitions that fail to perform as anticipated, our future growth may be limited.
In evaluating acquisitions, we generally prepare one or more financial cases based on a number of business, industry, economic, legal, regulatory, and other assumptions applicable to the proposed transaction. Although we expect a reasonable basis will exist for those assumptions, the assumptions will generally involve current estimates of future conditions. Realization of many of the assumptions will be beyond our control. Moreover, the uncertainty and risk of inaccuracy associated with any financial projection will increase with the length of the forecasted period. Some acquisitions may not be accretive in the near term, and will be accretive in the long term only if we are able to timely and effectively integrate the underlying assets and such assets perform at or near the levels anticipated in our acquisition projections.
Acquisitions and divestitures involve risks that may adversely affect our business.
Any acquisition involves potential risks, including:
performance from the acquired businesses or assets that is below the forecasts we used in evaluating the acquisition;
a significant increase in our indebtedness and working capital requirements;
the inability to timely and effectively integrate the operations of recently acquired businesses or assets;
the incurrence of substantial unforeseen environmental and other liabilities arising out of the acquired businesses or assets for which we are either not fully insured or indemnified, including liabilities arising from the operation of the acquired businesses or assets prior to our acquisition;
risks associated with operating in lines of business that are distinct and separate from our historical operations;
customer or key employee loss from the acquired businesses; and
the diversion of management’s attention from other business concerns.
Any of these factors could adversely affect our ability to achieve anticipated levels of cash flows from our acquisitions, realize other anticipated benefits and our ability to pay distributions to our partners or meet our debt service requirements.
We have also undertaken a strategic divestiture program involving sales of non-core assets and partial sales of other assets to strategic partners. If we are unable to successfully implement our divestiture program, we may be unable to fund our capital needs or we may have to raise additional funding in the capital markets. In addition, in connection with our divestitures, we may agree to retain responsibility for certain liabilities that relate to our period of ownership, which could adversely impact our future financial performance.
Our growth strategy requires access to new capital. Tightened capital markets or other factors that increase our cost of capital could impair our ability to grow.
We continuously consider potential acquisitions and opportunities for expansion capital projects. Acquisition transactions can be effected quickly, may occur at any time and may be significant in size relative to our existing assets and operations. Our ability to fund our capital projects and make acquisitions depends on whether we can access the necessary financing to fund these activities. Any limitations on our access to capital or increase in the cost of that capital could significantly impair our growth strategy. Our ability to maintain our targeted credit profile, including maintaining our credit ratings, could affect our cost of capital as well as our ability to execute our growth strategy. In addition, a variety of factors beyond our control could impact the availability or cost of capital, including domestic or international economic conditions, increases in key benchmark interest rates and/or credit spreads, the adoption of new or amended banking or capital market laws or regulations, the re-pricing of market risks and volatility in capital and financial markets.
In addition, our ability to achieve and maintain our target credit profile is in part dependent on our ability to consummate previously announced divestiture transactions. The closing of such transactions is not entirely within our control and depends in part on the satisfaction of closing conditions that require action or inaction by governmental authorities or others. To the extent we are unable to consummate such transactions, we may be forced to incur additional indebtedness or issue more equity than we would have otherwise preferred, which could make it harder for us to achieve our targeted credit profile.
Due to these factors, we cannot be certain that funding for our capital needs will be available from bank credit arrangements, capital markets or other sources on acceptable terms. If funding is not available when needed, or is available only on unfavorable terms, we may be unable to implement our development plans, enhance our existing business, complete acquisitions and construction projects, take advantage of business opportunities or respond to competitive pressures, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our revenues and results of operations.
We may not be able to fully implement or capitalize upon planned growth projects.
We have a number of organic growth projects that involve the construction of new midstream energy infrastructure assets or the expansion or modification of existing assets. Many of these projects involve numerous regulatory, environmental, commercial, economic, weather-related, political and legal uncertainties that are beyond our control, including the following:
As these projects are undertaken, required approvals, permits and licenses may not be obtained, may be delayed, may be obtained with conditions that materially alter the expected return associated with the underlying projects or may be granted and then subsequently withdrawn;
We may face opposition to our planned growth projects from environmental groups, landowners, local groups and other advocates, including lawsuits or other actions designed to disrupt or delay our planned projects;
We may not be able to obtain, or we may be significantly delayed in obtaining, all of the rights of way or other real property interests we need to complete such projects, or the costs we incur in order to obtain such rights of way or other interests may be greater than we anticipated;
Despite the fact that we will expend significant amounts of capital during the construction phase of these projects, revenues associated with these organic growth projects will not materialize until the projects have been completed and placed into commercial service, and the amount of revenue generated from these projects could be significantly lower than anticipated for a variety of reasons;
We may construct pipelines, facilities or other assets in anticipation of market demand that dissipates or market growth that never materializes;
Due to unavailability or costs of materials, supplies, power, labor or equipment, including increased costs associated with any import duties or requirements to source certain supplies or materials from U.S. suppliers or manufacturers, the cost of completing these projects could turn out to be significantly higher than we budgeted and the time it takes to complete construction of these projects and place them into commercial service could be significantly longer than planned; and
The completion or success of our projects may depend on the completion or success of third-party facilities over which we have no control.
As a result of these uncertainties, the anticipated benefits associated with our capital projects may not be achieved or could be delayed. In turn, this could negatively impact our cash flow and our ability to make or increase cash distributions to our partners.
We are exposed to the credit risk of our customers and other counterparties we transact within the ordinary course of our business activities.
Risks of nonpayment and nonperformance by customers or other counterparties are a significant consideration in our business and are of increased concern in the current low commodity price environment. Although we have credit risk management policies and procedures that are designed to mitigate and limit our exposure in this area, there can be no assurance that we have adequately assessed and managed the creditworthiness of our existing or future counterparties or that there will not be an unanticipated deterioration in their creditworthiness or unexpected instances of nonpayment or nonperformance, all of which could have an adverse impact on our cash flow and our ability to pay or increase our cash distributions to our partners.
We have a number of minimum volume commitment contracts that support pipelines in our Transportation segment. In addition, certain of the pipelines in which we own a joint venture interest have minimum volume commitment contracts. Pursuant to such contracts, shippers are obligated to pay for a minimum volume of transportation service regardless of whether such volume is actually shipped (typically referred to as a deficiency payment), subject to the receipt of credits that typically expire if not used by a certain date. While such contracts provide greater revenue certainty, if the applicable shipper fails to transport the minimum required volume and is required to make a deficiency payment, under applicable accounting rules, the revenue associated with such deficiency payment may not be recognized until the applicable transportation credit has expired or has been used. Deferred revenue associated with non-performance by shippers under minimum volume contracts could be significant and could adversely affect our profitability and earnings.
In addition, in those cases in which we provide division order services for crude oil purchased at the wellhead, we may be responsible for distribution of proceeds to all parties. In other cases, we pay all of or a portion of the production proceeds to an operator who distributes these proceeds to the various interest owners. These arrangements expose us to operator credit risk, and there can be no assurance that we will not experience losses in dealings with such operators and other parties.
Further, to the extent one or more of our major customers experiences financial distress or commences bankruptcy proceedings, contracts with such customers (including contracts that are supported by acreage dedications) may be subject to renegotiation or rejection under applicable provisions of the United States Bankruptcy Code. Any such renegotiation or rejection could have an adverse effect on our revenue and cash flows and our ability to make cash distributions to our unitholders.
We have also undertaken numerous projects that require cooperation with and performance by joint venture co-owners. In addition, in connection with various acquisition, divestiture, joint venture and other transactions, we often receive indemnifications from various parties for certain risks or liabilities. Nonperformance by any of these parties could result in increased costs or other adverse consequences that could decrease our earnings and returns.
We also rely to a significant degree on the banks that lend to us under our revolving credit facility for financial liquidity, and any failure of those banks to perform on their obligations to us could significantly impair our liquidity. Furthermore, nonpayment by the counterparties to our interest rate, commodity and/or foreign currency derivatives could expose us to additional interest rate, commodity price and/or foreign currency risk.
Our risk policies cannot eliminate all risks. In addition, any non-compliance with our risk policies could result in significant financial losses.
Generally, it is our policy to establish a margin for crude oil or other products we purchase by selling such products for physical delivery to third-party users, or by entering into a future delivery obligation under derivative contracts. Through these transactions, we seek to maintain a position that is substantially balanced between purchases on the one hand, and sales or future delivery obligations on the other hand. Our policy is not to acquire and hold physical inventory or derivative products for the purpose of speculating on commodity price changes. These policies and practices cannot, however, eliminate all risks. For example, any event that disrupts our anticipated physical supply of crude oil or other products could expose us to risk of loss resulting from price changes. We are also exposed to basis risk when crude oil or other products are purchased against one pricing index and sold against a different index. Moreover, we are exposed to some risks that are not hedged, including risks on certain of our inventory, such as linefill, which must be maintained in order to transport crude oil on our pipelines. In an effort to maintain a balanced position, specifically authorized personnel can purchase or sell crude oil, refined products and NGL, up
to predefined limits and authorizations. Although this activity is monitored independently by our risk management function, it exposes us to commodity price risks within these limits.
