MPLX 2017 Results: Income Up Astounding 241%, Adding 6 Plants

MPLX, which used to be known as MarkWest Energy prior to selling itself to Marathon Petroleum, issued its fourth quarter 2017 update yesterday. And wow, what an update! MarkWest…OK, MPLX (old habits die hard)…is the Marcellus/Utica region’s leading gas processing company. MPLX’s facilities process on the order of 60% of all the gas produced in the Marcellus/Utica. The region produced record volumes of gas in 4Q17 (and indeed for all of 2017), which in turn led to record volumes of gas processed (separating the methane from the other hydrocarbons), and record volumes of fractionation (separating the other hydrocarbons into their respective components) for MPLX. Net income soared, both for the fourth quarter and full year. In 4Q17, MPLX’s net income was $238 million, up from $133 million in 4Q16–a 79% increase. For the entire year, MPLX’s net income was $794 million, vs. $233 million in 2016. That a 241% increase year over year! Yeah, the Marcellus/Utica came back big time in 2017. But MPLX isn’t sitting around basking in the glow of success–they have big plans for 2018. In the Marcellus/Utica, MPLX will add six new gas processing plants, increasing the company’s processing capacity by 21% to over 7 billion cubic feet per day. Additionally, MPLX expects to add 40,000 barrels per day of ethane fractionation capacity, and 60,000 barrels per day of propane-plus fractionation. Below is the full update along with the latest PowerPoint presentation…
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Doddridge, WV Drilling & Processing is Marcellus-Central

Doddridge County, WV

There’s no question that Doddridge County is one of the most active counties in West Virginia, with respect to the Marcellus/Utica industry. Doddridge is home to MarkWest’s Sherwood complex, the single largest gas-processing complex in the Northeast with eight cryogenic processing facilities. Antero Resources, an active (really big) driller in Doddridge, is building a huge wastewater recycling facility in the county. As we reported in September, the tax base in the county has tripled over the past seven years (see Doddridge County, WV Tax Base Triples in 7 Yrs Thx to M-U Shale). Dominion Energy also has a large presence in the county with hundreds of miles of gathering and interstate pipelines. Yes, Doddridge is a happenin’ place when it comes to the Marcellus. We’d call it “Marcellus-Central” in WV…
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New MarkWest Processing Plant Approved by Smith Twp in SWPA

Smith Township, Washington, PA

In August MarkWest Energy (now part of MPLX) briefed Smith Township (Washington County, PA) officials on plans to build a new natural gas processing plant (see Update on MarkWest Processing Plant Proposal for Smith Twp). The project was first introduced last fall, but then went quiet until May of this year. MarkWest plans to initially building one cryogenic plant and one de-ethanizer at what it calls the Harmon Creek Complex. Eventually MarkWest wants to build four cryogenic plants and two de-ethanizers at complex. Smith officials understandably had questions and wanted certain things in writing before they would consider issuing a “conditional use” permit for the project. Apparently the questions got answered. On Monday, Smith supervisors voted 3-0 to approve the project. However, the backhoes are not firing up just yet. Before the project can get built, the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection must issue an air permit (GP-5) for the project. Anti fossil fuelers were not happy with Smith’s approval, claiming MarkWest has been hiding the full scope of the project…
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KM Plans to Convert Tennessee Gas Pipeline to Flow M-U NGLs South

TGP – section of pipeline to reverse & convert to NGLs (click for larger version)

Here’s a story that wasn’t actively on our radar. It’s an old story, but is now in the news again with the recent quorum reestablished at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). In August 2013, exactly four years ago, midstream giant Kinder Morgan and competitor midstream company MarkWest Energy (now part of Marathon Petroleum) signed a joint venture agreement to repurpose a significant portion of Kinder’s Tennessee Gas Pipeline (964 miles of it) running from the Louisiana Gulf Coast to Ohio. That 964-mile portion of TGP currently flows natural gas from the Gulf northward. Kinder and MarkWest want to reverse the flow and instead flow natural gas liquids (NGL) through the pipeline from the Utica and Marcellus region south to the Gulf Coast. The project would also build a new 200-mile pipeline from TGP in Louisiana to Texas. In order to make the project happen, the first step is to ask FERC for permission to “abandon” (stop using) the 964-mile segment, called Pipeline No. 1, from Louisiana to Ohio. Which TGP did in Feb. 2015. The project progressed. Last November FERC issued a favorable environmental assessment for the project (full copy below). And then FERC lost a quorum of voting members in February of this year, stalling further progress. With a quorum now restored, antis in Kentucky, a state that seems to be allergic to any kind of pipeline for any purpose, have begun bellyaching about it. Which is what caught our attention. We’ve gathered together information we can find on this project–a potentially very important project–to move Marcellus/Utica NGLs to the Gulf Coast…
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Update on MarkWest Processing Plant Proposal for Smith Twp

