Equitrans Midstream Corp., the nation’s third largest natural gas gatherer, plans to cut spending next year as activity slows down in the Appalachian Basin, where all of its operations are focused.
Equitrans affiliate EQM Midstream Partners LP said 2020 growth capital expenditures (capex), along with spending for the beleaguered Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) project, would range from $1.2-1.3 billion. Maintenance capex has been set at $55 million.
Equitrans continues to renegotiate contracts with its largest customer, EQT Corp., the nation’s largest natural gas producer. Equitrans and EQM management stressed that they would “only execute a deal that delivers fair value” to investors. Management said they “believe that a mutually beneficial and equitable agreement can be achieved and expect that any agreement on gathering contracts will not take effect prior to MVP in-service.”
Equitrans was spun-off from EQT’s upstream business last year. Under a new management team that took over after a proxy battle earlier this year, EQT is overhauling how it spends capital. The producer has plans itself to significantly cut spending next year and unload up to $1.5 billion of assets, which could include its remaining stake in Equitrans.
Producers across Appalachia have reduced activity as low gas prices and restive investors have forced them to curb spending.
EQM’s marquee project, MVP, has been plagued by legal issues and regulatory delays, prompting management to repeatedly reset cost expectations and in-service dates. The 300-mile system would move 2 Bcf/d of Appalachian gas to markets in the Southeast. While it’s nearly finished, the project is still awaiting key regulatory approvals and is now scheduled to enter service in late 2020 at a total cost of up to $5.5 billion.
EQM’s spending for MVP is expected to come in at up to $700 million next year, while gathering costs are forecasted at up to $460 million and guidance for transmission expenses stands at up to $120 million. The company is guiding for $1.7 billion in capital expenditures for 2019.
The 2020 business plan is expected to be funded through cash flow and existing liquidity under EQM’s $3 billion unsecured credit facility.
EQM expects to maintain a quarterly distribution of $1.16/unit and Equitrans expects to maintain a quarterly dividend of 45 cents/share through the in-service date of MVP later next year.
MVP is a joint venture between EQM, NextEra Capital Holdings Inc., Con Edison Transmission Inc., WGL Midstream Inc. and RGC Midstream LLC. EQM would operate the system.