Welcome to the MarkWest Energy Partners Fourth Quarter 2010 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] I would now turn the call over to Dan Campbell. Thank you, sir. You may begin.
Thank you, Sarah, and welcome to everyone that's joined us today on the call. Our comments today will include forward-looking statements, which involve risks and uncertainties and are not guarantees of future performance. Actual results could vary significantly from those expressed or implied in such statements. Although we believe that the expectations expressed today are reasonable, we can give no assurance that the expectations will prove to be correct, and we caution you that projected performance or distributions may not be achieved. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from their expectations are included in the periodic reports we file with the SEC. We encourage you to carefully review and consider the cautionary statements and other disclosures made in those filings, specifically those under the heading Risk Factors.
And with that, I’ll turn the call over to Frank Semple, our Chairman, President, and CEO.
Good afternoon, and thanks to everyone for joining us on the call today. As indicated in our earnings release, we closed out the year with solid financial results for the quarter and the full year. Our core assets continue to demonstrate strong performance with year-over-year gathering volumes increasing by nearly 15%. We also benefited from strong NGL prices and processing margins.
During the call today, I'll give an overview of our financial performance, provide a commercial and operational update, and then conclude with a review of our balance sheet and our updated guidance. And then, we'll move on to your questions.
Beginning with our financial performance, distributable cash flow during the fourth quarter was a record $69 million. Adjusted EBITDA was $88 million and segment operating income was $135 million. For the full year, we generated record DCF of $241 million, adjusted EBITDA of $333 million and segment operating income of $472 million.
In January, we announced a fourth quarter distribution of $0.65 per common unit, which results in a distribution coverage ratio of 1.4x for the quarter and 1.3x for the full year. We're very pleased with our 2010 financial results, including the resumption of growth in our distribution, which reflects our long-term objective of delivering sustainable top quartile total returns for our unit holders.
Now moving to the operational update, our focus remains on expanding our presence in liquids-rich resource plays that provide superior economics to MarkWest and our producer customers. The result of this strategy is that we are seeing volume increases even in a low natural gas pricing environment. And we are also benefiting financially from the uplift in processing margins. We've been executing this strategy for a number of years and our operational performance in 2010 demonstrates that this strategy continues to be very successful.
In Western Oklahoma, which includes both our Foss Lake and Granite Wash systems, gathering volumes during the fourth quarter of 2010 averaged 191 million cubic feet per day, an increase of approximately 3% year-over-year. While we continue to see declines in our Foss Lake volumes due to pricing, our Granite Wash volumes increased to nearly 120 million cubic feet per day.
As a result of the tremendous growth from the liquids-rich zones of the Granite Wash, hence seeing a significant increase in the percentage of rich-gas volumes that we gather and process, consequently, we announced last week the expansion of our gathering system and Arapaho processing complex in Western Oklahoma to serve this growth. When the expansion comes online in the third quarter of this year, our total processing capacity will be 220 million cubic feet per day.
The Granite Wash continues to be one of the most profitable plays in the U.S. for Newfield, LINN Energy and other producers. MarkWest has been a premier midstream service provider in Western Oklahoma for nearly a decade and is ideally positioned to continual supporting the increasing production from the Granite Wash and surrounding areas.
In Southeastern Oklahoma, our Woodford gathering volumes grew approximately 25% in 2010 compared to 2009 to an average of 521 million cubic feet per day. The Woodford shale has been a significant growth story for MarkWest when you consider that we were gathering only 100 million cubic feet per day just three years ago.
While the Woodford still has tremendous potential, much of the gas is dry. And in the current commodity price environment, we expect to see a modest decline in Woodford volumes in 2011 compared to 2010. However, a portion of the Woodford produces liquids-rich gas. We expect Newfield and other producers to continue to prioritize their drilling resources on the rich area of the Woodford. The liquids-rich acreage of the Woodford is also more profitable for MarkWest and our producers because of the processing upgrade.
In our Carthage system in East Texas, gathering volumes during 2010 averaged 430 million cubic feet per day, which is a decrease of approximately 5% year-over-year. This includes approximately 55 million cubic feet per day of Haynesville production. And in the near term, we believe the Haynesville development will continue to be the emphasis for our East Texas producer customers.