MarkWest facilities – click for larger version

The MarkWest Harmon Creek Complex planned for Washington County, PA continues to make progress. Last fall NGI’s Shale Daily reported that MarkWest planned to build a new processing plant to process natural gas for Range Resources (see MarkWest Building New Processing Plant in Washington County, PA). But following the initial announcement, all went quiet and the project went on “indefinite hold.” In May of this year, the project restarted when MarkWest officials attended a Smith Township planning commission meeting (the town where it will get built) to discuss the project (see MarkWest’s Washington, PA Processing Plant Plans Reactivated). According to MarkWest, plans call for initially building one cryogenic plant and one de-ethanizer. Eventually MarkWest wants to build four cryogenic plants and two de-ethanizers at the Harmon Creek Complex. MarkWest reps were back before Smith Township supervisors on August 2nd to discuss more about their plans. The town must grant a “conditional use” permit before the project can get built. Before that happens, the town wants certain things in writing…
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MPLX/MarkWest 2Q17: Utica Descending, Marcellus Ascending

MPLX, which is the midstream subsidiary of Marathon Petroleum (essentially MarkWest renamed, since the merger), issued its second quarter 2017 update last week–and wow what an update! MPLX’s profit in 2Q17 is up 10x from 2Q16–to $190 million. Revenue is up 31% in 2Q17 from a year earlier–to $916 million. It pays to be in the midstream. The company processed 4.7 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of Marcellus/Utica gas and liquids, which is up 14% over the same period last year. Just one more bit of evidence that the industry is picking up again. This past quarter MPLX started up a 20,000-barrels-per-day fractionation train (de-ethanization) at the Bluestone complex (in Butler County, PA) in June to support growing natural gas liquids (NGL) production in the Marcellus shale. However, not all areas were up equally. Of particular note, MPLX saw a decrease in processing volumes in the Utica, and an increase in the Marcellus. On the conference call, MPLX CFO Pam Beall said right now the Utica is their “weak spot” because some producers are shifting their spending away from some areas in the Utica–spending more in other areas, including the Marcellus. However, MPLX president Mike Hennigan believes the Utica “weakness” is temporary and will pick up again. Below are excerpts from last week’s conference call, the full 2Q17 MPLX update, and the slide deck used on the conference call…
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3 MarkWest Utica “Build-Out” Pipeline Projects Now Up & Running

In February MDN reported that Marathon Petroleum had begun to build a 49-mile condensate pipeline, called HALI–the Harpster to Lima Pipeline (see Marathon Begins to Build New 49-Mile Utica Pipeline in Ohio). The purpose of the project is a pipeline “for efficient and safe delivery of condensate from the Utica Shale to refineries where it can be processed into gasoline and diesel in order to meet the needs of producers, mid-streamers, marketers, diluent blenders, and refiners as the Utica Shale continues to develop.” At the time, the pipeline was expected to go online in July–this month. It beat the clock and went live last month (see Marathon Completes 49-Mile Utica Condensate Pipeline in Ohio). MarkWest, now owned by Marathon, issued an announcement yesterday to point out not only is HALI now up and running, but so too are two other liquids pipelines that MarkWest worked to expand: East Sparta to Heath, and Heath to Harpster. Together the three pipelines are moving liquids to refineries throughout the Midwest. Marathon is also working on a project to extend their service for diluents to western Canada…
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Sunoco LP CEO Mike Hennigan Defects to MPLX/MarkWest Energy

