Almost anyone who invests in or follows TransCanada Corporation (TSX:TRP)(NYSE:TRP) in any way can confirm one thing—2015 has been a unique year for TransCanada. Not only has it been the worst year in terms of share-price performance since 1999, but it is also the year that TransCanada finally saw its Keystone XL pipeline rejected by the U.S. state department.
TransCanada also ran into stiffer political opposition to pipelines in general and faced questions about the necessity of major pipeline projects given the fact that low oil prices are reducing production growth.
Despite this, there has also been positive stories out of TransCanada over the past year that have not been getting much press that are possibly more important than the negative stories.
1. The Canadian Mainline pipeline is less of a risk going forward
In the past few years the future of TransCanada’s Canadian Mainline pipeline has been a key story. The Canadian Mainline is a massive natural gas pipeline that can transport as much as seven billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of natural gas from western Canada all the way to eastern Canadian and northeastern U.S. markets.
The problem is that volumes on the Mainline have been steadily declining from 6.8 bcf/d in 2000 to 2.4 Bcf/d in 2012. This is because production has been declining in western Canada and because shale production in the northeastern part of the U.S. has been increasing dramatically. This supply is much closer to key markets.
As a result, tolls on the Mainline have been going dramatically up as volumes drop because TransCanada still has fixed costs to cover. In addition, TransCanada has also been locked in a battle with eastern gas-distribution companies over the proposal to transform a part of the Mainline into oil service (Energy East), which they worry will leave their customers with insufficient gas capacity during peak periods.
Fortunately, 2015 was a year of agreements for TransCanada, which saw these issues resolved. TransCanada reached an agreement which shifts the majority of tolls on to suppliers in the northeastern U.S. (where most the production growth is coming from) and away from western Canadian gas producers. This allows western Canadian producers to remain competitive, which should protect Mainline volumes.
2. TransCanada identified future pathways to growth
While the loss of Keystone XL may be a negative to TransCanada’s growth, the company has made clear this year that it has ample platforms for future growth. At its recent investor day, TransCanada confirmed it will be able to generate earnings and dividend growth of 8-10% annually through to 2020, driven by a $13 billion portfolio of small- to mid-sized investments.
TransCanada also has $35 billion of large-scale investments awaiting approval, and if these go through TransCanada can grow its earnings by 14% annually through to 2020.
One growth platform that TransCanada showed to be increasingly viable this year is Mexico. Mexico currently has a considerable demand for natural gas to fuel new power generation and plans to expand its pipeline infrastructure by 75% before 2018. It will require significant foreign investment to do so.
TransCanada has a competitive advantage due to the fact that it already has a presence there. TransCanada is currently building two pipelines in Mexico with a combined value of about $1.4 billion, and they are both over 70% complete and due to be in service in 2016.
In addition, TransCanada just secured a contract to build another $500 million pipeline, and there are several more potential projects on the horizon. Mexico has six more projects they are seeking proposals for over the next several months, with as many as 24 in total, and TransCanada could bid on many.
3. TransCanada is making progress on its other pipelines
Keystone may be over for now, but TransCanada has made steady regulatory progress on its other projects, including its $5 billion PRGT and $4.8 billion Coastal Gaslink natural gas pipelines, which link western supply to proposed export facilities on the coast of B.C.
TransCanada has received all required permits to build PRGT as of Q3 2015, and in June 2015 Pacific Northwest (the company building the LNG facility that PRGT transports natural gas to) received a conditional final investment decision for its proposed LNG facility. Coastal Gaslink has also gained considerable support in 2015, and these two pipelines will be major growth drivers for TransCanada.