In addition, our operations involve the risk of non-compliance with our risk policies. We have taken steps within our organization to implement processes and procedures designed to detect unauthorized trading; however, we can provide no assurance that these steps will detect and prevent all violations of our risk policies and procedures, particularly if deception, collusion or other intentional misconduct is involved.
Our operations are also subject to laws and regulations relating to protection of the environment and wildlife, operational safety, climate change and related matters that may expose us to significant costs and liabilities.
Our operations involving the storage, treatment, processing, and transportation of liquid hydrocarbons, including crude oil, NGL and refined products, as well as our operations involving the storage of natural gas, are subject to stringent federal, state, and local laws and regulations governing the discharge of materials into the environment. Our operations are also subject to laws and regulations relating to protection of the environment and wildlife, operational safety, climate change and related matters. Compliance with all of these laws and regulations increases our overall cost of doing business, including our capital costs to construct, maintain and upgrade equipment and facilities. For example, the adoption of legislation or regulatory programs to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide and methane), including cap and trade programs, could require us to incur increased operating costs, such as costs to purchase and operate emissions control systems, to acquire emissions allowances or comply with new regulatory or reporting requirements. In addition, with respect to our railcar operations, the adoption of new regulations designed to enhance the overall safety of crude oil and natural gas liquids transportation by rail could result in increased operating costs and potentially involve substantial capital expenditures. Also, the failure to comply with any such laws and regulations could result in the assessment of administrative, civil, and criminal penalties, the imposition of investigatory and remedial liabilities, the issuance of injunctions that may subject us to additional operational requirements and constraints, or claims of damages to property or persons resulting from our operations. In addition, criminal violations of certain environmental laws, or in some cases even the allegation of criminal violations, may result in the temporary suspension or outright debarment from participating in government contracts. The laws and regulations applicable to our operations are subject to change and interpretation by the relevant governmental agency, including the possibility that exemptions we currently qualify for may be modified or changed in ways that require us to incur significant additional compliance costs. Any such change or interpretation adverse to us could have a material adverse effect on our operations, revenues, expenses and profitability.
We have a history of incremental additions to the miles of pipelines we own, both through acquisitions and expansion capital projects. We have also increased our terminal and storage capacity and operate several facilities on or near navigable waters and domestic water supplies. Although we have implemented programs intended to maintain the integrity of our assets (discussed below), as we acquire additional assets we are at risk for an increase in the number of releases of liquid hydrocarbons into the environment. These releases expose us to potentially substantial expense, including clean-up and remediation costs, fines and penalties, and third party claims for personal injury or property damage related to past or future releases. Some of these expenses could increase by amounts disproportionately higher than the relative increase in pipeline mileage and the increase in revenues associated therewith. Our refined products terminal assets are also subject to significant compliance costs and liabilities. In addition, because of the increased volatility of refined products and their tendency to migrate farther and faster than crude oil when released, releases of refined products into the environment can have a more significant impact than crude oil and require significantly higher expenditures to respond and remediate. The incurrence of such expenses not covered by insurance, indemnity or reserves could materially adversely affect our results of operations.
We currently devote substantial resources to comply with DOT-mandated pipeline integrity rules. The 2006 Pipeline Safety Act requires the DOT to issue regulations for certain pipelines that were not previously subject to regulation. The DOT regulations include requirements for the establishment of pipeline integrity management programs and for protection of “high consequence areas” where a pipeline leak or rupture could produce significant adverse consequences. We have also developed and implemented certain pipeline integrity measures that we believe go beyond regulatory mandates. See Items 1 and 2 “Business and Properties—Regulation.”
For 2018 and beyond, we will continue to focus on pipeline integrity management as a primary operational emphasis. In that regard, we have implemented programs intended to maintain the integrity of our assets, with a continued focus on risk reduction through testing, enhanced corrosion control, leak detection, and damage prevention. We have an internal review process pursuant to which we examine various aspects of our pipeline and gathering systems that are not subject to the DOT pipeline integrity management mandate. The purpose of this process is to review the surrounding environment, condition and operating history of these pipeline and gathering assets to determine if such assets warrant additional investment or replacement. Accordingly, in addition to potential cost increases related to unanticipated regulatory changes or injunctive remedies resulting from regulatory agency enforcement actions, we may elect (as a result of our own internal initiatives) to spend substantial sums to enhance the integrity of and upgrade our pipeline systems to maintain environmental compliance and, in some cases, we may take pipelines out of service if we believe the cost of upgrades will exceed the value of the pipelines. We cannot provide any assurance as to the ultimate amount or timing of future pipeline integrity expenditures but any such expenditures could be significant. See “Environmental — General” in Note 17 to our Consolidated Financial Statements. In addition, despite our pipeline and facility integrity management efforts, we can provide no assurance that our pipelines and facilities will not experience leaks or releases or that we will be able to fully comply with all of the federal, state and local laws and regulations applicable to the operation of our pipelines or facilities; any such leaks or releases could be material and could have a significant adverse impact on our reputation, financial position, cash flows and ability to pay or increase distributions to our unitholders.
Our assets are subject to federal, state and provincial regulation. Rate regulation or a successful challenge to the rates we charge on our U.S. and Canadian pipeline systems may reduce the amount of cash we generate.
Our U.S. interstate common carrier liquids pipelines are subject to regulation by the FERC under the ICA. The ICA requires that tariff rates and terms and conditions of service for liquids pipelines be just and reasonable and non-discriminatory. We are also subject to the Pipeline Safety Regulations of the DOT. Our intrastate pipeline transportation activities are subject to various state laws and regulations as well as orders of regulatory bodies.
For our U.S. interstate common carrier liquids pipelines subject to FERC regulation under the ICA, shippers may protest our pipeline tariff filings or file complaints against our existing rates or complaints alleging that we are engaging in discriminating behavior. The FERC can also investigate on its own initiative. Under certain circumstances, the FERC could limit our ability to set rates based on our costs, or could order us to reduce our rates and could require the payment of reparations to complaining shippers for up to two years prior to the complaint. Natural gas storage facilities are subject to regulation by the FERC and certain state agencies.
In addition, we routinely monitor the public filings and proceedings of other parties with the FERC and other regulatory agencies in an effort to identify issues that could potentially impact our business. Under certain circumstances we may choose to intervene in such third-party proceedings in order to express our support for, or our opposition to, various issues raised by the parties to such proceedings. For example, if we believe that a petition filed with, or order issued by, the FERC is improper, overbroad other otherwise flawed, we may attempt to intervene in such proceedings for the purpose of protesting such petition or order and requesting appropriate action such as a clarification, rehearing or other remedy. Despite such efforts, we can provide no assurance that the FERC and other agencies that regulate our business will not issue future orders or declarations that increase our costs or otherwise adversely affect our operations.
Our Canadian pipelines are subject to regulation by the NEB and by provincial authorities. Under the National Energy Board Act, the NEB could investigate the tariff rates or the terms and conditions of service relating to a jurisdictional pipeline on its own initiative upon the filing of a toll or tariff application, or upon the filing of a written complaint. If the NEB found the rates or terms of service relating to such pipeline to be unjust or unreasonable or unjustly discriminatory, the NEB could require us to change our rates, provide access to other shippers, or change our terms of service. A provincial authority could, on the application of a shipper or other interested party, investigate the tariff rates or our terms and conditions of service relating to our provincially-regulated proprietary pipelines. If it found our rates or terms of service to be contrary to statutory requirements, it could impose conditions it considers appropriate. A provincial authority could declare a pipeline to be a common carrier pipeline, and require us to change our rates, provide access to other shippers, or otherwise alter our terms of service. Any reduction in our tariff rates would result in lower revenue and cash flows.
Some of our operations cross the U.S./Canada border and are subject to cross-border regulation.
Our cross border activities subject us to regulatory matters, including import and export licenses, tariffs, Canadian and U.S. customs and tax issues and toxic substance certifications. Such regulations include the Short Supply Controls of the EAA, the NAFTA and the TSCA. Violations of these licensing, tariff and tax reporting requirements could result in the imposition of significant administrative, civil and criminal penalties.
Our purchases and sales of crude oil, natural gas and NGL, and hedging activities, expose us to potential regulatory risks.
The FTC, the FERC and the CFTC hold statutory authority to monitor certain segments of the physical and futures energy commodities markets. These agencies have imposed broad regulations prohibiting fraud and manipulation of such markets. With regard to our physical purchases and sales of crude oil, natural gas or NGL and any related hedging activities that we undertake, we are required to observe the market-related regulations enforced by these agencies, which hold substantial enforcement authority. Our purchases and sales may also be subject to certain reporting and other requirements. Additionally, to the extent that we enter into transportation contracts with common carrier pipelines that are subject to FERC regulation, we are subject to FERC requirements related to the use of such capacity. Any failure on our part to comply with the regulations and policies of the FERC, the FTC or the CFTC could result in the imposition of civil and criminal penalties. Failure to comply with such regulations, as interpreted and enforced, could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and our ability to make cash distributions to our unitholders.