Michael Hennigan

Mike Hennigan was, until late last year, president and CEO of Sunoco Logistics Partners–builder of the Mariner East pipeline projects and operator of the Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia. Sunoco LP has (for years) been a subsidiary of Energy Transfer (ET). Last November, ET announced it was combining two subsidiaries together into one operation–Sunoco LP and Energy Transfer Partners (see ETE Merging Sunoco Logistics and Energy Transfer Partners). Although on paper Sunoco LP swallowed ETP, the new entity retained the ETP name and ETP’s top management. Exactly how Mike fit into the new arrangement we’re not sure. We know his title became president for crude, liquids and refined products. We’re guessing Mike’s new role wasn’t as satisfying as the old role, because he’s jumping ship. Mike is leaving ET and moving to Marathon Petroleum, to become president of subsidiary MPLX. You may recall that MPLX is Marathon’s pipeline subsidiary which, in late 2015, bought out and merged in MarkWest Energy–a huge Marcellus/Utica player in the midstream space (see MarkWest Energy Investors/Unitholders Approve Merger with Marathon). So, in a nutshell, Mike Hennigan is leaving Sunoco LP to become the new head of MarkWest Energy…
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MarkWest’s Washington, PA Processing Plant Plans Reactivated

In October 2016, MDN reported that electric company FirstEnergy had begun construction of a new electric substation in Washington County, PA to provide electricity to “support two natural gas processing facilities being developed in the area” (see Work Begins on $40M Electric Substation in W PA to Help Marcellus). At the time we speculated that at least one of the beneficiaries would be MPLX’s MarkWest Energy subsidiary. We were right. Not long after, NGI’s Shale Daily reported that one of the projects to be served by FirstEnergy’s new substation will be the MarkWest Harmon Creek Complex, a new processing plant that would be built to process natgas for Range Resources (see MarkWest Building New Processing Plant in Washington County, PA). But then all went quiet, when the project went on “indefinite hold.” The hold is now over. MarkWest officials recently attended a Smith Township planning commission meeting (where it will get built) to discuss the project which is now front and center once again. According to MarkWest, plans call for initially building one cryogenic plant and one de-ethanizer. Eventually MarkWest wants to build four cryogenic plants and two de-ethanizers at the Harmon Creek Complex…Continue reading

MarkWest Spending $300M+ This Year in WV Expansion Projects

Click for larger version

MarkWest Energy, formerly a standalone company but bought out by MPLX (i.e. Marathon Petroleum) in December 2015, continues its aggressive expansion in the Marcellus/Utica. Particularly in West Virginia. MarkWest owns a number of processing plants in the Mountain State. This year, the company will spend $200 million to expand and upgrade its facilities in Doddridge County (Sherwood facility) to process natural gas and separate out ethane, and $110 million to expand and upgrade facilities in Marshall County (Majorsville facility) to process ethane. Folks, that’s nearly one-third of a BILLION dollars–in just two counties. Talk about economic stimulus! Last year MarkWest spent $120 million on upgrades in Wetzel County. MarkWest’s WV customers include: Antero, EQT, Southwestern, CNX, Chevron, Range Resources, and Eureka Hunter. Here’s more details on what to expect from the mighty MarkWest in WV this year…
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Former MarkWest Chief John Mollenkopf Joins Board of Antero Midstream

John Mollenkopf

In December of 2015, one of the biggest and brightest stars in the midstream firmament for the Marcellus/Utica, MarkWest Energy, sold itself to Marathon Petroleum (see MarkWest Energy Investors/Unitholders Approve Merger with Marathon). As we pointed out at the time, the sale lined the pockets of investors and MarkWest’s top management (see Golden Parachutes Pop Open for MarkWest Top Management/Board). Two of the people in top management who benefited were John Mollenkopf, who was named executive vice president and chief operating officer for the new MarkWest unit (essentially taking over running MarkWest) and Gregory Floerke, who was named executive vice president and chief commercial officer of the new MarkWest unit. In August 2016, Marathon announced that Mollenkopf would ride off into the sunset as a very rich man (i.e. retiring), and that Floerke would take the reigns (see Senior Management Change at Marathon’s MarkWest Subsidiary). Apparently Mollenkopf is tired of twiddling his thumbs and wants back in the game–at least part-time. He’s just ridden back from the sunset to join the board of Antero Midstream…
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Antero Forms JV with MarkWest to Service Combined 360K WV Acres

