Valero Energy's CEO Presents at UBS Global Oil and Gas Conference (Transcript)

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Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE:VLO) UBS Global Oil and Gas Conference Call May 21, 2014 11:00 AM ET


Joe Gorder - President, Chief Executive Officer, Director

Gary Simmons - Senior Vice President-Supply, International Operations and Systems Optimization


Craig Weiland - UBS

Craig Weiland - UBS

Okay, everyone. I think we will get started. We have a couple of refiners back-to-back here. First one is Valero Energy. I would like to welcome Gary Simmons from Valero, as well as Joe Gorder, the incoming CEO. Joe, I will turn it over to you and we will finish with some Q&A. Thank you.

Joe Gorder

Thanks, Craig. Good morning, everybody. We appreciate you joining us for this discussion of Valero Energy, but before we get started here, we need to share the Safe Harbor statements which basically says that the actual results could differ materially from our forward-looking statements.

So with that, let's go ahead and talk about Valero. I think, as many of you know, we are the world's largest independent refiner. We have 16 refineries with 2.9 million barrels a day of refining capacity and that excludes the Aruba refinery, which is shutdown. In 2013, we IPO'd Valero Energy Partners, which is a traditional logistics MLP with 100% fee-based revenues. We have approximately 7,400 branded marketing sites. About 1,900 of these belong to CST Brands, which is our former retail business, which I think many of you know we spun off in May 2013. We have a very significant renewable fuels business with 11 efficient corn ethanol plants with 85,000 barrels per day of production capacity. And then we have a 50% JV interest in the Diamond Green Diesel plant, which has 9,300 barrels per day of renewable diesel production capacity. Then finally we have 10,000 employees.

Now this map really shows the geographic diversity of our operations and the teal colored states are those that we have a wholesale presence in. Those with the V logo are where we have a branded wholesale presence. And then you can see the yellow refinery icons. If you look on the West Coast, you can see that we have two plants in California. Then as you come across the map to the East you can see that we have three refineries in the Mid-Continent. We have a significant refining concentration in U.S. Gulf Coast.

Then if you go over to the East, up in to Canada, you can see the refinery in Québec city, the Jean Gaulin Refinery. And then if you go all way over to Wales, you can see we have the Pembroke Refinery. Our headquarters is located in San Antonio, Texas, and then the Diamond Green Diesel plant is located on the side of the St. Charles Refinery there in the in the New Orleans area.

Then finally, the table on the right, on the lower right here, provides some additional detail by region and by refinery. It includes our throughput capacities, our crude capacities and then the complexity index of the system. And you can see we are very geographically dispersed in our operations.

Now, our goal is to enhance shareholder returns and to increase their long-term value. We are going to do this by investing to take advantage of the North American resource boom. We are also going to unlock potential value in our existing assets. We are going to continue to pursue excellence in our operations. We are going to continue to return cash to our shareholders. And all of these strategies are covered here in some detail over the next several slides.

Now before we do that though, I would like to cover some key market trends that we are seeing, which are really supporting these strategies. And these include the growth in the U.S. and Canadian oil, natural gas and NGL productions. And this is really providing North American refiner's with significant cost advantages, particularly those with operations in the Mid-Continent and in the U.S. Gulf Coast. We are also seeing the market is providing higher distillate margins due to the global demand growth. Then finally, we continue to have very strong export markets, which are supporting utilization rates and margins in the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Now the first key market trend that I mentioned, you can see on this chart, which illustrates the growth in U.S. and Canadian crude production. You can see the significant growth in North American production starting in 2010 going out through the forecast period here of 2020. The largest growth comes from U.S. shale and heavy Canadian crudes, which are the top two segments on these bar graphs.

Now crossing the bars, you can see the line that shows the imports of non-Canadian crude. And you can see that since 2010, there has been significant reductions in imported crude primarily light sweet crude. We still have plenty of heavy sour and medium sour grades coming in, but the light sweet crude has been effectively backed out of the U.S. Gulf Coast. So the take away here is that the crude production growth is providing an advantage for North American refiners and it is going to continue to do so for some time.