The enactment and implementation of derivatives legislation could have an adverse impact on our ability to use derivative instruments to reduce the effect of commodity price, interest rate and other risks associated with our business and increase the working capital requirement to conduct these hedging activities.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”), enacted on July 21, 2010, established federal oversight and regulation of derivative markets and entities, such as us, that participate in those markets. The Dodd-Frank Act requires the CFTC and the SEC to promulgate rules and regulations implementing the Dodd-Frank Act. Although the CFTC has finalized certain regulations, others remain to be finalized or implemented and it is not possible at this time to predict when this will be accomplished.
In October 2011, the CFTC issued regulations to set position limits for certain futures and option contracts in the major energy markets. The initial position limits rule was vacated by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in September 2012. However, in November 2013, the CFTC proposed new rules that would place limits on positions in certain core futures and equivalent swaps contracts for, or linked to, certain physical commodities, subject to exceptions for certain bona fide hedging transactions. As these new position limit rules are not yet final, the impact of those provisions on us is uncertain at this time.
The CFTC has designated certain interest rate swaps and credit default swaps for mandatory clearing, and the associated rules require us, in connection with covered derivative activities, to comply with clearing and trade-execution requirements or take steps to qualify for an exemption from such requirements. We do not utilize credit default swaps and we qualify for, and expect to continue to qualify for, the end-user exception from the mandatory clearing requirements for swaps entered into to hedge our interest rate risks. Should the CFTC designate commodity derivatives for mandatory clearing, we would expect to qualify for an end-user exception from the mandatory clearing requirements for swaps entered into to hedge our commodity price risk. However, the majority of our financial derivative transactions used for hedging commodity price risks are currently executed and cleared over exchanges that require the posting of margin or letters of credit based on initial and variation margin requirements. Pursuant to the Dodd Frank Act, however, the CFTC or federal banking regulators may require the posting of collateral with respect to uncleared interest rate and commodity derivative transactions.
Certain banking regulators and the CFTC have adopted final rules establishing minimum margin requirements for uncleared swaps. Although we qualify for the end-user exception from margin requirements for swaps entered into to hedge commercial risks, if any of our swaps do not qualify for the commercial end-user exception, a requirement to post additional cash margin or collateral could reduce our ability to execute hedges necessary to reduce commodity price exposures and protect cash flows. Posting of additional cash margin or collateral could affect our liquidity (defined as unrestricted cash on hand plus available capacity under our credit facilities) and reduce our ability to use cash for capital expenditures or other partnership purposes.
Even if we ourselves are not required to post additional cash margin or collateral for our derivative contracts, the banks and other derivatives dealers who are our contractual counterparties will be required to comply with other new requirements under the Dodd-Frank Act and related rules. The costs of such compliance may be passed on to customers such as ourselves, thus decreasing the benefits to us of hedging transactions or reducing our profitability. In addition, implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act and related rules and regulations could reduce the overall liquidity and depth of the markets for financial and other derivatives we utilize in connection with our business, which could expose us to additional risks or limit the opportunities we are able to capture by limiting the extent to which we are able to execute our hedging strategies.
Finally, the Dodd-Frank Act was intended, in part, to reduce the volatility of oil and gas prices, which some legislators attributed to speculative trading in derivatives and commodity instruments related to oil and gas. Our financial results could be adversely affected if a consequence of the Dodd-Frank Act and implementing regulations is lower commodity prices.
The full impact of the Dodd-Frank Act and related regulatory requirements upon our business will not be known until the regulations are implemented and the market for derivatives contracts has adjusted. The Dodd-Frank Act and any new regulations could significantly increase the cost of derivative contracts, materially alter the terms of derivative contracts, reduce the availability of derivatives to protect against risks we encounter, reduce our ability to monetize or restructure our existing derivative contracts. If we reduce our use of derivatives as a result of the Dodd-Frank Act and regulations implementing the Dodd-Frank Act, our results of operations may become more volatile and our cash flows may be less predictable. Any of these consequences could have a material adverse effect on us, our financial condition and our results of operations.
Legislation and regulatory initiatives relating to hydraulic fracturing could reduce domestic production of crude oil and natural gas.
Hydraulic fracturing is an important and common practice that is used to stimulate production of hydrocarbons from unconventional geological formations. Recent advances in hydraulic fracturing techniques have resulted in significant increases in crude oil and natural gas production in many basins in the United States and Canada. The process involves the injection of water, sand and chemicals under pressure into the formation to fracture the surrounding rock and stimulate production, and it is typically regulated by state and provincial oil and gas commissions. We do not perform hydraulic fracturing, but many of the producers using our pipelines do. Hydraulic fracturing has been subject to increased scrutiny due to public concerns that it could result in contamination of drinking water supplies, and there have been a variety of legislative and regulatory proposals to prohibit, restrict, or more closely regulate various forms of hydraulic fracturing. Any legislation or regulatory initiatives that curtail hydraulic fracturing could reduce the production of crude oil and natural gas in the United States or Canada, and could thereby reduce demand for our transportation, terminalling and storage services as well as our supply and logistics services.
We may in the future encounter increased costs related to, and lack of availability of, insurance.
Over the last several years, as the scale and scope of our business activities has expanded, the breadth and depth of available insurance markets has contracted. As a result of these factors and other market conditions, as well as the fact that we have experienced several incidents over the last 3 to 5 years, premiums and deductibles for certain insurance policies have increased substantially. Accordingly, we can give no assurance that we will be able to maintain adequate insurance in the future at rates or on other terms we consider commercially reasonable. In addition, although we believe that we currently maintain adequate insurance coverage, insurance will not cover many types of interruptions or events that might occur and will not cover all risks associated with our operations. In addition, the proceeds of any such insurance may not be paid in a timely manner and may be insufficient if such an event were to occur. The occurrence of a significant event, the consequences of which are either not covered by insurance or not fully insured, or a significant delay in the payment of a major insurance claim, could materially and adversely affect our financial position, results of operations and cash flows.
The terms of our indebtedness may limit our ability to borrow additional funds or capitalize on business opportunities. In addition, our future debt level may limit our future financial and operating flexibility.
As of December 31, 2017, the face value of our consolidated debt outstanding was approximately $10.0 billion, consisting of approximately $9.3 billion face value of long-term debt (including senior notes and long-term commercial paper and credit facility borrowings) and approximately $0.7 billion of short-term borrowings. As of December 31, 2017, we had approximately $3.0 billion of liquidity available, including cash and cash equivalents and available borrowing capacity under our senior unsecured revolving credit facility, our senior secured hedged inventory facility and our senior unsecured 364-day credit facility, subject to continued covenant compliance. Lower Adjusted EBITDA could increase our leverage ratios and effectively reduce our ability to incur additional indebtedness.
The amount of our current or future indebtedness could have significant effects on our operations, including, among other things:
a significant portion of our cash flow will be dedicated to the payment of principal and interest on our indebtedness and may not be available for other purposes, including the payment of distributions on our units and capital expenditures;
credit rating agencies may view our debt level negatively;
covenants contained in our existing debt arrangements will require us to continue to meet financial tests that may adversely affect our flexibility in planning for and reacting to changes in our business;
our ability to obtain additional financing for working capital, capital expenditures, acquisitions and general partnership purposes may be limited;
we may be at a competitive disadvantage relative to similar companies that have less debt; and
we may be more vulnerable to adverse economic and industry conditions as a result of our significant debt level.
Our credit agreements prohibit distributions on, or purchases or redemptions of, units if any default or event of default is continuing. In addition, the agreements contain various covenants limiting our ability to, among other things, incur indebtedness if certain financial ratios are not maintained, grant liens, engage in transactions with affiliates, enter into sale-leaseback transactions, and sell substantially all of our assets or enter into a merger or consolidation. Our credit facilities treat a change of control as an event of default and also requires us to maintain a certain debt coverage ratio. Our senior notes do not restrict distributions to unitholders, but a default under our credit agreements will be treated as a default under the senior notes. Please read Item 7. “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Liquidity and Capital Resources—Credit Agreements, Commercial Paper Program and Indentures.”
Our ability to access capital markets to raise capital on favorable terms will be affected by our debt level, our operating and financial performance, the amount of our current maturities and debt maturing in the next several years, and by prevailing market conditions. Moreover, if the rating agencies were to downgrade our credit ratings, then we could experience an increase in our borrowing costs, face difficulty accessing capital markets or incurring additional indebtedness, be unable to receive open credit from our suppliers and trade counterparties, be unable to benefit from swings in market prices and shifts in market structure during periods of volatility in the crude oil market or suffer a reduction in the market price of our common units. If we are unable to access the capital markets on favorable terms at the time a debt obligation becomes due in the future, we might be forced to refinance some of our debt obligations through bank credit, as opposed to long-term public debt securities or equity securities, or sell assets. The price and terms upon which we might receive such extensions or additional bank credit, if at all, could be more onerous than those contained in existing debt agreements. Any such arrangements could, in turn, increase the risk that our leverage may adversely affect our future financial and operating flexibility and thereby impact our ability to pay cash distributions at expected rates.
Increases in interest rates could adversely affect our business and the trading price of our units.