Marathon Petroleum subsidiary MarkWest Energy and Antero Resources’ midstream subsidiary Antero Midstream have announced a 50/50 joint venture focused on gathering and processing natural gas and natural gas liquids in northern West Virginia (Tyler, Wetzel and Richie counties). Antero Midstream will contribute its gathering operations for 195,000 acres in WV, boosting MarkWest’s total WV Marcellus gathering operation to a huge 360,000 acres. In addition, the JV will add three new processing plants to MarkWest’s Sherwood Complex in Doddridge County, WV. And get this: the JV contemplates building another eight (!) processing plants at Sherwood and a new/second location. Antero expects to invest “up to $800 million” through 2020, and has already made an initial $155 million investment. We think it’s no coincidence that on the same day Antero Midstream announced the deal (yesterday), they also announced a new round of units (i.e. shares of stock) they hope to pedal to raise $198 million. Here’s the details on the JV deal between Antero and MarkWest…
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Marathon 2016 Revenue Slips, Spending $1.3B on Marcellus in 2017

Marathon Petroleum, the refiner and midstream company based in Ohio (owner of what used to be MarkWest Energy) reported their fourth quarter and full year 2016 numbers yesterday. Overall revenue was down a bit, from $2.85 billion in 2015 to $2.21 billion in 2016 due to “a challenging commodity price and margin environment.” However, Speedway gas station/convenience stores (many of which used to be Hess gas stations) had “exceptional performance” and “set multiple records for the full-year 2016.” Of particular note for MDN, Marathon plans to spend $1-$1.3 billion in 2017 on new infrastructure projects in the Marcellus region. Good news indeed! Below we have yesterday’s update, along with a PowerPoint presentation Marathon used at the recent Marcellus-Utica Midstream event in Pittsburgh. We love the slides in that presentation, full of useful information…
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Marathon Dances to Corp Raider’s Tune, Former CEO Dissents

We always find it distressing when companies begin to tap dance to please corporate raiders. That is apparently what is now happening at Marathon Petroleum, owner of MarkWest Energy. We don’t pretend to fully understand what’s happening (this is all high finance stuff), but our impression is that Marathon is “dropping down” certain assets (i.e. moved from one legal corporate entity to another) more quickly than it otherwise would have, due to pressure on the company from Elliott Management, a so-called activist investor in the company. “Activist investor” is what used to be called “corporate raider” 25 years ago, which are companies or people who invest just enough in a company to control it, forcing the company to shed assets and fire people in order to boost the stock price–just to turn around and sell and make a quick buck. Apparently Elliott wants Marathon to a) move assets around from one company to another PDQ, and b) consider spinning out Speedway into its own company, or selling it. Speedway, you may or may not know, is Marathon’s retail gas filling station business. Speedway bought out and merged in the old Hess filling stations (see Marathon Petroleum Buys the Hess Truck! What Will We Do for Xmas?). Former MarkWest Energy CEO John Fox is none too happy about these machinations. Fox owns a bunch of Marathon stock and he issued a press release yesterday to pressure Marathon’s current leaders into slowing down and not being so eager to tap dance to Elliott’s tune…
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Corp Raider Pressures Marathon to Split Itself into 3 Companies

1017_1Not even a year go–in December of last year–one of the biggest and brightest stars in the midstream firmament for the Marcellus/Utica, MarkWest Energy, sold itself to Marathon Petroleum (see MarkWest Energy Investors/Unitholders Approve Merger with Marathon). We wondered at the wisdom of such a move, but who are we? What’s done is done. Ironically, an “activist investor” hedge fund (i.e. corporate raider) by the name of Elliott Management yesterday disclosed to the world that they have taken a 4% stake in Marathon. Corporate raiders target companies they can bully by buying enough shares to force those companies to fire people and sell assets. It “unlocks value for shareholders” you see–meaning it will boost the per share price of the raider’s stock so they can turn around and sell that stock and line their already-fat pockets. Disgusting. True to form, Elliott is targeting Marathon. They sent a letter to the Marathon board with the “suggestion” that the company split itself (after buying MarkWest less than a year ago) into three separate companies (retail, refining, midstream) in an effort to “unlock $14 – $19 billion for shareholders.” Unfortunately there are at least two other raiders lurking in the background with small stakes in Marathon who may join Elliott to pressure Marathon…
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MarkWest Says Cracker Plants are “the End Game”

end-gameThis story reaches back just a bit, but we found it interesting and instructive. On Thursday, Sept. 29, MarkWest Energy gave a tour of its facilities in eastern Ohio. Ethane was one of the big topics of discussion. During that discussion, MarkWest’s vice president of operations, Dave Ledonne, said this about the announced Shell and hopefully soon-to-be announced PTT Global ethane cracker plants: “The cracker plants are the end game. They are what we really need.” What did he mean?…
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