Now as you would expect, we are working on projects to supply more cost advantage crude to our refineries by pipe, rail, barge and ship. For example, at the St. Charles Refinery, we have a 20,000 barrel a day rail unloading facility that's going to be online in the first quarter. I am sorry. It is online in the first quarter. We will be bringing bitumen in by the second quarter, using our purchased railcars and we are also barging barrels in the St. Charles from our Harper terminal with 35,000 barrels a day of capacity.

At Port Arthur, we are working on a rail unloading facility, which is going to enable us to bring up to 70,000 barrels a day in and this project will be operational in the fourth quarter of this year. At Corpus Christi, we are working on a crude export dock, which is going to be online in the third quarter of this year with 25,000 barrels a day of capacity initially. And then we are adding tankage that's going to allow us to increase this capacity to 50,000 barrels a day by the first quarter of 2015.

On the West Coast, at our Benicia refinery, we are working on a rail unloading facility that we will be able to use to deliver up to 50,000 barrels a day of crude. And this facility will be in place by the first quarter of 2015, subject to the permitting process which we continue to work through today. And then finally in the Mid-Continent, we expect to provide McKee with pipeline access to an incremental 30,000 to 40,000 barrels of Midland crude in the third quarter of this year.

Now in the Atlantic region, our Québec City Refinery is one of the great examples that we have of how our business is benefiting from the North American crude oil boom. This chart shows the refineries balance of imported and domestic crude over the past 12 months. As recently as March of last year, the refinery ran 100% West African and Mediterranean crudes, which delivered in at Brent plus prices.

Now as you move to the right, you can see how we are displacing the imported volumes with North American supply. Currently we are supplying about 50,000 barrels a day by rail and we will increase it to 60,000 barrels a day by year-end. We are also moving barrels by ship from the U.S. Gulf Coast using foreign flagged vessels. And in June, the Québec crude slate is going to be over 80% North American crude and by the end of the year, we will be running 100% North American crude, which is generating meaningful margin improvements for us at this refinery.

Now another advantage we enjoy is low-cost natural gas, which is resulting from the significant production increases that we are seeing. For us, natural gas is a fuel. So it's an operating expense, but it is also a feedstock rolling into cost of goods sold because we convert it into hydrogen as a feed. Now our refining system consumes over 800,000 mmBtu per day of natural gas. And if you throw into this our ethanol business, you are somewhere just under another 100,000 mmBtu a day. So we have significant natural gas consumption in our system.

The chart below shows the financial benefit that we enjoy due to lower cost that we are experiencing. As you can see, the right bar shows that at $4 an mmBtu, we enjoy a $1.8 billion annual advantage over the guy in Europe who spent $10 an mmBtu and a $3.5 billion advantage over the Asian refiner that might be using LNGs. So clearly, low-cost natural gas is a huge advantage for us.

Now distillate demand continues to grow and as a result we are experiencing much higher margins, the primary reasons that we invested in hydrocracking so aggressively. Now if you look at the chart in the lower left, we show U.S. Gulf Coast gasoline and diesel product margins as compared to Brent. Very clearly the diesel margins are much stronger than the gasoline margins over the past five years, in 2013 and currently.

The chart on the right helps explain why. Clearly diesel demand globally is growing much more rapidly than gasoline demand is, at about 1.5 times the rate. You can see gasoline demand is growing but diesel is growing at a much higher rate and this is supporting these higher margins.

Now as the title of this chart states, U.S. refining is globally competitive and it continues to take market share. The chart of the lower left shows that the U.S. is flipped from a net importer to a net exporter of products. And this really provides a significant advantage to the U.S. Gulf Coast refineries who have cost advantage crude natural gas, but also because they have access to water, which gives them very efficient access to these growing markets.

Now if you take a look at the chart on the lower right, it shows a higher utilization rates that are enjoyed by refineries in PADDS 2, 3 and 4, which are supported by the cost advantaged crude natural gas. The East Coast and the West Coast refineries are running at lower rates and Western European refining are struggling. Another point really that we can draw from this chart is that the higher utilization rates in the Gulf Coast are supported going forward by our access to the export markets.