As of December 31, 2017, the face value of our consolidated debt was approximately $10.0 billion, of which approximately $9.1 billion was at fixed interest rates and approximately $0.9 billion was at variable interest rates. We are exposed to market risk due to the short-term nature of our commercial paper borrowings and the floating interest rates on our credit facilities. Our results of operations, cash flows and financial position could be adversely affected by significant increases in interest rates above current levels. Additionally, increases in interest rates could adversely affect our Supply and Logistics segment results by increasing interest costs associated with the storage of hedged crude oil and NGL inventory. Further, the trading price of our common units may be sensitive to changes in interest rates and any rise in interest rates could adversely impact such trading price.
Changes in currency exchange rates could adversely affect our operating results.
Because we are a U.S. dollar reporting company and also conduct operations in Canada, we are exposed to currency fluctuations and exchange rate risks that may adversely affect the U.S. dollar value of our earnings, cash flow and partners’ capital under applicable accounting rules. For example, as the U.S. dollar appreciates against the Canadian dollar, the U.S. dollar value of our Canadian dollar denominated earnings is reduced for U.S. reporting purposes.
An impairment of long-term assets could reduce our earnings.
At December 31, 2017, we had approximately $14.1 billion of net property and equipment, $872 million of linefill and base gas, $2.6 billion of goodwill, $2.8 billion of investments accounted for under the equity method of accounting and $844 million of net intangible assets capitalized on our balance sheet. GAAP requires an assessment for impairment on an annual basis or in certain circumstances, including when there is an indication that the carrying value of property and equipment may not be recoverable or a determination that it is more likely than not that a reporting unit’s carrying value is in excess of the reporting unit’s fair value. If we were to determine that any of our property and equipment, linefill and base gas, goodwill, intangibles or equity method investments was impaired, we could be required to take an immediate charge to earnings, which could adversely impact our operating results, with a corresponding reduction of partners’ capital and increase in balance sheet
leverage as measured by debt-to-total capitalization. During the year ended December 31, 2017, we recognized non-cash charges of approximately $152 million related to the write-down of certain property and equipment due to asset impairments and accelerated depreciation. See Note 5 to our Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information.
Rail and marine transportation of crude oil have inherent operating risks.
Our supply and logistics operations include purchasing crude oil that is carried on railcars, tankers or barges. Such cargos are at risk of being damaged or lost because of events such as derailment, marine disaster, inclement weather, mechanical failures, grounding or collision, fire, explosion, environmental accidents, piracy, terrorism and political instability. Such occurrences could result in death or injury to persons, loss of property or environmental damage, delays in the delivery of cargo, loss of revenues, termination of contracts, governmental fines, penalties or restrictions on conducting business, higher insurance rates and damage to our reputation and customer relationships generally. Although certain of these risks may be covered under our insurance program, any of these circumstances or events could increase our costs or lower our revenues.
We are dependent on use of third-party assets for certain of our operations.
Certain of our business activities require the use of third-party assets over which we may have little or no control. If at any time our access to these assets was denied, and if access to alternative assets could not be arranged, it could have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations and cash flow.
Non-utilization of certain assets, such as our leased railcars, could significantly reduce our profitability due to fixed costs incurred to obtain the right to use such assets.
From time to time in connection with our business, we may lease or otherwise secure the right to use certain third-party assets (such as railcars, trucks, barges, ships, pipeline capacity, storage capacity and other similar assets) with the expectation that the revenues we generate through the use of such assets will be greater than the fixed costs we incur pursuant to the applicable leases or other arrangements. However, when such assets are not utilized or are under-utilized, our profitability could be negatively impacted because the revenues we earn are either non-existent or reduced, but we remain obligated to continue paying any applicable fixed charges, in addition to the potential of incurring other costs attributable to the non-utilization of such assets. For example, in connection with our rail operations, we lease a significant number of our railcars, typically pursuant to multi-year leases that obligate us to pay the applicable lease rate without regard to utilization. If business conditions are such that a portion of our rail fleet is not utilized for any period of time due to reduced demand for the services they provide, we will still be obligated to pay the applicable fixed lease rate for such railcars. In addition, during the period of time that we are not utilizing such railcars, we will incur incremental costs associated with the cost of storing such railcars and will continue to incur costs for maintenance and upkeep. Non-utilization of our leased assets in connection with our business could have a significant negative impact on our profitability and cash flows.
Many of our assets have been in service for many years and require significant expenditures to maintain them. As a result, our maintenance or repair costs may increase in the future.
Our pipelines, terminals and storage assets are generally long-lived assets, and many of them have been in service for many years. The age and condition of our assets could result in increased maintenance or repair expenditures in the future. Any significant increase in these expenditures could adversely affect our results of operations, financial position or cash flows, as well as our ability to make cash distributions to our unitholders.
We do not own all of the land on which our pipelines and facilities are located, which could result in disruptions to our operations.
We do not own all of the land on which our pipelines and facilities have been constructed, and therefore are potentially subject to more onerous terms and/or increased costs to retain necessary land use if we do not have valid rights-of-way or if such rights-of-way lapse or terminate. In some instances, we obtain the rights to construct and operate our pipelines on land owned by third parties and governmental agencies for a specific period of time. Following a decision issued in May 2017 by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, tribal ownership of even a very small fractional interest in tribal land owned or at one time owned by an individual Indian landowner, bars condemnation of any interest in the allotment. Consequently, the inability to condemn such allotted lands under circumstances where existing pipeline rights-of-way may soon lapse or terminate serves as an additional potential impediment for pipeline operations. We cannot guarantee that we will always be able to renew existing rights-of-way or obtain new rights-of-way on favorable terms or without experiencing significant delays and costs. Any loss of rights with respect to real property, through our inability to renew right-of-way contracts or otherwise, could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, and financial position.
For various operating and commercial reasons, we may not be able to perform all of our obligations under our contracts, which could lead to increased costs and negatively impact our financial results.
Various operational and commercial factors could result in an inability on our part to satisfy our contractual commitments and obligations. For example, in connection with our provision of firm storage services and hub services to our natural gas storage customers, we enter into contracts that obligate us to honor our customers’ requests to inject gas into our storage facilities, withdraw gas from our facilities and wheel gas through our facilities, in each case subject to volume, timing and other limitations set forth in such contracts. The following factors could adversely impact our ability to perform our obligations under these contracts:
a failure on the part of our storage facilities to perform as we expect them to, whether due to malfunction of equipment or facilities or realization of other operational risks;
the operating pressure of our storage facilities (affected in varying degree, depending on the type of storage cavern, by total volume of working and base gas, and temperature);
a variety of commercial decisions we make from time to time in connection with the management and operation of our storage facilities. Examples include, without limitation, decisions with respect to matters such as (i) the aggregate amount of commitments we are willing to make with respect to wheeling, injection, and withdrawal services, which could exceed our capabilities at any given time for various reasons, (ii) the timing of scheduled and unplanned maintenance or repairs, which can impact equipment availability and capacity, (iii) the schedule for and rate at which we conduct opportunistic leaching activities at our facilities in connection with the expansion of existing salt caverns, which can impact the amount of storage capacity we have available to satisfy our customers’ requests, (iv) the timing and aggregate volume of any base gas park and/or loan transactions we consummate, which can directly affect the operating pressure of our storage facilities and (v) the amount of compression capacity and other gas handling equipment that we install at our facilities to support gas wheeling, injection and withdrawal activities; and
adverse operating conditions due to hurricanes, extreme weather events or conditions, and operational problems or issues with third-party pipelines, storage or production facilities.
Although we manage and monitor all of these various factors in connection with the ongoing operation of our natural gas storage facilities with the goal of performing all of our contractual commitments and obligations and optimizing our revenue, one or more of the above factors may adversely impact our ability to satisfy our injection, withdrawal or wheeling obligations under our storage contracts. In such event, we may be liable to our customers for losses or damages they suffer and/or we may need to incur costs or expenses in order to permit us to satisfy our obligations.
If we fail to obtain materials in the quantity and the quality we need, and at commercially acceptable prices, our results of operations, financial condition and cash flows could be materially and adversely affected.
Our business requires access to steel and other materials to construct and maintain new and existing pipelines and facilities. If we experience a shortage in the supply of these materials or are unable to source sufficient quantities of high quality materials at acceptable prices and in a timely manner, it could materially and adversely affect our ability to construct new infrastructure and maintain our existing assets.
In addition, some of the materials used in our business are imported. A material increase in the import duties on the materials we rely on to construct and maintain our pipelines could make it more difficult or costly to obtain such materials and could delay completion of our infrastructure projects. A material increase in our costs of construction and maintenance or any significant delays in our ability to complete our infrastructure projects could have a material adverse effect on our financial position, results of operations and cash flows.
Risks Inherent in an Investment in Us
Cost reimbursements due to our general partner may be substantial and will reduce our cash available for distribution to unitholders.
Prior to making any distribution on our common units, we will reimburse our general partner and its affiliates, including officers and directors of the general partner, for all expenses incurred on our behalf. In addition, we are required to pay all direct and indirect expenses of the Plains Entities, other than income taxes of any of the PAGP Entities. The reimbursement of expenses and the payment of fees and expenses could adversely affect our ability to make distributions. The general partner has sole discretion to determine the amount of these expenses. In addition, our general partner and its affiliates may provide us services for which we will be charged reasonable fees as determined by the general partner.
