Last week I wrote about two factors that will help drive LNG stocks even higher and a SA reader inquired about the nuts and bolts suppliers that stand to benefit from the continued natural gas boom. Below is a list of eight companies which will benefit from an increase in natural gas production and consumption. These companies range from household names to obscure businesses which are virtually unknown outside industry trade circles.
1. Union Pacific (UNP) - Union Pacific is the largest railroad operating in the United States and every day moves thousands of tons of freight across nearly 32,000 miles of track in 23 states. Most importantly, the railroad operates in the Eagle Ford, Fayetteville, Permian Basin and Haynesville Shale plays. UP's location in these shale plays gives it the ability to ship frac sand, drilling equipment, and building supplies for the roads, homes, and buildings required by the influx of oil field workers. America's railroads have enjoyed a strong resurgence over the past few years as high oil prices have made trucking more expensive and Union Pacific stands to build on that resurgence with increased shipments to and from the various shale plays in its area of operation. If Warren Buffett hadn't scooped up Burlington Northern Santa Fe a few years ago, then BNSF would have been another choice as it services several fields, most notably the Bakken.
2. U.S. Silica (SLCA) - U.S. Silica supplies frac sand, the secret ingredient in hydraulic fracturing, to various drillers throughout the United States. The company owns 40 to 45 years of reserves which it ships by barge and railroad (BNSF for the Eagle Ford). The company declared a $.50 special dividend last week and is in a very strong financial position. In addition to its frac sand sales, the company supplies foundries and glass and solar panel manufacturers with silica which helps offset some of the risks it faces of being overly reliant on the fracking industry.
3. Heckmann (HEK) - In addition to frac sands, hydraulic fracturing requires massive amounts of water to create cracks in the shale formations. This is where Heckmann comes into the picture. The company is a full-water services company built from the ground up to service the water needs of hydraulic frackers. Heckmann has built water pipelines and assembled a fleet of tanker trucks which can deliver water to various shale plays. While some analysts have expressed concerns about the stock, the company has grown through a series of mergers and acquisitions and has a strong business model. Heckmann aims to service its clients over the entire life of a fracked well - not only is water needed at the time of drilling, but the well pumps out water from the frac process every day over the course of its life. Thus, Heckmann puts in place service contracts with the well operators to treat and dispose of the waste water and is guaranteed a consistent long term revenue stream.
4. Apple (AAPL) - Five years ago, connecting Apple and any boom in commodities like oil and gas would have been ludicrous, however, today such a connection is actually quite strong. First, Apple's ubiquitous iPhone and iPad are quickly becoming mainstays across America's corporate landscape and this applies to the oil and gas industry as well. Apple's App store has enabled developers to create apps for tracking oil rigs, exploration and production and well production. Indeed, oil and gas software has come a long way since 1993 when the developers of SimCity created SimRefinery for Chevron to use in training its employees. In addition to the sales created from being used directly in the production process, the oil and gas boom has created thousands upon thousands of newly affluent consumers who can now purchase Apple's products. A continuation of the boom will ensure even more consumers and further integration of Apple's products into oil and gas production.
5. Caterpillar (CAT) - Caterpillar is in the unique position of manufacturing products that slot in to nearly every point in the chain of oil and gas production. Caterpillar's heavy construction equipment will be used to clear drill sites, construct pipelines and refineries and LNG facilities, build ancillary facilities in oil boom towns and its engines will power essential components of production such as drills, wells, pumps, tugboats and ships. New equipment purchases and replacement of worn out equipment will further drive Caterpillar's sales. An additional catalyst for Caterpillar is the development work the company is performing on CNG and LNG powered machinery. CNG and LNG engines promise to deliver the reliability of diesel equipment with significant reductions in fuel costs. The operating efficiency benefits of LNG and CNG heavy equipment could encourage operators to replace older machines earlier than normal. Regardless, Caterpillar's dominance of the heavy equipment industry places it in a position to benefit significantly from a continued oil and gas boom.
6. Flowserve (FLS) - Flowserve designs, manufactures, distributes and services the numerous pumps, seals and valves necessary to operate pipelines, refineries and wells. The drilling of new wells, laying of new pipelines and creation of LNG export facilities will all require Flowserve's products. Additionally, much like Heckmann above, the maintenance of installed products will benefit the company even with a reduction in new installations. Its flow management products are also found outside the oil and gas industry in water and general industrial applications which helps to reduce the risk of over-reliance on what is often a boom and bust industry.
7. American Railcar Industries (ARII) - American Railcar Industries is a manufacturer of rail cars based in St. Charles, MO. As current rolling stock wears out from increased shipping by UNP, etc. as described above, American Railcar Industries will have the opportunity to profit from elevated orders for new rolling stock. Unlike competitor FreightCar America (RAIL) which prides itself on its coal industry focus, the company's wide breadth of rolling stock offerings makes it a likely beneficiary of sales orders. As a side note, activist investor Carl Icahn owns a majority stake in American Railcar.
8. Golar LNG Limited (GLNG) - Golar LNG focuses on the transportation of LNG with 13 vessels currently in use and another 13 on order. The company is unique in that it does not just transport LNG from one port to another, but it is developing ships which can bypass LNG production facilities by rendering LNG directly from natural gas pumped aboard. If and when LNG exports are approved from the US, Golar won't be limited to operating from port facilities with LNG production facilities, but can operate from any port with a natural gas pipeline. Golar will benefit not just from increased use of LNG, but also its flexibility advantage.
Other industries which will benefit from the natural gas boom are modular housing manufacturers, construction companies which will construct the new roads and buildings needed in the shale plays, and aggregate and building material suppliers who will provide the modular housing manufacturers and contractors with raw building supplies for roads, homes, restaurants, hotels and other commercial buildings. The above are only a handful of the companies which will benefit from the continued natural gas boom and should merely provide a starting point for further research before investing.