Aquila Energy Forms Gas Asset Acquisition Arm
In an effort grow its natural gas asset portfolio, Aquila Energy, UtiliCorp's
energy services subsidiary, recently formed a gas asset acquisition arm
called Natural Gas Partners. The new entity was created to purchase storage
facilities, pipelines and other properties as well as enter alliances,
management deals and partnerships. The unit, which has not yet reached
its full work force, is based in Kansas City, MO.
"The creation of Natural Gas Partners signals a more active asset
acquisition role for Aquila Energy," Al Butkus, an Aquila spokesman
said. "When you think about it, the energy business is all about packaging.
People want one company to take care of all their energy needs. By buying
more pipeline, storage and property nationwide, we will be able to offer
more to customers. This new division will operate throughout the nation,
but because Aquila's core region is the Midwest, expect to see most of
the movement in that area."
Aquila Energy, which placed fourth in NGI's Gas Marketer rankings for
the 1Q99 and second in NGI's Power Marketer rankings for the same period,
has few physical assets. Earlier this year, Aquila bought the Texas-based
Katy Storage facility to complement its Aquila Gas Pipeline, (AQP) which
has struggled over the past few years. "As far as gas goes, the two
main assets we have are the Katy facility and AQP. Hopefully, this new
outfit will add to that list in the near future," said Ethan Hirsh,
another Aquila Energy spokesman.
By being more active and buying more assets, Butkus said Aquila has
more flexibility to offer. "If you contract out capacity, for instance,
you cannot turn around and sell that capacity because you don't own it.
Now, if you own the facility and the capacity in question, you can offer
it for sale and expand the amount of services you offer."
The size of the new division has not been determined yet, but it will
be operated with five to six people selected from both internal and external
sources. The creation of the gas acquisition arm comes one year after the
formation of Aquila Energy's electric acquisition subsidiary, Merchant
Energy Partners, which orchestrated the purchase of a 500 MW combined cycle
generation plant in Missouri during the first quarter.
The Natural Gas Partners announcement continues the shape-changing of
Aquila Energy's natural gas operations. After AQP's poor first quarter
performance (see NGI, May 10), UtiliCorp
turned up the pressure to gain full control of the pipeline through a shareholder
buyout. Although UtiliCorp was successful, Butkus said ownership has not
changed hands yet. "That deal is not final and AQP is still an Aquila
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