Cash distributions are not guaranteed and may fluctuate with our performance and the establishment of financial reserves.
Because distributions on our common units are dependent on the amount of cash we generate, distributions may fluctuate based on our performance. The actual amount of cash that is available to be distributed each quarter will depend on numerous factors, some of which are beyond our control and the control of the general partner. Cash distributions are dependent primarily on cash flow, including cash flow from financial reserves and working capital borrowings, and not solely on profitability, which is affected by non-cash items. Therefore, cash distributions might be made during periods when we record losses and might not be made during periods when we record profits.
Our preferred units have rights, preferences and privileges that are not held by, and are preferential to the rights of, holders of our common units.
Our Series A preferred units and Series B preferred units (together our “preferred units”) rank senior to all of our other classes or series of equity securities with respect to distribution rights and rights upon liquidation. These preferences could adversely affect the market price for our common units, or could make it more difficult for us to sell our common units in the future.
In addition, distributions on the preferred units accrue and are cumulative, at the rate of 8% per annum with respect to our Series A preferred units and 6.125% with respect to our Series B preferred units on the original issue price. Our Series A preferred units are convertible into common units by the holders of such units or by us in certain circumstances. Our Series B preferred units are not convertible into common units, but are redeemable by us in certain circumstances. Our obligation to pay distributions on our preferred units, or on the common units issued following the conversion of our Series A preferred units, could impact our liquidity and reduce the amount of cash flow available for working capital, capital expenditures, growth opportunities, acquisitions, and other general partnership purposes. Our obligations to the holders of preferred units could also limit our ability to obtain additional financing or increase our borrowing costs, which could have an adverse effect on our financial condition.
Unitholders may not be able to remove our general partner even if they wish to do so.
Our general partner manages and operates the Partnership. If unitholders are dissatisfied with the performance of our general partner, they currently have little practical ability to remove our general partner. Our general partner may not be removed except upon the vote of the holders of at least 662/3% of our outstanding units (including units held by our general partner or its affiliates). Because AAP owns approximately 39% of our outstanding common units and the owners of our general partner, along with directors and executive officers and their affiliates, own a significant percentage of our outstanding common units, the removal of our general partner would be difficult without the consent of both our general partner and its affiliates.
In addition, the following provisions of our partnership agreement may discourage a person or group from attempting to remove our general partner or otherwise change our management:
generally, if a person acquires 20% or more of any class of units then outstanding other than from our general partner or its affiliates, the units owned by such person cannot be voted on any matter, except that such shares constituting up to 19.9% of the total shares outstanding may be voted in the election of PAGP GP directors; and
limitations upon the ability of unitholders to call meetings or to acquire information about our operations, as well as other limitations upon the unitholders’ ability to influence the manner or direction of management.
As a result of these provisions, the price at which our common units will trade may be lower because of the absence or reduction of a takeover premium in the trading price.
We may issue additional common units without unitholder approval, which would dilute a unitholder’s existing ownership interests.
Our general partner may cause us to issue an unlimited number of common units without unitholder approval (subject to applicable NYSE rules). We may also issue at any time an unlimited number of equity securities ranking junior or senior to the common units without unitholder approval (subject to applicable NYSE rules). The issuance of additional common units or other equity securities of equal or senior rank may have the following effects:
an existing unitholder’s proportionate ownership interest in the Partnership will decrease;
the amount of cash available for distribution on each unit may decrease;
the ratio of taxable income to distributions may increase;
the relative voting strength of each previously outstanding unit may be diminished; and
the market price of the common units may decline.
In addition, our Series A preferred units are convertible into common units at any time after January 28, 2018 by the holders of such units, or under certain circumstances, at our option. If a substantial portion of the Series A preferred units were converted into common units, common unitholders could experience significant dilution. In addition, if holders of such converted Series A preferred units were to dispose of a substantial portion of these common units in the public market, whether in a single transaction or series of transactions, it could adversely affect the market price for our common units. In addition, these sales, or the possibility that these sales may occur, could make it more difficult for us to sell our common units in the future.
Our general partner has a limited call right that may require unitholders to sell their units at an undesirable time or price.
If at any time our general partner and its affiliates own 80% or more of the common units, the general partner will have the right, but not the obligation, which it may assign to any of its affiliates, to acquire all, but not less than all, of the remaining common units held by unaffiliated persons at a price generally equal to the then current market price of the common units. As a result, unitholders may be required to sell their common units at a time when they may not desire to sell them and/or at a price that is less than the price they would like to receive. They may also incur a tax liability upon a sale of their common units.
Unitholders may not have limited liability if a court finds that unitholder actions constitute control of our business and unitholders may have liability to repay distributions under certain circumstances.
Under Delaware law, a unitholder could be held liable for our obligations to the same extent as a general partner if a court determined that the right of unitholders to remove our general partner or to take other action under our partnership agreement constituted participation in the “control” of our business.
Our general partner generally has unlimited liability for our obligations, such as our debts and environmental liabilities, except for those contractual obligations that are expressly made without recourse to our general partner. Our partnership agreement allows the general partner to incur obligations on our behalf that are expressly non-recourse to the general partner. The general partner has entered into such limited recourse obligations in most instances involving payment liability and intends to do so in the future.
Furthermore, under Section 17-607 of the Delaware Revised Uniform Limited Partnership Act we may not make a distribution to our unitholders if the distribution would cause our liabilities to exceed the fair value of our assets. Liabilities to partners on account of their partnership interests and liabilities that are non-recourse to the partnership are not counted for purposes of determining whether a distribution is permitted. Delaware law provides that for a period of three years from the date of an impermissible distribution, limited partners who received the distribution and who knew at the time of the distribution that it violated Delaware law will be liable to the limited partnership for the distribution amount.
Conflicts of interest could arise among our general partner and us or the unitholders.
These conflicts may include the following:
under our partnership agreement, we reimburse the general partner for the costs of managing and for operating the partnership;
the amount of cash expenditures, borrowings and reserves in any quarter may affect available cash to pay quarterly distributions to unitholders;
the general partner tries to avoid being liable for partnership obligations. The general partner is permitted to protect its assets in this manner by our partnership agreement. Under our partnership agreement the general partner would not breach its fiduciary duty by avoiding liability for partnership obligations even if we can obtain more favorable terms without limiting the general partner’s liability; under our partnership agreement, the general partner may pay its affiliates for any services rendered on terms fair and reasonable to us. The general partner may also enter into additional contracts with any of its affiliates on behalf of us. Agreements or contracts between us and our general partner (and its affiliates) are not necessarily the result of arms length negotiations; and
the general partner would not breach our partnership agreement by exercising its call rights to purchase limited partnership interests or by assigning its call rights to one of its affiliates or to us.
The control of our general partner may be transferred to a third party without unitholder consent. A change of control may result in defaults under certain of our debt instruments and the triggering of payment obligations under compensation arrangements.
Our general partner may transfer its general partner interest to a third party in a merger or in a sale of all or substantially all of its assets without the consent of our unitholders. Furthermore, there is no restriction in our partnership agreement on the ability of the ultimate owners of our general partner to directly or indirectly transfer their ownership interest in our general partner to a third party. Any new owner of our general partner would, subject to obtaining any approvals or consents required under the applicable governing documents for the PAGP entities, be able to replace the board of directors and officers with its own choices and to control their decisions and actions.
In addition, a change of control would constitute an event of default under our revolving credit agreements. During the continuance of an event of default under our revolving credit agreements, the administrative agent may terminate any outstanding commitments of the lenders to extend credit to us under our revolving credit facility and/or declare all amounts payable by us under our revolving credit facility immediately due and payable. A change of control also may trigger payment obligations under various compensation arrangements with our officers.
Risks Related to an Investment in Our Debt Securities
The right to receive payments on our outstanding debt securities is unsecured and will be effectively subordinated to our existing and future secured indebtedness and will be structurally subordinated as to any existing and future indebtedness and other obligations of our subsidiaries, other than subsidiaries that may guarantee our debt securities in the future.
Our debt securities are effectively subordinated to claims of our secured creditors and to any existing and future indebtedness and other obligations of our subsidiaries, including trade payables, other than subsidiaries that may guarantee our debt securities in the future. In the event of the insolvency, bankruptcy, liquidation, reorganization, dissolution or winding up of the business of a subsidiary, other than a subsidiary that may guarantee our debt securities in the future, creditors of that subsidiary would generally have the right to be paid in full before any distribution is made to us or the holders of our debt securities.
Our leverage may limit our ability to borrow additional funds, comply with the terms of our indebtedness or capitalize on business opportunities.
Our leverage is significant in relation to our partners’ capital. At December 31, 2017, the face value of our total outstanding long-term debt was approximately $9.3 billion, and the face value of our total outstanding short-term debt was approximately $0.7 billion. We will be prohibited from making cash distributions during an event of default under any of our indebtedness. Various limitations in our credit facilities and other debt instruments may reduce our ability to incur additional debt, to engage in some transactions and to capitalize on business opportunities. Any subsequent refinancing of our current indebtedness or any new indebtedness could have similar or greater restrictions.