The question we often get, are these export markets going to continue, are they sustainable? And I would tell you, that from our point of view they very clearly are, you have the shortage of refining capacity in Mexico, which is encouraging, their continued importer of products. And then if you look at South America, they simply don't have the refining capacity today to sustain their growth in demand. And if you look at the other South American refiners, they are struggling to operate the assets that we have. So we believe that that the export markets are very sustainable.

Now for global demand growth and it is very clearly important to refining margins. As you can see from the bar chart below, the emerging markets particularly Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia are the driver of global petroleum demand growth. This is really good for us because our products are storable, transportable and fungible. As demand grows, we are able to take advantage of that by supplying products into these markets.

Now we do expect significant new global refinery capacity additions to come on stream over the next several years, particularly in Asia and in the Middle East where the demand growth is very strong. However we also believe that many of the announced projects are going to be smaller than originally announced. They are going to be later than announced. We really believe that some of these projects are going to be shelved because the economics don't support them. We also expect that you are going to continue to see rationalization in the refining industry and that some of the refineries who are just not competitive are going to be shutdown.

Now, the chart below shows that the net refinery additions are more or less in line with potential demand growth, which is illustrated on this red bar. And the bottom line, from our perspective, is that we are not to see significant deterioration of global refining margins going forward, but we do expect that regions without cost advantage crudes and natural gas are going to continue to suffer that they are going to be vulnerable to closure.

Now let's focus a little more on Valero and our capital spending plan. As you can see, in 2013 we spent $2.7 billion, which is approximately $1 million less than the guidance that we had provided and this included $63 million that we spent on our retail business that we subsequently spun off. Now in 2014, we plan to spend $3 billion, with about $1.5 billion allocated to maintaining our refining logistics in ethanol assets and the remaining $1.5 billion to be invested in projects to facilitate the processing of our cost advantage natural resources.

Now this page focuses specifically on that growth capital and you can see that it's really allocated in the four key areas. The largest is logistics. The next largest is light sweet crude processing. These two areas comprise 72% of 2014's estimated growth spending. Then in addition to these investments, we are going to spend additional dollars on hydrocracking and then on projects that are going to allow us to upgrade natural gas and NGLs.

Now more specifically, we are investing in logistics assets. So we are to increase our access to cost advantage crudes for our refineries and to increase our capability to export products. We purchased 5,320 railcars. To-date, we received 2,500 of those. We will receive the final cars by the end of the second quarter of 2015. About 55% of these cars are general purpose and 45% are coil wrapped to allow us to move heavy crudes.

Now one point I will make on this is that they are all compliant. They are 1232 cars. So they are compliant with the DoT regulations. As previously mentioned, we commissioned a new crude rail unloading terminal at Québec. That took place in 2013. And we started up an unloading facility in the first quarter of this year at St. Charles. We are also working on terminals at Port Arthur and at our West Coast refineries.

At Québec, we will be delivering crude via Enbridge Line 9B and we are making investments here that include those in terminal in tankage and ship to satisfy our ability to move these barrels.

At Corpus Christi, we are working on a dock project that's going to be on stream in the third quarter of this year. So we will begin moving additional crude to Québec at this point in time. And then one point on this slide that need to remember is that all of these logistics projects that we are investing are candidates to drop to our MLP, which I will speak about now.

In 2013, we completed two major transactions. The first was the spin off of CST Brands. The second was a successful IPO of Valero Energy Partners in December of last year. VLP is a sponsored traditional logistics MLP with 100% fee-based revenues. We don't plan to take any commodity risk in VLP.

Valero retains significant ownership of VLP with almost 69% of the common and subordinated units and we retain control by owning 100% of the general partnership and all the IDRs. We intend to use VLP as the primary vehicle for us to grow our logistics assets. We are planning to grow distributions in VLP by at least 20% a year for the next several years and we expect to complete our first drop-down sale in the early part of the third quarter of this year. VLP's future growth is supported by this extensive portfolio of logistics assets that are retained at Valero Energy, which can be dropped to VLP.