We anticipate the Haynesville production will largely offset the decline in Travis Peak and Cotton Valley production. Over the longer term, we believe there still exist tremendous potential for horizontal drilling in the Cotton Valley and Travis Peak formations when gas prices return to the mid-$5 range and above.
From a financial perspective, volume growth in the Woodford and strong processing margins in our Oklahoma and Texas systems, drove our Southwest segment operating income to a record $269 million in 2010, an increase of nearly 40% compared to last year.
Our Javelina plant in Corpus Christi continues to be a solid performer, both operationally and financially. Process volumes and fractionated barrels were virtually flat compared to '09, while segment operating income increased by nearly 25%, primarily as a result of strong purity product prices. Javelina continues to be a key part of our operations and provides important diversity and stability to our cash flows.
Now let's move to the Appalachian region, where we divide our operations into two segments. The Northeast segment includes five processing facilities in Kentucky and West Virginia, as well as our Siloam fractionation and marketing complex. The Liberty segment is our joint venture with The Energy and Minerals Group and is focused on the development of the Marcellus shale in Southwest Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia.
In the Northeast segment, gas processing volumes were relatively flat in 2010 compared to '09, while NGL sales volume increased approximately 5% year-over-year. We continue to fractionate record volumes at Siloam driven by growing NGL deliveries from EQT Corporation's Huron/Berea shale operations, and from the significant volume growth of butane and heavier NGLs from our Marcellus operations.
Our Siloam facility will continue to fractionate the heavier NGLs from our Marcellus operations until our Houston, Pennsylvania, fractionator comes online in the third quarter of this year. In addition to our strong performance in 2010, we significantly enhanced our strategic position in the Northeast with the recent acquisition of EQT's Langley processing complex in Southeastern Kentucky and the Ranger NGL pipeline that will connect Langley with Siloam in early 2012.
We have a long-standing relationship with EQT and this transaction solidifies the relationship for many years to come. The sale allowed EQT to raise additional capital to support their Huron and Marcellus development programs, which we believe will provide incremental processing and fractionation volumes to MarkWest. This acquisition was very strategic, it's immediately accretive and provides long-term value to our unit holders.
We have been the leading processor and fractionator in the Northeast for more than 20 years. And the EQT acquisition further strengthens our significant competitive position in West Virginia and Kentucky. It also provides a number of growth opportunities. The first of these projects includes the addition of a 60 million cubic feet per day cryogenic processing plant that both expands the Langley capacity and increases liquids production. A second project includes of the completion of the Ranger pipeline, which will allow us to deliver the Langley NGLs to our Siloam fractionator via pipeline. This will significantly reduce transportation costs. These two projects will cost approximately $100 million over the next 18 months.
Over time, we believe that the liquids-rich shale production in Appalachia will extend from the Huron/Berea shale in Southeastern Kentucky to the Marcellus shale in Southwest Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia. MarkWest is uniquely positioned to capitalize on this growing area through our existing NGL capabilities, multiple processing facilities, strategic downstream access and two large fractionation marketing and storage complexes. And our vision is to ultimately connect our two systems serving the Huron/Berea and Marcellus shales with a fully integrated, scalable midstream solution that will significantly benefit producers in the Appalachian Basin. It's a powerful story, and the Langley plant and Ranger pipeline acquisitions is a key step in turning our vision into reality.
In our Liberty segment, 2010 was a landmark year. Gathered volumes nearly tripled, process volumes quadrupled and cash flows grew by more than 3x. The Marcellus continues to prove itself to be one of the most economic and prolific basins in the U.S. We continue to enjoy a strong and effective relationship with our producer customers as well as with The Energy and Minerals Group, our MarkWest Liberty partner.
During 2010, we completed expansions to our Liberty gathering and processing systems with a number of additional projects currently underway that will come online in 2011. We ended 2010 with a total of 209 million cubic feet per day of cryogenic capacity at our Houston and Majorsville processing complexes. By the middle of this year, we will have total installed processing capacity of 625 million cubic feet per day, essentially all of which is supported by long-term contracts. Our Marcellus processing capacity will grow to nearly 750 million cubic feet per day in mid-2012 with the completion of our new processing complex in Wetzel County, West Virginia that I'll discuss in a minute. In addition to these processing expansions, we have extensively discussed the critical need for integrated downstream infrastructure to support the growing Marcellus NGL volumes.