Our leverage could have important consequences to investors in our debt securities. We will require substantial cash flow to meet our principal and interest obligations with respect to our debt securities and our other consolidated indebtedness. Our ability to make scheduled payments, to refinance our obligations with respect to our indebtedness or our ability to obtain additional financing in the future will depend on our financial and operating performance, which, in turn, is subject to prevailing economic conditions and to financial, business and other factors. We believe that we will have sufficient cash flow from operations and available borrowings under our bank credit facilities to service our indebtedness, although the principal amount of our debt securities will likely need to be refinanced at maturity in whole or in part. A significant downturn in the hydrocarbon industry or other development adversely affecting our cash flow could materially impair our ability to service our indebtedness. If our cash flow and capital resources are insufficient to fund our debt service obligations, we may be forced to refinance all or a portion of our debt or sell assets. We can give no assurance that we would be able to refinance our existing indebtedness or sell assets on terms that are commercially reasonable.
Our leverage may adversely affect our ability to fund future working capital, capital expenditures and other general partnership requirements, future acquisition, construction or development activities, or to otherwise fully realize the value of our assets and opportunities because of the need to dedicate a substantial portion of our cash flow from operations to payments on our indebtedness or to comply with any restrictive terms of our indebtedness. Our leverage may also make our results of operations more susceptible to adverse economic and industry conditions by limiting our flexibility in planning for, or reacting to, changes in our business and the industry in which we operate and may place us at a competitive disadvantage as compared to our competitors that have less debt.
The ability to transfer our debt securities may be limited by the absence of an organized trading market.
We do not currently intend to apply for listing of our debt securities on any securities exchange or stock market. The liquidity of any market for our debt securities will depend on the number of holders of those debt securities, the interest of securities dealers in making a market in those debt securities and other factors. Accordingly, we can give no assurance as to the development, continuation or liquidity of any market for the debt securities.
We have a holding company structure in which our subsidiaries conduct our operations and own our operating assets.
We are a holding company, and our subsidiaries conduct all of our operations and own all of our operating assets. We have no significant assets other than the ownership interests in our subsidiaries. As a result, our ability to make required payments on our debt securities depends on the performance of our subsidiaries and their ability to distribute funds to us. The ability of our subsidiaries to make distributions to us may be restricted by, among other things, credit facilities and applicable state partnership laws and other laws and regulations. Pursuant to our credit facilities, we may be required to establish cash reserves for the future payment of principal and interest on the amounts outstanding under our credit facilities. If we are unable to obtain the funds necessary to pay the principal amount at maturity of our debt securities, or to repurchase our debt securities upon the occurrence of a change of control, we may be required to adopt one or more alternatives, such as a refinancing of our debt securities. We can give no assurance that we would be able to refinance our debt securities.
We do not have the same flexibility as other types of organizations to accumulate cash, which may limit cash available to service our debt securities or to repay them at maturity.
Unlike a corporation, our partnership agreement requires us to distribute, on a quarterly basis, 100% of our available cash to our unitholders of record. Available cash is generally all of our cash receipts adjusted for cash distributions and net changes to reserves. Our general partner will determine the amount and timing of such distributions and has broad discretion to establish and make additions to our reserves or the reserves of our operating partnerships in amounts the general partner determines in its reasonable discretion to be necessary or appropriate:
to provide for the proper conduct of our business and the businesses of our operating partnerships (including reserves for future capital expenditures and for our anticipated future credit needs);
to comply with applicable law or any loan agreement, security agreement, mortgage, debt instrument or other agreement or obligation;
to provide funds to make payments on the preferred units; or
to provide funds for distributions to our common unitholders for any one or more of the next four calendar quarters.
Although our payment obligations to our unitholders are subordinate to our payment obligations to debtholders, the value of our units will decrease in direct correlation with decreases in the amount we distribute per unit. Accordingly, if we experience a liquidity problem in the future, we may not be able to issue equity to recapitalize.
Tax Risks to Common Unitholders
Our tax treatment depends on our status as a partnership for U.S. federal income tax purposes, as well as our not being subject to a material amount of additional entity-level taxation by individual states. If the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) were to treat us as a corporation for federal income tax purposes or if we become subject to additional amounts of entity-level taxation for state or foreign tax purposes, it would reduce the amount of cash available to pay distributions and our debt obligations.
The anticipated after-tax economic benefit of an investment in our common units depends largely on our being treated as a partnership for federal income tax purposes. A publicly traded partnership such as us may be treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes unless it satisfies a “qualifying income” requirement, as defined in Section 7704 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended. The IRS issued final regulations on January 24, 2017, that are effective January 19, 2017, that define the activities that generate qualifying income from exploration, development, mining or production, processing, refining, transportation, and marketing of minerals or natural resources within the meaning of Section 7704. These regulations are intended to provide regulatory guidance on whether income from activities with respect to minerals or natural resources is qualifying income. Based on our current operations we believe that we are treated as a partnership rather than a corporation for such purposes; however, a change in our business could cause us to be treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes. We have not requested, and do not plan to request, a ruling from the IRS on this or any other tax matter affecting us.
Current law may change, causing us to be treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes or otherwise subject us to additional entity-level taxation. In addition, several states are evaluating ways to subject partnerships to entity-level taxation through the imposition of state income, franchise and other forms of taxation. For example, we are subject to entity-level tax on the portion of our income apportioned to Texas. Imposition of any similar taxes on us in additional states will reduce the cash available for distribution to our unitholders. If we were treated as a corporation for federal income tax purposes, we would pay federal income tax on our taxable income at the corporate tax rate, and would likely pay state income taxes at varying rates. Distributions to our unitholders would generally be taxed again as corporate distributions, and no income, gains, losses or deductions would flow through to our unitholders. Because a tax would be imposed upon us as a corporation, the cash available for distributions or to pay our debt obligations would be substantially reduced. Therefore, treatment of us as a corporation would result in a material reduction in cash flow and after-tax returns to our unitholders, likely causing a substantial reduction in the value of our common units.
Our partnership agreement provides that if a law is enacted or existing law is modified or interpreted in a manner that subjects us to taxation as a corporation or otherwise subjects us to entity-level taxation for federal income tax purposes, distribution amounts will be adjusted downward by a percentage that is based on the applicable entity-level tax rate, including both federal and state tax burdens.
The tax treatment of publicly traded partnerships or an investment in our units could be subject to potential legislative, judicial or administrative changes and differing interpretations, possibly on a retroactive basis.
The present U.S. federal income tax treatment of publicly traded partnerships, including us, or an investment in our common units may be modified by administrative, legislative or judicial changes or differing interpretations at any time. For example, the Obama administration’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2016 recommended that certain publicly traded partnerships earning income from activities related to fossil fuels be taxed as corporations beginning in 2021. From time to time, members of Congress propose and consider such substantive changes to the existing federal income tax laws that affect publicly traded partnerships. Although there is no current legislative proposal, a prior legislative proposal would have eliminated the qualifying income exception to the treatment of all publicly-traded partnerships as corporations upon which we rely for our treatment as a partnership for U.S. federal income tax purposes.
However, any modification to the U.S. federal income tax laws may be applied retroactively and could make it more difficult or impossible for us to meet the exception for certain publicly traded partnerships to be treated as partnerships for U.S. federal income tax purposes. We are unable to predict whether any of these changes or other proposals will ultimately be enacted. Any such changes could negatively impact the value of an investment in our common units. You are urged to consult with your own tax advisor with respect to the status of regulatory or administrative developments and proposals and their potential effect on your investment in our common units.
If the IRS makes audit adjustments to our income tax returns for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, it (and some states) may assess and collect any taxes (including any applicable penalties and interest) resulting from such audit adjustments directly from us, in which case our cash available for distribution to our unitholders might be substantially reduced.
Pursuant to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, for tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, if the IRS makes audit adjustments to our income tax returns, it (and some states) may assess and collect any taxes (including any applicable penalties and interest) resulting from such audit adjustments directly from us. To the extent possible under the new rules, our general partner may elect to either pay the taxes (including any applicable penalties and interest) directly to the IRS or, if we are eligible, issue a revised information statement to each unitholder and former unitholder with respect to an audited and adjusted return. Although our general partner may elect to have our unitholders and former unitholders take such audit adjustment into account and pay any resulting taxes (including applicable penalties or interest) in accordance with their interests in us during the tax year under audit, there can be no assurance that such election will be practical, permissible or effective in all circumstances. As a result, our current unitholders may bear some or all of the tax liability resulting from such audit adjustment, even if such unitholders did not own units in us during the tax year under audit. If, as a result of any such audit adjustment, we are required to make payments of taxes, penalties and interest, our cash available for distribution to our unitholders might be substantially reduced. These rules are not applicable for tax years beginning on or prior to December 31, 2017.
If the IRS or Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) contests the federal income tax positions or inter-country allocations we take, the market for our common units may be adversely impacted and the cost of any IRS or CRA contest or incremental taxes paid will reduce our cash available for distribution or debt service.