Now the initial assets we put into VLP are the Port Arthur Logistics System, the McKee Product System and the Memphis Logistics System. And these assets were selected due to their high integration into these key refineries, their long history of reliable and ratable operations and lastly, because they are very high quality and well-maintained assets. And VLP has done very well since the public offering was completed in December. I think we came out at $23 a unit and today we are trading somewhere up in the in the mid-40s, 44 and change. So anyway it's done very well.

Now I mentioned earlier, distillates have stronger margins and higher growth rates in gasoline and the North American natural gas is relatively inexpensive. Our hydrocracking investments really benefit in this environment. So we have increased the Port Arthur hydrocracker permitted capacity to 60,000 barrels a day, which makes it just like the one in St. Charles. Both of these hydrocracker projects are performing very well.

Then we have our Diamond Green Diesel JV, which we started in the third quarter of 2013, which is this hydroprocessing technology to make high quality renewable diesel from corn oil, waste cooking oil and from animal fats.

And then finally we have 50,000 barrels a day of lower-cost hydrocracker expansion projects, which cost a lot less per barrel than grassroots units do. Included in this is a 25,000 barrel a day Meraux hydrocracker project, which we will have on stream in early 2015.

Then we are also looking at the Port Arthur and St. Charles hydrocrackers for possible expansion projects. We could take them up by 15 a day. We would plan to do that in 2018. But the hydrocracker investments have been very good for us.

Now we are also investing to take advantage of processing more North American cost advantage crude. These investments enable us to displace purchase feedstocks to fill underutilized conversion capacity in our refineries. We are working on a 25,000 barrel a day expansion at the McKee crude unit which is expected to be done in the first half of 2015.

We are also constructing two new crude topping units. One at the Houston refinery that will be a 90,000 barrel a day unit and then one at the Corpus Christi refinery, which will be a 70,000 barrel a day unit and these are going to be done for $400 million and $350 million, respectively. We expect to have both of these projects complete in early 2016.

Now the economics on these two projects are really good with IRRs in excess of 25% using Brent and LLS at parity. So no discount. One of the questions we get asked periodically is, how will crude exports affect the economics on these projects. I am just telling you, we ran the economics with these two crudes at parity. So it really shouldn't have a material effect.

Now the chart on this page shows how much light crude we can run, how much we ran in the first quarter of 2014 as compared to our current estimated capacity. So you can see, we ran 772 versus an estimated capacity of 1,205. But you can also see that with these projects, we are going to increase that capacity by over 15% to 1,390 barrels per day. And of course, the amount of light sweet crude we run ultimately depends on the economics.

Now let's take a look at how our refining operations performed relative to the industry on some key performance benchmarks. And the chart on the right here shows the results of a biannual industry survey over the last six years with data points for 2008, 2010 and 2012, using the red, yellow and green colored dots to show the year. Now each key benchmark has a bar with four segments showing the performance quartile within that benchmark and the dots are where Valero's refining system rated within that benchmark.

As you can see, our performance has improved in each category during the survey period and this is really important to us because reliable, efficient operations are closely linked to improvements that we are making in achieving our health, safety and environmental performance standards and to our profitability. So our team has done an absolutely fantastic job of continuing to improve our operations.

We are pursuing our goal to be a first quartile refiner by maintaining a relentless focus on safety, environmental and regulatory compliance and our organization is committed to excellence. So you will continue to see us invest capital to revamp unreliable equipment and process designs and we will continue to develop and implement reliability program system wide.

Now our ethanol business has done very well. We now own and operate 11 ethanol plants with 1.3 billion gallons per year of capacity. We paid $794 million for the assets, which is approximately 35% of replacement cost. Our ethanol business had a record year in 2013 by earning $491 million and since acquiring the 10 plants in 2009 and 2010, we generated $1.7 billion in cumulative EBITDA.

We continue to look for opportunities to grow this business and in March of this year, we purchased an idled 110 million gallons per year ethanol plants in Mount Vernon, Indiana for $34 million. Restart efforts on this planet underway and we plan to resume production in the third quarter of this year.