We look forward to bringing online the final phase of our 60,000-barrel per day fractionator in the third quarter of this year. Currently, we extract purity propane from a mixed NGL stream and sell the propane to our Houston truck rack or into the TEPCO pipeline. The butane and heavier NGL components are currently trucked to Siloam for fractionation and marketing. When the Houston fractionator comes online, we will produce and market purity butane and natural gasoline at Houston, which will eliminate the trucking cost to Siloam. We also look forward to completing the first phase of our large rail loading facility at Houston in the third quarter of this year, which will provide significant additional marketing opportunities for our Liberty NGLs.
During the fourth quarter, we executed critical agreements with two important producer customers. The first agreement was with Chesapeake Energy and provides for Liberty to process a significant amount of Chesapeake's Marcellus gas at our expanded Majorsville complex. We also agreed to construct a 7-mile extension to our Majorsville NGL pipeline to receive 100% of Chesapeake's Y grade obtainment energies existing at the Ft. Beeler processing plant. This pipeline will allow Chesapeake to benefit from our integrated NGL fractionation and marketing system, which also -- are also supporting the expansion of our NGL gathering infrastructure.
The second significant agreement that we executed was with EQT. Concurrent with the Langley Ranger acquisition, we executed an agreement with EQT to install a 120 million cubic feet per day cryogenic processing plant near EQT's Logansport compressor station in Wetzel County, West Virginia. This plant will process liquids-rich gas transported in EQT's Equitrans gas pipeline. EQT has announced plans to significantly increase the capacity of the Equitrans pipeline downstream of the plant to provide producers with access to a number of interstate pipeline markets. EQT has substantial rich-gas Marcellus acreage in northern West Virginia and has contracted with the MarkWest Liberty for the majority of the plant capacity. Going forward, we will refer to this facility as the Mobley [ph] plant. We will also extend our NGL pipeline system to transport the NGLs recovered at the Mobley [ph] plant to our Houston fractionation and marketing complex.
Now before moving on to our financials, I want to provide a brief update on project Mariner, which is a project that we're jointly developing with Sunoco Logistics to transport Marcellus ethane to premium Gulf Coast markets via pipeline and marine vessels beginning in 2013.
Project Mariner has significant advantages relative to the other announced ethane projects, including the lowest project cost and the lowest required volume commitment by the producers. The project will also utilize existing Sunoco pipelines and has the shortest construction timeline. In addition, Mariner has the unique ability to deliver ethane to multiple markets, including the premium Gulf Coast market, rapidly evolving international markets and potential future ethane crackers in the northeast.
From a capital perspective, MarkWest Liberty will build, own and operate a new 45-mile pipeline to connect our Houston complex to Sunoco's existing pipeline. And this is a small investment relative to our overall capital plan. However, ethane recovery has been a key focus for us as we design and build our processing plants and NGL pipeline system. And regardless of which ethane project is completed, we will play a key role in recovering, transporting and fractionating purity ethane.
So to summarize our commercial and operational activities, 2010 was a very strong year for MarkWest and we're well positioned to further grow our asset base and to continue providing outstanding midstream services to our producer customers. The resource plays in which we operate represent a significant portion of future natural gas supply for the U.S. because of the quality of the resource and the utilization of efficient and productive drilling technologies by our producer customers.
Turning to the balance sheet. We continued to maintain a strong financial position during 2010. Our total debt at year-end was $1.3 billion, comprised primarily of senior notes. Our debt to total capital was 45%, our leverage ratio improved to 3.3x and our interest coverage ratio was a healthy 3.6x.
I also want to talk about how we are managing our balance sheet to support our growth activities. We continue to focus on the right timing and size of capital market transactions to pre-fund our capital expenditures while maintaining the key priorities of consistently improving our credit metrics and maintaining a strong liquidity position.
Since the beginning of 2010, we have raised more than $1 billion in capital to support our growth projects and to fund our recent acquisition. We also received upgrades from the rating agencies in 2010 as a result of our consistent financial performance and continual improvement in our credit metrics. Overall, our cost of capital continues to come down. We have significantly extended the maturity of our debt and we are funding our capital requirements well in advance of our needs. Today, we have available liquidity of approximately $550 million, and the next maturity of our senior notes is not until 2018.