The IRS has made no determination as to our status as a partnership for federal income tax purposes or as to any other matter affecting us. The IRS or CRA may adopt positions that differ from the positions we take or challenge the inter-country allocations we make. It may be necessary to resort to administrative or court proceedings to sustain some or all of the positions we take. A court may not agree with some or all of the positions we take. Any contest with the IRS or CRA may materially and adversely impact the market for our common units and the price at which they trade. In addition, our costs of any contest with the IRS or CRA and any incremental taxes required to be paid will be borne indirectly by our unitholders and our general partner because the costs will reduce our cash available for distribution or debt service.
Our unitholders may be required to pay taxes on their share of our income even if they do not receive any cash distributions from us.
Because our unitholders will be treated as partners to whom we will allocate taxable income that could be different in amount than the cash we distribute, they will be required to pay any federal income taxes and, in some cases, state and local income taxes on their share of our taxable income even if they receive no cash distributions from us. Unitholders may not receive cash distributions from us equal to their share of our taxable income or even equal to the actual tax liability that results from that income.
Taxable gain or loss on the disposition of our common units could be more or less than expected.
If a unitholder sells common units, the unitholder will recognize a gain or loss equal to the difference between the amount realized and that unitholder’s tax basis in those common units. Because distributions in excess of a unitholder’s allocable share of our net taxable income decrease such unitholder’s tax basis in its common units, the amount, if any, of such prior excess distributions with respect to the units a unitholder sells will, in effect, become taxable income to a unitholder if it sells such units at a price greater than its tax basis in those units, even if the price such unitholder receives is less than its original cost. In addition, because the amount realized includes a unitholder’s share of our nonrecourse liabilities, if a unitholder sells its units, a unitholder may incur a tax liability in excess of the amount of cash received from the sale.
A substantial portion of the amount realized from a unitholder’s sale of our units, whether or not representing a gain, may be taxed as ordinary income to such unitholder due to potential recapture items, including depreciation recapture. Thus, a unitholder may recognize both ordinary income and capital loss from the sale of units if the amount realized on a sale of such units is less than such unitholder’s adjusted basis in the units. Net capital loss may only offset capital gains and, in the case of individuals, up to $3,000 of ordinary income per year. In the taxable period in which a unitholder sells its units, such unitholder may recognize ordinary income from our allocation of income and gain to such unitholder prior to the sale and from recapture items that general cannot be offset by any capital loss recognized upon the sale of units.
Tax-exempt entities face unique tax issues from owning our common units that may result in adverse tax consequences to them.
Investment in our common units by tax-exempt entities, such as employee benefit plans and individual retirement accounts (known as IRAs) raises issues unique to them. For example, virtually all of our income allocated to organizations that are exempt from U.S. federal income tax, including IRAs and other retirement plans, will be unrelated business taxable income and will be taxable to them. Further, with respect to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017, a tax-exempt entity with more than one unrelated trade or business (including by attribution from investment in a partnership such as ours that is engaged in one or more unrelated trade or business) is required to compute the unrelated business taxable income of such tax-exempt entity separately with respect to each such trade or business (including for purposes of determining any net operating loss deduction). As a result, for years beginning after December 31, 2017, it may not be possible for tax-exempt entities to utilize losses from an investment in our partnership to offset unrelated business taxable income from another unrelated trade or business and vice versa. Tax-exempt entities should consult a tax advisor before investing in our common units.
Non-U.S. unitholders will be subject to U.S. taxes and withholding with respect to their income and gain from owning our units.
Non-U.S. unitholders are generally taxed and subject to income tax filing requirements by the United States on income effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business (“effectively connected income”). Income allocated to our unitholders and any gain from the sale of our units will generally be considered to be “effectively connected” with a U.S. trade or business. As a result, distributions to a Non-U.S. unitholder will be subject to withholding at the highest applicable effective tax rate and a Non-U.S. unitholder who sells or otherwise disposes of a unit will also be subject to U.S. federal income tax on the gain realized from the sale or disposition of that unit to the extent the gain is effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business of the Non-U.S. unitholder.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act imposes a withholding obligation of 10% of the amount realized upon a Non-U.S. unitholder’s sale or exchange of an interest in a partnership that is engaged in a U.S. trade or business. However, due to challenges of administering a withholding obligation applicable to open market trading and other complications, the IRS has temporarily suspended the application of this withholding rule to open market transfers of interest in publicly traded partnerships pending promulgation of regulations or other guidance that resolves the challenges. It is not clear if or when such regulations or other guidance will be issued. Non-U.S. unitholders should consult a tax advisor before investing in our common units.
We treat each purchaser of our common units as having the same tax benefits without regard to the actual units purchased. The IRS may challenge this treatment, which could adversely affect the value of our common units.
Because we cannot match transferors and transferees of common units, we have adopted depreciation and amortization positions that may not conform to all aspects of existing Treasury Regulations. A successful IRS challenge to those positions could adversely affect the amount of tax benefits available to our unitholders. It also could affect the timing of these tax benefits or the amount of gain from the sale of common units and could have a negative impact on the value of our common units or result in audit adjustments to our unitholders’ tax returns.
Our unitholders will likely be subject to state, local and non-U.S. taxes and return filing requirements in states and jurisdictions where they do not live as a result of investing in our units.
In addition to U.S. federal income taxes, our unitholders will likely be subject to other taxes, including state and local taxes, unincorporated business taxes and estate, inheritance or intangible taxes that are imposed by the various jurisdictions in which we conduct business or own property now or in the future, even if our unitholders do not live in any of those jurisdictions. Our unitholders will likely be required to file state and local income tax returns and pay state and local income taxes in some or all of these various jurisdictions. Further, our unitholders may be subject to penalties for failure to comply with those requirements. We currently own property and conduct business in most states in the United States, most of which impose a personal income tax on individuals and an income tax on corporations and other entities. It is our unitholders’ responsibility to file all U.S. federal, state, local and non-U.S. tax returns, as applicable.
We have adopted certain valuation methodologies in determining unitholder’s allocations of income, gain, loss and deduction. The IRS may challenge these methods or the resulting allocations, and such a challenge could adversely affect the value of our common units.
In determining the items of income, gain, loss and deduction allocable to our unitholders, we must routinely determine the fair market value of our respective assets. Although we may from time to time consult with professional appraisers regarding valuation matters, we make fair market value estimates using a methodology based on the market value of our common units as a means to measure the fair market value of our respective assets. The IRS may challenge these valuation methods and the resulting allocations of income, gain, loss and deduction.
A successful IRS challenge to these methods or allocations could adversely affect the amount, character, and timing of taxable income or loss being allocated to our unitholders. It also could affect the amount of gain from our unitholders’ sale of common units and could have a negative impact on the value of the common units or result in audit adjustments to our unitholders’ tax returns without the benefit of additional deductions.
A unitholder whose common units are the subject of a securities loan (e.g., a loan to a “short seller” to cover a short sale of common units) may be considered as having disposed of those common units. If so, he would no longer be treated for tax purposes as a partner with respect to those common units during the period of the loan and may recognize gain or loss from the disposition.
Because there are no specific rules governing the federal income tax consequences of loaning a partnership interest, a unitholder whose common units are the subject of a securities loan may be considered as having disposed of the loaned units. In that case, the unitholder may no longer be treated for tax purposes as a partner with respect to those common units during the period of the loan and the unitholder may recognize gain or loss from such disposition. Moreover, during the period of the loan, any of our income, gain, loss or deduction with respect to those common units may not be reportable by the unitholder and any cash distributions received by the unitholder as to those common units may be fully taxable as ordinary income. Unitholders desiring to assure their status as partners and avoid the risk of gain recognition from a loan to a short seller should modify any applicable brokerage account agreements to prohibit their brokers from borrowing their common units.
We generally prorate our items of income, gain, loss and deduction between transferors and transferees of our units each month based upon the ownership of our units on the first day of each month, instead of on the basis of the date a particular unit is transferred. The IRS may challenge this treatment, which could change the allocation of items of income, gain, loss and deduction among our unitholders.
We generally prorate our items of income, gain, loss and deduction between transferors and transferees of our units each month based upon the ownership of our units on the first day of each month (the “Allocation Date”), instead of on the basis of the date a particular unit is transferred. Similarly, we generally allocate certain deductions for depreciation and amortization of capital additions, gain or loss realized on a sale or other disposition of our assets and, in the discretion of the general partner, any other extraordinary item of income, gain, loss or deduction based upon ownership on the Allocation Date. Treasury Regulations allow a similar monthly simplifying convention, but such regulations do not specifically authorize all aspects of our proration method. If the IRS were to challenge our proration method, we may be required to change the allocation of items of income, gain, loss and deduction among our unitholders.
Taxable income from our non-U.S. businesses is not eligible for the 20% deduction for qualified publicly traded partnership income.
Pursuant to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts, a unitholder is generally allowed to a deduction equal to 20% of our “qualified publicly traded partnership income” that is allocated to such unitholder. For purposes of the deduction, the term qualified publicly traded partnership income includes the net amount of such unitholder’s allocable share of our income that is effectively connected to our U.S. trade or business activities. Because our non-U.S. business operations earn income that is not effectively connected with a U.S. trade or business, unitholders may not apply the 20% deduction for qualified publicly traded partnership income to that portion of our income.
