Inter Pipeline Fund, a fast-moving Canadian petroleum products carrier, has set itself up to strip natural gas liquids from any North Slope or Mackenzie Delta gas that enters Alberta.
The Calgary-based fund announced July 8 that it has a deal to pay Williams Cos. US$540 million cash for three of Canada’s largest straddle plants which process 3.9 billion cubic feet per day of gas and extract 137,000 barrels per day of liquids. Inter Pipeline said the plants already have access to “multiple gas supply sources and are well positioned to benefit from the processing of potential future natural gas supplies delivered from the Mackenzie Delta and Arctic frontier regions.”
Ian Chadsey, the fund’s director of investor and media relations, told Petroleum News that the prospect of a gas pipeline from Alaska crossing through Alberta was a “big factor” in the purchase strategy. He said Inter Pipeline has been closely watching Alaska developments to be as well, if not better positioned than anyone to have access to the liquids.
The Williams plants derive 80 percent of their cash flow from long-term contracts for ethane and a mix of propane, butane and pentanes-plus as feedstock for petrochemical plants operated in Alberta by Nova, Dow Chemical and BP Canada. The plants at Cochrane, west of Calgary and Empress, near the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, straddle the largest pipelines from Alberta to eastern Canada and the United States.
The gas entering the plants is “sourced from a large regional supply network and is not directly tied to the performance of localized gas gathering operations or the production from individual fields,” Inter Pipeline said.
Alberta access to the liquids-rich Alaska gas has been vigorously argued over the past three years by Premier Ralph Klein, who is determined to avoid a repetition of the National Energy Board decision allowing the Alliance pipeline from northern British Columbia to Chicago to deliver all of its liquids to the U.S. Midwest.
From the outset, Klein has insisted Alberta will facilitate regulatory approvals for an Alaska pipeline to the Lower 48 provided the liquids can be stripped as feedstock for “our petrochemical industry.”
Committed to getting a “pound of flesh” from Arctic gas he said the Alberta government will be “firm and absolutely insistent that neither the producers or the pipeline operators will have a bullet line through the province.”
For Williams, the transaction, which is scheduled to close July 28, will enable it to post a pre-tax gain of $190 million in third-quarter results.
Steve Malcolm, Williams chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement that the sale “represents the single largest source of funds that we targeted from divestitures last year” and will help the Oklahoma-based company towards its debt reduction goal.
Editor’s note: See full story in the July 18 edition of Petroleum News.