As we've discussed, one of our long-term objectives is to continue to increase our fee-based operating margin. With our contracts in the rapidly growing Marcellus operations, we forecast our fee-based operating margin will increase to approximately 50% by the end of 2012.
We also continue to execute our rolling 36-month hedging program to manage the risk associated with commodity price exposure and to lock in future cash flows. For 2011, approximately 70% of our NGL production is hedged, which we consider to be fully hedged due to operational consideration. For 2012 and the 2013, we are approximately 60% and 40% hedged, respectively. A disciplined hedge program is a key part of our long-term success and we'll continue to execute a range of hedge transactions to lock in strong margins and to secure a large percentage of the commodity-sensitive portion of our future distributable cash flow.
Now before concluding, I want to briefly discuss our updated guidance for 2011. We've increased our forecasted 2011 DCF to a range of $260 million to $310 million. The midpoint of this range results in more than 18% year-over-year Bcf growth and would provide a coverage ratio of nearly 1.5x for the full year at our current distribution and units outstanding. This coverage provides us with plenty of room for future distribution growth.
On a DCF per unit basis, the midpoint of our 2011 DCF guidance results in more than 10% growth of DCF per unit year-over-year. The increase in the DCF guidance for 2011 includes our current forecast for each of our operating areas, and incorporates the Langley Ranger acquisition and other projects currently under construction. The updated forecast also reflects the current commodity price drip and our hedges outstanding. As always, we included in our earnings release a sensitivity table that shows the impact on 2011 DCF of various crude and natural gas prices as well as NGL correlations.
We also updated our 2011 growth capital forecast to a range of $600 million to $650 million, which includes the $230 million Langley-Ranger acquisition. Our growth capital program continues to fund high-quality, largely fee-based projects in our key operating areas.
So In summary, 2010 was a strong year for MarkWest both operationally and financially with a diverse set of assets in growing resource plays. We are very well positioned to continue developing significant midstream infrastructure to meet producer needs. These growth opportunities, coupled with the strength of our balance sheet, will be the foundation for sustainable distribution growth and should allow us to achieve our objective of providing long-term top quartile total returns for our unit holders.
So with that, Sarah, I'll open the call up to questions.
[Operator Instructions] And our first question is from John Edwards. Your line is open and state your company please.
John Edwards - Morgan Keegan & Company, Inc.
It's Morgan Keegan & Company. Could you comment -- you mention in your comments the -- eliminating the trucking cost as you, I guess, build out -- further build out the infrastructure, and how that'll help your margins. About how much improvement do you expect from that or if you can say?
Well, John, first of all, just to clarify for everybody on the call, the point I was trying to make in my comments was that -- by the -- with the completion of the Ranger pipeline, a portion of which -- the Ranger pipeline that we acquired from EQT. With the completion of that pipeline, then we'll be able to essentially truck or pipeline all of the volumes produced out of our Langley facility to the Siloam fractionation facilities. So that's where the savings will come from versus the trucking that goes on right now. And I honestly don't know what the reduction in cost -- it'll be significant, John, I can tell you that. We just haven't calculated what the difference would be between the trucking and the pipeline costs. We can get back to you through Dan to let you know that. It'll be significant.
John Edwards - Morgan Keegan & Company, Inc.
Okay. And then, on the CapEx, I think in the past you've indicated about 80% of the CapEx, you're expecting that to go into the Marcellus play. And then can you give a little more granularity in terms of kind of the mix of assets you're expecting within that, and within the Marcellus? About how that capital is going to be allocated, if you can comment on that?
Well, again, for everybody in the call, the question -- John's question relates to the capital that we're spending in the Marcellus through our joint venture with The Energy and Minerals Group. And again, what we're providing in our guidance is 2011 only for our CapEx. And about -- In 2011, about 70% of our total CapEx, again subtracting the amount for the EQT transaction, will be for our Marcellus joint venture CapEx. So about 70% of that net capital. And as far as how that's broken out between plants and between the gas processing facilities and the fractionation facilities and pipeline and compression -- give us a second and we'll give you a little bit of a rough breakdown of that.