Tax Risks to Series B Preferred Unitholders
Treatment of distributions on our Series B Preferred Units as guaranteed payments for the use of capital creates a different tax treatment for the holders of our Series B Preferred Units than the holders of our common units and such distributions may not be eligible for the 20% deduction for qualified publicly traded partnership income.
The tax treatment of distributions on our Series B Preferred Units is uncertain. We will treat the holders of Series B Preferred Units as partners for tax purposes and will treat distributions on the Series B Preferred Units as guaranteed payments for the use of capital that will generally be taxable to the holders of Series B Preferred Units as ordinary income. Although a holder of Series B Preferred Units could recognize taxable income from the accrual of such a guaranteed payment even in the absence of a contemporaneous distribution, we anticipate accruing and making the guaranteed payment distributions semi-annually on May 15th and November 15th through November 15th, 2022 commencing November 15, 2017, and after November 15, 2022 quarterly on February 15th, May 15th, August 15th and November 15th. Because the guaranteed payment for each unit must accrue as income to a holder during the taxable year of the accrual, the guaranteed payment attributable to the period beginning November 15th and ending December 31st will accrue to the holder of record of a Series B Preferred Unit on December 31st for such period. If you are a taxpayer reporting your income using the accrual method, or using a taxable year other than the calendar year, you should consult your tax advisor with respect to the consequences of our guaranteed payment distribution accrual and reporting convention. Otherwise, the holders of Series B Preferred Units are generally not anticipated to share in the partnership’s items of income, gain, loss or deduction, except to the extent necessary to (i) achieve parity with the Series A Preferred Units or (ii) provide, to the extent possible, the Series B Preferred Units with the benefit of the liquidation preference. The Partnership will not allocate any share of its nonrecourse liabilities to the holders of Series B Preferred Units. If the Series B Preferred Units were treated as indebtedness for tax purposes, rather than as guaranteed payments for the use of capital, distributions likely would be treated as payments of interest by us to the holders of Series B Preferred Units.
Although we expect that a substantial portion of the income we earn is generally eligible for the 20% deduction for qualified publicly traded partnership income, it is uncertain whether a guaranteed payment for the use of capital would, for these purposes, constitute an allocable or distributive share of such income. As a result, the guaranteed payment for use of capital received by our Series B Preferred Units may not be eligible for the 20% deduction for qualified publicly traded partnership income.
A holder of Series B Preferred Units will be required to recognize gain or loss on a sale of Series B Units equal to the difference between the amount realized by such holder and such holder’s tax basis in the Series B Preferred Units. The amount realized generally will equal the sum of the cash and the fair market value of other property such holder receives in exchange for such Series B Preferred Units. Subject to general rules requiring a blended basis among multiple partnership interests, the tax basis of a Series B Preferred Unit will generally be equal to the sum of the cash and the fair market value of other property paid by the holder to acquire such Series B Preferred Unit. Gain or loss recognized by a holder on the sale or exchange of a Series B Preferred Unit held for more than one year generally will be taxable as long-term capital gain or loss. Because holders of Series B Preferred Units will not generally be allocated a share of our items of depreciation, depletion or amortization, it is not anticipated that such holders would be required to recharacterize any portion of their gain as ordinary income as a result of the recapture rules.
Investment in the Series B Preferred Units by tax-exempt investors, such as employee benefit plans and individual retirement accounts, and non-U.S. persons raises issues unique to them. The treatment of guaranteed payments for the use of capital to tax-exempt investors is not certain and such payments may not be treated as unrelated business taxable income for U.S. federal income tax purposes. Although the issue is not free from doubt, we will treat a substantial portion of our distributions to non-U.S. holders of the Series B Preferred Units as “effectively connected income” (which will subject holders to U.S. net income taxation and possibly the branch profits tax) that is subject to withholding taxes imposed at the highest effective tax rate applicable to such non-U.S. holders. If the amount of withholding exceeds the amount of U.S. federal income tax actually due, non-U.S. holders may be required to file U.S. federal income tax returns in order to seek a refund of such excess. The treatment of guaranteed payments for the use of capital to tax exempt investors is not certain and such payments may be treated as unrelated business taxable income for federal income tax purposes.
All holders of our Series B Preferred Units are urged to consult a tax advisor with respect to the consequences of owning our Series B Preferred Units.
Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments
Item 3. Legal Proceedings
The information required by this item is included in Note 17 to our Consolidated Financial Statements, and is incorporated herein by reference thereto.
Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures
Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Units, Related Unitholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
Market Information, Holders and Dividends
Our common units are listed and traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “PAA.” As of February 12, 2018, the closing market price for our common units was $22.06 per unit and there were approximately 123,500 record holders and beneficial owners (held in street name). As of February 12, 2018, there were 725,206,904 common units outstanding.
The following table sets forth high and low sales prices for our common units and the cash distributions declared per common unit:
Cash distributions pertaining to the quarter presented. These distributions were declared and paid in the following calendar quarter. See the “Cash Distribution Policy” section below for a discussion of our policy regarding distribution payments.
Our common units are also used as a form of compensation to our employees and PAGP GP directors. See Note 16 to our Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information regarding our equity-indexed compensation plans.
The following graph compares the total unitholder return performance of our common units with the performance of: (i) the Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index (“S&P 500”) and (ii) the Alerian MLP Index. The Alerian MLP Index is a composite of the 50 most prominent energy master limited partnerships that provides investors with a comprehensive benchmark for this asset class. The graph assumes that $100 was invested in our common units and each comparison index beginning on December 31, 2012 and that all distributions were reinvested on a quarterly basis.
Alerian MLP Index
This information shall not be deemed to be “soliciting material” or to be “filed” with the Commission or subject to Regulation 14A or 14C under the Exchange Act, other than as provided in Item 201(e) of Regulation S-K, or to the liabilities of Section 18 of the Exchange Act, and shall not be deemed to be incorporated by reference into any filing under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Exchange Act, except to the extent that we specifically request that such information be treated as soliciting material or specifically incorporate it by reference into a filing under the Securities Act or the Exchange Act.
Recent Sales of Unregistered Securities
Series A Preferred Units. With respect to any quarter ending on or prior to December 31, 2017, we may elect to pay distributions on our Series A preferred units in additional preferred units, in cash or a combination of both. During the three months ended December 31, 2017 we issued 1,366,593 additional Series A preferred units in lieu of a cash distribution of $36 million. The issuance of the Series A preferred units, in connection with the quarterly distribution for the Series A preferred units, was exempt from the registration requirements of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, pursuant to Section 4(a)(2) thereof. Our Series A preferred units are convertible into common units, generally on a one-for-one basis and subject to customary antidiultion adjustments and certain minimum conversion amounts, at any time after January 28, 2018. See Note 11 to our Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information regarding our Series A preferred units.
Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
On November 15, 2016, the Plains Entities closed a series of transactions and executed several organizational and ancillary documents (the “Simplification Transactions”) intended to simplify our capital structure, better align the interests of our stakeholders and improve our overall credit profile. See Note 1 to our Consolidated Financial Statements for further discussion of the Simplification Transactions.
Cash Distribution Policy
In accordance with our partnership agreement, after making distributions to holders of our outstanding preferred units, we distribute the remainder of our available cash to our common unitholders of record within 45 days following the end of each quarter. Available cash is generally defined as, for any quarter ending prior to liquidation, all of our cash and cash equivalents on hand at the end of each quarter less reserves established in the reasonable discretion of our general partner for future requirements to:
provide for the proper conduct of our business and the business of our operating partnerships (including reserves for future capital expenditures and for our anticipated future credit needs);
comply with applicable law or any loan agreement, security agreement, mortgage, debt instrument or other agreement or obligation; or
provide funds for distributions to our Series A and Series B preferred unitholders or distributions to our common unitholders for any one or more of the next four calendar quarters.
Our available cash also includes cash on hand resulting from borrowings made after the end of the quarter.
Under the terms of the agreements governing our debt, we are prohibited from declaring or paying any distribution to unitholders if a default or event of default (as defined in such agreements) exists. No such default has occurred. See Item 7. “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—Liquidity and Capital Resources—Credit Agreements, Commercial Paper Program and Indentures.”
Under the terms of our partnership agreement, our Series A preferred units and our Series B preferred units rank senior to all classes or series of equity securities in us with respect to distribution rights.
Prior to the Simplification Transactions, our general partner was entitled, directly or indirectly, to receive 2% proportional distributions, as well as incentive distributions if the amount we distributed with respect to any quarter exceeded certain specified levels.
Item 6. Selected Financial Data
The historical financial information below was derived from our audited Consolidated Financial Statements as of December 31, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013 and for the years then ended. The selected financial data should be read in conjunction with Item 7. “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” and the Consolidated Financial Statements, including the notes thereto, in Item 8. “Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.”
Year Ended December 31,
(in millions, except per unit data and volumes)
Statement of operations data:
Net income attributable to PAA
Per unit data:
Basic net income per common unit
Diluted net income per common unit
Declared distributions per common unit (1)
Balance sheet data (at end of period):
Property and equipment, net
Net cash provided by operating activities (2)
Net cash used in investing activities