While the oil sands have been the big growth story for the past few years, low oil prices and increasing political opposition have reduced both the economic need and the political support for many proposed pipeline projects.
Fortunately for TransCanada Corporation (TSX:TRP)(NYSE:TRP), Mexico is one potential solution. Mexico is about to see exploding demand for natural gas, and combining this with the fact that there is less political opposition in Mexico—and a tremendous need for foreign investments to help build pipeline infrastructure—makes Mexico a perfect growth destination.
Here’s how and why TransCanada is set to take advantage.
Mexico will require billions in natural gas infrastructure
Over the next 15 years, Mexico is expecting to see its demand for natural gas increase by over 75% and, in the same period, imports of natural gas from the U.S. are expected to increase by 200%. This is a continuation of a trend that started a few years ago—since 2010 U.S. exports to Mexico doubled from 900 million cubic feet per day to two billion cubic feet per day.
This growth is driven by the fact that Mexico’s economy is growing quickly (3.6% is expected in 2016), and the growth outlook over the next 15 years is very strong. A growing economy requires more electricity, which requires more natural gas demand.
What is truly driving the natural gas-demand growth, however, is the fact that Mexico is rapidly switching from fuel-oil-power generation to natural gas-power generation. Natural gas is both cleaner and cheaper than oil, and as Mexico moves towards greater privatization in its power sector, having access to the cheapest possible power generation is essential to compete.
As a result, Mexico’s consumption of fuel oil in power plants has been falling dramatically. Currently, Mexico uses significantly more fuel oil in power generation than other developed countries, which means Mexico will need to switch over to natural gas more rapidly if it wants to remain competitive.
Since Mexico has difficulty accessing its own natural gas due to the complexity of the reserves and lack of roads and other infrastructure, this means Mexico needs to import its gas. This, in turn, means that Mexico will also need a tremendous amount of natural gas pipeline infrastructure to move gas from the U.S. to power-generation facilities.
TransCanada is set to benefit
Currently, TransCanada already has $1.3 billion and 675 km of pipelines in operation in Mexico, and TransCanada has had a presence in Mexico since the mid-1990s. TransCanada has two pipelines in construction in Mexico (the Topolobampo and Mazatlan pipelines), and these pipelines represent $1.4 billion of investments, bringing TransCanada’s current and in-construction pipelines to $2.7 billion in value.
Mexico just announced a $10 billion five-year plan to build 12 new pipelines. This should add 3,200 miles to Mexico’s existing pipeline network and will be an essential part of connecting natural gas imports to Mexico’s new gas-fired power plants. Overall, Mexico plans to increase its gas pipeline infrastructure by 75% by 2018.
TransCanada has already won the rights to build one of the 12 pipelines (the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline), which is worth about $500 million and will increase TransCanada’s total investment in Mexico to over $3 billion.
Over the next several months, Mexico will likely ask for proposals for many of these potential projects, and TransCanada expects to examine all of these opportunities and could bid on and win several projects given their expertise. With $10 billion of projects on the line, the opportunity could be enormous for TransCanada and its shareholders.