Yes, John, this is Randy Nickerson. In round numbers, let's just say roughly 30% to 40% of that is going to be in pipelines and compressor stations, and another 40% of that's going to be finishing up the fractionation, finishing up the rail facility, finishing up NGL pipelines. And the remainder of that is -- somewhere in the middle is miscellaneous stuff. So that's sort of a high level of what that includes.
The large majority, as Randy indicated, is really for the completion of our processing facilities and the NGL fractionation and logistics handling facilities.
It will still be a big year for us as -- I agree with Frank on a percentage. It will still be a big year for us building out low-pressure gathering lines as well. So both of those are huge components, absolutely.
John Edwards - Morgan Keegan & Company, Inc.
And then, as far as going forward, at least in presentations in the past, you've indicated a pretty significant opportunity in the Marcellus that lays ahead in terms of areas where it can be developed. I'm just wondering if you can comment on, in terms of future CapEx going forward is -- in terms of organic growth, is about $400 million to $450 million, is that a pretty good number going forward? This is excluding acquisitions, of course.
Yes, John. We're actually excited about the future growth of the Marcellus. And if you listen to the producers' projections for the Marcellus, you can get pretty comfortable with a CapEx forecast, again for the Liberty, our Marcellus joint venture, roughly in that $300 million range, just to be able to continue to stay in front of the producers' development of the Marcellus. And again, that's the total capital for the joint venture, which is obviously divided between us and The Energy and Minerals Group. So, yes, it's kind of an exciting proposition as we see the producers continue to lay out and provide clarity around what their drilling programs look like over the next several years.
John Edwards - Morgan Keegan & Company, Inc.
So this year, the $400 million out -- the $600 million, is that the total amount that -- how much is net to MarkWest this year out of the $650 million? Does that the account for backing out the JV with The Energy & Minerals Group?
Yes. John, when we talk about that guidance, it's a little more complicated this year because of $230 million acquisition of the EQT facilities. But yes, it is a net number to us, to MarkWest. So you first back out the $230 million, and then you get the total capital for all of our operations, net of the EMG contributions.
Our next question from Helen Ryoo.
Hi, it's Barclays Capital. A couple of quick questions. On your Langley expansion, could you talk about the contract structure, where the new volume's coming in. And also -- you also mentioned long-term agreements. Is that -- is there acreage dedication, minimum volume commitments? Could you talk a little bit about the contract, please?
Yes, Helen, again for everybody in the call, the question was around the -- I believe the question was around the Langley contract structure. Again, that supports the acquisition of the Langley plant from EQT. And I believe your other -- the other part of the question, Helen, was about on the -- it was concerning the acreage dedication or commitment by EQT to the plant facilities. And I'll turn this over to Randy and let him -- Randy Nickerson and let him answer that question.
Sure. Obviously, I can't go through all the -- and wouldn't want to go through in great detail. I think it's important to remember when you start out with the discussion that we've had a relationship with EQT for a very long time. And so, what we did as part of the acquisition is we sort of rolled together a number of other agreements that we have with them combined with Langley into sort of combined agreements. So it's a little bit -- it's different than a lot of places where you go out there and you have a standalone project. This really was a culmination of a lot of projects we're doing together. So there certainly is some volume supports. There certainly is some dedications for what they're doing, but certainly not all of it. The exciting thing for us is not only does it build the relationship for us at Langley, allows us to expand the capacity at the Langley processing, so they continue to develop what they're doing, which is a great job. But also we significantly extended our transportation and our fractionation agreements, which was both good for them. As we've all talked about in Appalachia, that's such a critical part of being able to grow your system is knowing where the NGL's going to go, and knowing that you're going to get premium prices for those. And so, that was really important for them. And likewise, it really was a big part for us that we extended those contract terms for a much longer period of time. So that was all a part of it. I only answered a part of your question but I think we answered the part that we really can answer.
Okay, but then, is that mostly fee-based or would you have some commodity price exposure?
I think it's fair to say that it's some of both. An awful lot of fee, but there also is a smaller component that -- or a component that also is commodity-based.
Okay. And then, on the Arapaho expansion, I think the existing contracts are keep-whole in that plant, if I'm not mistaken. But would the new volumes also have the same kind of keep-whole exposure? Also could you talk about the cost of expanding that 60 million [cubic feet]?
Yes? The question is around our Arapaho expansion, I believe. And yes, the contracts that support that expansion will continue to be keep-whole.
