Natural gas prices have taken a beating over the past year, but Tulsa-based midstreamer Williams (WMB) is taking the long view, betting that the market will eventually find balance and that gathering and transportation services will continue to play a critical role in the future energy landscape.

WMB, owner of the massive Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line (aka Transco) system, released its full-year and 4Q2019 financial results this week, reporting record-high gathered volumes (13.3 Bcf/d) and firm reserved transportation capacity (about 21.8 Bcf/d) during the final three months of 2019.

“We believe the supply/demand imbalance is only a near-term concern...we see continued demand growth bringing supply and demand back into balance,” CEO Alan Armstrong said. “Our long-term strategy is predicated on the belief that the economic and environmental benefits of natural gas will support continued long-term demand growth both domestically and internationally, and that U.S. domestic supply is well-positioned to grow its share of global demand.

“...Whatever demand is, supply will grow or decline to meet that demand, and importantly, we expect low-cost gas basins to continue to be the majority of supply that will meet this demand. Associated gas will be important, no doubt, but gas-directed drilling, the source of approximately 65% of today’s gas supply, will remain the bedrock of domestic gas production.”

This contributes to management’s belief in the “strength of our strategy” and in the company’s position long-term, Armstrong said.

“But the current price environment is a reality that the market will navigate through here in the near-term, and we have built a very resilient” gathering and processing (G&P) business “that can succeed in a wide range of market environments.”

Management took strides to rein in spending in 2019 as producers dealt with “much lower” commodity prices, according to the CEO.

“During 2019 we saw an environment shaping up that would challenge the growth plans some of our producer customers had laid out,” Armstrong said. “We quickly responded to the realities we were seeing in the market by moderating our capital spend versus the budget we’d created in late 2018. And in fact, in the Northeast alone our total capital spend came in approximately $400 million under that original budget.”

By segment, service revenues for the Atlantic-Gulf segment benefited in part from the start-up of the Gateway and Rivervale South to Market expansions during the fourth quarter. Negatively impacting the segment was a $354 million impairment related to the embattled Constitution Pipeline project.

Transco saw throughput total 1,227.6 trillion Btu (TBtu) in the fourth quarter, with daily transportation volumes averaging 13.3 TBtu. That’s up from 1,150.9 TBtu and 12.5 TBtu/d in the year-ago period.

In the Northeast G&P segment, WMB reported higher service revenues from its Susquehanna Supply Hub, as well as from the Utica Shale and Ohio Valley. Among other positive impacts, WMB also saw higher revenues from its March 2019 acquisition of Utica East Ohio Midstream.

Northeast G&P gathering volumes totaled 4.41 Bcf/d in the fourth quarter, up from 4.02 Bcf/d in the year-ago quarter. Natural gas liquids production was 106,000 b/d, up from 42,000 b/d in 4Q2018.

For the West segment, full-year and fourth quarter results were negatively impacted by “the absence of revenues from operations either sold or deconsolidated,” as well as by lower revenues from the Barnett Shale and the Midcontinent. This was partially offset by higher revenues from the Eagle Ford and Haynesville shales, the Conway fractionation and storage business and growth in Rocky Mountain Midstream, management said.

Northwest Pipeline LLC throughput totaled 248.8 TBtu in the fourth quarter, versus 212.3 TBtu a year ago. Daily transportation volumes averaged 2.7 TBtu/d, up from 2.3 TBtu/d. West segment results reflected a 9% year/year increase in Eagle Ford gathering volumes for 4Q2019, and a 21% increase in Haynesville gathering volumes.

Quarterly net income was $138 million (11 cents/share), versus a net loss of $572 million (minus 47 cents) for 4Q2018.

Williams reported full-year 2019 net income of $862 million (71 cents/share), versus a net loss of $156 million (minus 16 cents) in 2018. Revenues in 2019 totaled $8.201 billion, down from $8.686 billion in 2018.

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