Growth is getting harder to come by for Canadian pipeline giants Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB)(NYSE:ENB) and TransCanada Corporation (TSX:TRP)(NYSE:TRP). That’s partially due to the pressure that environmentalists are putting on governments to slow down new pipeline construction.
That problem is only being compounded by weak oil prices and the pressure that’s putting on supply growth, which is a big reason why Enbridge is looking past the oil sands for growth. All that being said, an interesting opportunity just emerged that could drive some near- and long-term growth for either company.
One company’s problem…
According to a report last week from the Wall Street Journal, U.S. pipeline company Williams Companies Inc. (NYSE:WMB) put its Canadian operations up for sale. The company is said to be seeking $1 billion for the assets and has already hired investment banks to lead the sale process. They are one-of-a-kind assets that wouldn’t normally be put up for sale.
The reason Williams is putting these assets on the block is because it needs to raise cash at its MLP, Williams Partners LP, in order to pay for growth projects in 2016. Due to the downturn in the oil and gas market, Williams Partners has been unable to raise debt or equity capital at attractive rates, which is impacting its ability to fund growth projects in its backlog.
In fact, the company had to cut $1 billion of investments for 2016 because it lacked the capital to fund everything in its near-term backlog. That still left it about $1 billion short, which is a gap it’s planning to fill by selling assets.
… is another company’s solution
That need to sell assets in the current market downturn is opening the door for its Canadian counterparts to pick up some interesting assets that wouldn’t have normally been available. In fact, these are very rare oil sands assets; Williams is the only processor of oil sands upgrader offgas, which not only creates a valuable product, but helps reduce the carbon footprint of the oil sands.
Williams works directly with oil sands producers of Syncrude, Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU)(NYSE:SU) and Canadian Natural Resources Limited (TSX:CNQ)(NYSE:CNQ) to take their offgas, which is a petrochemical mixture that’s rich in natural gas liquids and olefins, which it then processes into higher-valued products for the petrochemical industry.
In other words, this asset package offers attractive near-term growth for a company like Enbridge or TransCanada because these assets could be plugged right into their portfolios and start generating income right away. Further, unlike traditional pipeline assets, the bulk of Williams’s assets are service assets, which is an area that Enbridge has said that, along with renewables, is a big growth area for its future.
In addition to those assets, the Williams asset package could come with a unique future growth opportunity. That’s because Williams is planning to invest $900 million to build a propane dehydrogenation facility, which would convert offgas propane into a higher-valued polymer-grade propylene, which is a key feed stock for the petrochemical industry. It’s another unique growth opportunity that would add value over the long term.
Growth in the oil sands region will likely slow in the years ahead due to weak oil prices and increased scrutiny of new pipelines. That’s why Enbridge and TransCanada should take a good look at Williams Companies Inc.’s Canadian assets. Not only are the assets unique to the oil sands, but they could come with future upside. In other words, either company could address both near-term and long-term growth concerns with this one acquisition.
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Fool contributor Matt DiLallo has no position in any stocks mentioned.