The assets that we own are very high quality and they are in great locations to provide a competitive advantage in any margin environment. And then given the favorable ethanol margin environment we have today, we are expecting these plants do very well this year also. And I don't know if you remember from the map that I showed you earlier, but these ethanol plants are really all in the Upper Midwest. So they are right in the middle of the corn belt, which really gives them a feedstock cost advantage.

Now in addition to allocating capital to maintain our assets into investing growth projects, we have increase the cash that we returned to shareholders and we built and maintain a very strong balance sheet. As you can see from the chart on the right, in 2013 we returned almost $1.4 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and stock buyback. And that's a year-over-year increase of 117%.

So far in 2014, we returned almost $542 million of cash to shareholders, purchasing 7.5 million shares of Valero stock for $410 million. We have increased the quarterly dividend from a $0.05 a share in the second quarter of 2011 to a $0.25 a share in the first quarter of 2014. And our goal is to maintain one of the highest cash returns among our peers via dividends and share repurchases.

Now in addition to the cash returns which we show here that we delivered last year, we have the spin off of CST Brands, which provided Valero shareholders with a $3.60 distribution or $1.9 billion in total.

Now we also remain focused on our investment grade rating. S&P recently reaffirmed our BBB investment-grade rating, but they changed our outlook from negative to stable. At the end of March, we had $3.6 billion in cash which is inclusive of the $384 million that we kept at VLP. We had a net debt to cap ratio of 12%, which excludes that VLP cash. In April, we paid off $200 million worth of debt. That's really our only debt obligation this year. So financially, we remain very strong.

So with these key market trends that I mentioned, cost advantage crude natural gas, the ability to process them, our ability to move our products to markets where we can get significant returns and margins with our strategy that we have underway to invest in our assets to unlock the potential of our existing assets and to continue to pursue excellence in our operations, we are going to return cash to shareholders and as a result, we really believe that Valero is an excellent buy today.

So with that, Craig, we can go ahead and an open it up and take questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Craig Weiland - UBS

If there are any questions in the audience, we would be happy to take those at this time. Otherwise I am happy to kickoff with a question. Natalie, go ahead.

Unidentified Analyst

Obviously, as you mentioned exports have a greater bearing towards (inaudible) margins. Is there a cap to U.S. exports that (inaudible)?

Joe Gorder

Yes. Okay, you want to come on over.

Gary Simmons


Joe Gorder

I will let Gary, he is responsible for now the products side of our business. So his team is the ones that are executing the export strategy.

Gary Simmons

So I would say on exports, especially in distillate, some of the issues that we have had were really being able to make the quality of diesel that the European market demands. So the hydrocracker projects, for us, gave us a lot more flexibility to produce a lot of that EN590 quality distillate that Europe demands. Then the second limit is just dock limitations, but those are very easily overcome and fairly small capital investments, mainly pumping capacity to be able to get the low rates up on the docks. So we are a long ways from, what I would say is, reaching a limit on our export capabilities.

Joe Gorder

And then one thing that we might add to that is that you look at the market and you say how much is the market going to absorb, okay. Well, clearly, in South America and Mexico demand continues to increase and their operations of refining assets and their ability to invest in refinery asset is probably somewhat limited. The U.S. Gulf Coast tends to be very, very competitive from a product production perspective. And so I think that as you look at the market itself, our ability to sustain exports because of demand growth is there. If you look at the barrels that Gary's team is exporting to the Western Europe, for example, it's mostly distillate. It's all that, in fact, and that is because we do have cost advantages in the U.S. Gulf Coast that allow us to move barrels into those markets more efficiently than they can produce them locally. It goes back to the fact that we have cost advantage crudes, we have low cost natural gas, we have a great labor pool and that we can ship export barrels on (inaudible) like vessels which makes it very economic to do so. So it looks very sustainable to us.

Craig Weiland - UBS

Joe, I had a question for you on Gulf Coast light crude balances. DoE numbers came out today, sort of a little bit of a tick down in an overall crude inventory levels. It was so very close to record levels. Where do you think we max out in terms of storage capacity in the Gulf, especially in light of the fact that we have got bridge tax going to turn on sometime around midyear, 3Q, Seaway twin, same timeframe and if you have any type of roadmap as to where you see crude differential shaping up, we would be curious to hear that.