Okay, and the cost of expansion?
The cost of the expansion is about $30 million.
Pretty efficient expansion of this facility.
Right. I guess it's much cheaper than building a new one. It's just you're adding a tower, is that -- is that how you...
Yes, we're actually adding a -- we're adding a third train, which is a 60 million a day cryogenic plant, but we're also adding a large compressor station on one of our pipelines to transport the gas from the Granite Wash over to the Arapaho plant, and that -- it's about split even, 50-50, on the capital costs.
And then one more question. I think at some point you talked about another 200 expansion at Houston plant, sometime in 2012. And I know that number is not included in the 745 million capacity, total capacity you would have at the JV by mid-2012. How likely are you -- will you add that additional 200 million next year?
Yes. We talk about that plant because it's highly likely that it'll be built. Again, we're incrementally continuing to expand our overall gathering, compression, processing, fractionation capacity in front of the producers. So we clearly believe that, that plant would be built. We're anticipating that it would be built. We're planning and designing for that next phase of expansion.
Okay. And then just one last one. Going forward, will you be responsible for about 50% of the CapEx at the Liberty JV or, I mean, given that, I believe, is your ownership interest going forward, but -- or would you have to put in a bit more maybe for a catch-up on a previous investment? Could you talk about that site?
Yes, Helen. There's a little bit of catch-up going on right now as we've talked about in previous calls, but over the long term, the capital that is invested will be equal to the ownership percentage base by each party. So it's 51%, 49%.
Next question from Louis Shamie.
Louis Shamie - Zimmer Lucas
Hi, Zimmer Lucas Partners. First off, congratulations, guys, on a great year and strong guidance for 2011. My first question was regarding the Arapaho plant and the expansion there. Once that comes online, about how long do you expect it to take to fill that plant up and do you see the possibility of adding further trains down the line?
Yes, Louis, let me just -- I'll let John answer that question.
Thanks, Frank. Yes, Louis, we actually are very close to being at capacity now with our existing Arapaho complex. And we're hoping to have the Arapaho plant expansion done in the third quarter and about that time, we will quickly put a lot of gas into that plant. I anticipate maybe when we come on, we may be about half full. And the volumes continue to grow, really because the Granite Wash, the rich part of the Granite Wash has excellent economics for our producer customers.
Louis Shamie - Zimmer Lucas
And the other question I had was regarding the keep-whole volumes in Appalachia. Your sales volumes there on the keep-whole side were a little bit lower than you usually have in the fourth quarter. And in the 10-K, it mentioned something about a third-party pipeline being out. Could you talk a little bit more about that?
Yes, Louis, it's actually, I think, sort of a good news/bad news story. In the short term, there was some issues in Columbia Gas Transmission, of which primarily our Kenova plant, our largest plant sits on that. They had to reduce the pressure and so we certainly did and are continuing to experience slightly lower volume through that pipeline. And they're still planning when they'll replace that and when they'll upgrade that. The sort of exciting part about that, though, is that when they get that done, we think volumes into our Kenova facility, again which is our largest, will actually grow. So in the short term, we'll expect to see a little bit lower volumes. In the long term, it'll work out. And frankly, the other sort of nice thing about that is it's allowed us to completely fill up Siloam as the volumes come out of Marcellus, keep filling that up. So we used the extra capacity in the fractionator almost immediately. But it'll continue to have a slightly lower volume to our Kenova plant.
Louis Shamie - Zimmer Lucas
Do you have any estimation on what that cost you in terms of the NGL gallons or in terms of margin in the fourth quarter?
You know, Louis, I don't know if we've driven down exactly what that cost in the fourth quarter. I'd hate for us to quote some numbers here and have to come back and kind of go, wow, we didn't have right.
At this time, I would like to turn the call back over to Mr. Frank Semple for closing remarks. Thank you, sir.
Well, thanks, Sarah, and thanks to everyone for joining us on the conference call today. We have officially closed the books on our very strong year, and now look forward to executing our plan to deliver the good results that we talked about in our guidance. So we appreciate your interest and continued support. And as always, if you have any additional questions, just give us a call. Thanks a lot and that concludes our call for today. Thanks a lot. Goodbye.
You may disconnect at this time. Thank you for joining today's conference.
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