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Inside Kinder Morgan Inc (KMI): CO2

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Based on combined enterprise value, Kinder Morgan Inc (NYSE:KMI) is the third-largest energy company in North America. We tend to associate the giant with its 75,000 miles of pipelines, but in reality its operations are incredibly diverse. Over the past week, I’ve taken a closer look at each of the midstream company’s five distinct business units: So far I’ve reviewed terminalsnatural gas pipelines, products pipelines, and Kinder Morgan Canada. Today we dig into the last business segment, one of the least understood parts of the partnership’s operations: CO2.

Background on the assets
Kinder Morgan Inc (NYSE:KMI) is at the top of the heap when it comes to the CO2 business, serving as North America’s leading transporter and marketer of the gas. The company delivers about 1.3 billion cubic feet per day through its 1,300 miles of CO2 pipe.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of Kinder Morgan’s assets (which are technically owned by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP (NYSE:KMP), let’s remind ourselves of what the CO2 business actually is.

Most often, when it comes to energy production, carbon dioxide is the enemy. However, in the mature oil fields of West Texas, carbon dioxide is an oil man’s best friend. The gas is injected into a well at high pressure, in a process called flooding, to force out every last bit of oil. Companies such as Occidental Petroleum Corporation (NYSE:OXY) in the Permian Basin and Denbury Resources Inc. (NYSE:DNR) on the Gulf Coast have used enhanced oil recovery, or EOR, to maximize output. The process is often called tertiary recovery, because it’s the third step after normal production, followed by water flooding.

Kinder Morgan Inc (NYSE:KMI) engages in the transportation of CO2, selling it to customers in the Permian, but it also uses it to produce oil. The partnership has four CO2 source fields in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, and three oil-producing fields in Texas. Its assets also include the requisite CO2 and oil pipelines.

In 2012, oil production at Kinder Morgan’s SACROC field beat management’s expectations by more than 1,000 barrels per day, and it was the same story with NGL production. However, as many midstream industry fans know, the NGL price collapse last year really hurt, and Kinder Morgan was no exception, suffering a $59 million impact on distributable cash flow.

Let’s look at how the segment’s assets performed in 2012 compared with management’s expectations. Note that the CO2 producing fields and pipelines are grouped together as “Source & Transportation,” or S&T:

Asset Expected Actual Difference
SACROC (oil) 27,868 Bbl/D 28,968 Bbl/D 3.8%
SACROC (NGL) 17,361 Bbl/D 18,825 Bbl/D 7.8%
Yates 20,986 Bbl/D 20,839 Bbl/D (0.7%)
Katz 2,267 Bbl/D 1,722 Bbl/D (24%)
CO2 S&T 1,264 Mmcf/D 1,212 Mmcf/D (4.1%)

Source: Company presentation.

A combination of high oil prices and higher production at SACROC allowed Kinder Morgan Inc (NYSE:KMI) to partially mitigate lower production at Katz and lower realized NGL prices at SACROC in 2012. Even though production missed estimates at Yates, Katz, and S&T, distributable cash flow targets missed only at Katz and SACROC.

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