Joe Gorder

Yes. So before today's stats, we would kind of say, you had consumed about 75% of the working inventory available on the Gulf. So not a lot left there. So I think the thing that you will start to see is that the dynamic, we have seen big draws in Cushing and builds in the Gulf. Still a lot of shell capacity available in Cushing. And so you will probably start to see some of that balance back where Cushing inventories begin to come back a little bit as the Gulf fills up light sweet crude. Overall, we think, that it's very supportive of these differentials. Certainly we saw the LLS to Brent differential come in the last couple days. I think that's mainly due to the expiration of the contract, but we see that all this is very supportive of these discounts with a light sweet trading at a substantial discount to Brent and then the medium sours following suit to be competitive with a light sweet and heavy sours also following the medium sours, again trading at a discount there to keep their barrels flowing into the market.

Craig Weiland - UBS

Okay, maybe I will shift gears to the West Coast. You are probably tired of answering questions about your strategic view on your West Coast refining assets, but I wanted to ask the obligatory question. I know you have mentioned you see some option value there, if you can get Canadian crude in there, if you can rail more shale crudes there. Where ready to those assets five years from now?

And then secondly, are those assets generating any type of meaningful EBITDA from the logistics side of inside the refining sense, so to speak?

Joe Gorder

No, okay. Well, the West Coast, it continues to be a challenged market. I think you know you have heard it said many times, we are probably one refinery long on the West Coast and so the option value that everybody speaks about really is driven by the fact that if there is an operating issue, you get very good margins on the West Coast. When everybody is running well, the margins tend to be pretty close to breakeven or slightly better. And so it is a challenged market.

In five years, if we look out at it, I think what you see is that we have a good portfolio of assets there. The Wilmington plant is very good. Benicia has very good hardware. The issue of Benicia is, it produces too much gasoline. I shouldn't say too much gasoline. It produces a significant yield of gasoline, which of course, we have seen the margins compressed on and demand not be the greatest on. But the assets are very good. They cash flow. And so we were not in of a bad situation when it comes to the West Coast at all.

Gary and his team are working very hard at getting alternative crude supplies which would increase the economics out there for us substantially. And we are going to continue to try to do that. We expect that that's going to happen. But Craig, I don't think that you will see any major changes from our perspective on the West Coast.

Craig Weiland - UBS

Okay. Then how about midstream EBITDA? Are there any MLP-able assets that you could contribute to VLP in the West Coast refining system?

Joe Gorder

Yes, sure. I think you certainly could do that. we haven't identified specifically the assets going up beyond the first offer assets that we included in the VLP offering yet. And none of those are tied to the West Coast.

Craig Weiland - UBS

Got it. Okay, maybe one final question on RINs. We have seen RIN prices ticking up lately in the last month or so. Do you think that this is a reflection that the EPA may backtrack on their November proposed RFS mandate? Or what do you think it does reflect right now? Curious to hear.

Joe Gorder

Gary talks to these guys all the time and you want to go ahead?

Gary Simmons

Yes. So I think definitely the uncertainty. I think we need to have clarification and exactly what the obligation is going to be and until we have that certainty the market is going to have a lot of volatility and we have seen that. It would kind of fell off and now it's strengthened back. And we are hearing that we should receive final volumes for 2014. And I think that will settle market back down.

Joe Gorder

Yes. It's a twitchy market, Craig, as you know. Gina McCarthy comes out and makes a comment and the next thing you know, it's moved a nickel, right. So it's a tough one to operate in. But I agree, Gary gave you the right answer on the timing of all this. And we also understand that there is longer term solutions that are still getting knocked around on the RFS. Congressman Upton is looking at the possibility of including an appropriations bill or provision that says that if we don't have the final EPA numbers for 2015 by November, it will revert back to the proposed 2014 volume. So there is keen awareness in Washington DC that we have an issue here that's disrupting these markets a bit. I think there are going to make efforts to deal with it.

Craig Weiland - UBS

Okay, great. That was very insightful. Please join me in thanking Joe and Gary for coming to present today.

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