February 10, 2020 [Odessa American] – NuStar Energy L.P. (NYSE: NS) today announced fourth quarter and full-year 2019 results that significantly exceeded results from the same periods in 2018. “Last year was, by all measures, a great year for NuStar,” said NuStar President and CEO Brad Barron. “Our results, across the board, demonstrate how well our employees executed on our 2019 plan.”
NuStar reported income from continuing operations of $78 million for the fourth quarter of 2019, up $35 million or 84 percent from $43 million in the fourth quarter of 2018. Income from continuing operations for the full-year 2019 was $207 million, up $61 million or 41 percent from $146 million in 2018.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) from continuing operations were $196 million for the fourth quarter of 2019, up $42 million or 27 percent from $154 million for the fourth quarter of 2018. Full-year 2019 EBITDA from continuing operations were $668 million, up $71 million or 12 percent from $597 million in 2018.
Distributable cash flow (DCF) from continuing operations available to common limited partners was $107 million for the fourth quarter of 2019, up $23 million or 28 percent compared to $84 million in the fourth quarter of 2018. Full-year 2019 DCF from continuing operations available to common limited partners was $345 million, up $41 million or 14 percent compared to $304 million in 2018.
The distribution coverage ratio to common limited partners from continuing operations was 1.64 times for the fourth quarter of 2019 and 1.33 times for the year ended December 31, 2019.
“And, thanks in large part to our successful divestiture of the Caribbean terminal facility for net proceeds of $230 million in July, we finished 2019 with a debt-to-EBITDA ratio of 3.88 times, far better than the 4.05 times at the end of the fourth quarter of 2018, which puts NuStar under 4.0 times for the third consecutive quarter,” said Barron.
2019 Capital Projects and Operational Impact
Barron noted that in 2019, NuStar announced an expected investment of between $500 and $550 million in its capital project plan. “We not only completed all those projects on time; we also completed them under budget,” he said. “In total, we spent $467 million on strategic projects, which is 11 percent below the midpoint of the capital expenditure range we announced at the beginning of 2019.”
He further noted that pipeline throughput volumes grew by an impressive 23 percent to an average of 1.8 million barrels per day (BPD) in the aggregate, and that NuStar transported a record 641 million barrels in 2019.
Barron noted that growth projects in NuStar’s Permian Crude System also exceeded projections. “Last year we announced that we expected to reach 450,000 BPD in 2019, and we exited the year over 460,000 BPD,” he said. “And although rig counts across the Permian Basin as a whole were down 17 percent in 2019, the rig count on our acreage was up 7 percent. Similarly, while the Permian Basin’s total throughput grew 18 percent in 2019, our system grew nearly twice as much, or 34 percent, in 2019.”
Barron said capital investments in NuStar’s Corpus Christi Crude System also led to record throughput volumes on that system. “By the end of 2019 we had more than doubled the volumes we handled at our Corpus Christi export facility, averaging 613,000 BPD of volumes in December, with over 70 percent going over the dock and the remaining 30 percent moving back up into the Corpus Christi refinery markets,” he said. “Even with only a partial year’s benefit from our project completion there, we handled a record total of 149 million barrels in our Corpus Christi Crude System, which includes 92 million barrels moved over our docks at our North Beach facility.”
Permian Crude System and Beyond
“We are also off to a great start for 2020 in the Permian,” Barron said. “With over 30 percent of the rigs in the Midland Basin residing on our Permian system, our throughput averaged 475,000 BPD in January, and February nominations continue to increase and have come in well ahead of our forecast. But our Permian Crude System is not the only part of our asset footprint that performed well in 2019.
“In the second quarter of 2019, we completed two strategic, low-capital expansions of our Wichita Falls crude pipeline; one to transport Permian barrels to local refiners from the Sunrise Pipeline expansion and another expansion project into Hewitt to deliver barrels to Plains for delivery into the Longview market. In August of 2019, we completed our project to connect our 16-inch South Texas crude pipeline to Cactus II and, in mid-August, we received the first shipment of Permian crude from Cactus II, the first of the three long-haul pipeline projects to transport WTI from the Permian Basin to Corpus Christi.
“September 4 was truly a banner day for NuStar as we brought three of our key 2019 pipeline projects into service in a single day. We completed the second stage of our Corpus Christi WTI export project and a new 8-mile, 30” pipeline from Taft to our Corpus Christi facility, as well as our project to double the capacity of our Valley pipeline to expand supply of refined products from Corpus Christi to the Rio Grande Valley and Northern Mexico, and phase one of our project to transport diesel from the Corpus Christi refining complex to our Nuevo Laredo terminal.
“We also had a record-breaking 2019 across our Central East Refined Products System, where we hit record numbers in December for butane blending, propane transportation and refined products movements.
“Additionally, our storage throughput volumes grew an impressive 36 percent in 2019, and we also saw solid contributions from our facility in St. James, where we expected activity at our unit train facility to ramp up from 20,000 barrels per month to 30,000 barrels per month by the end of 2019. But by year-end, our unit train activity exceeded that target, as we saw 43,000 barrels for the month in December, and we expect even higher numbers through 2020. In March, after completing a connection at our St. James facility, we also began receiving Bakken and Permian crude barrels from Bayou Bridge.
“And across our West Coast terminals, our teams executed on projects to develop the renewable fuels logistics network necessary for regional markets to achieve low-carbon fuel targets.”
2020 Full-Year Projections Remain Unchanged
With NuStar continuing to benefit from its 2019 capital investments and expansions, NuStar Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Tom Shoaf noted that NuStar’s 2020 range for full-year guidance remains unchanged. “We continue to expect NuStar’s 2020 EBITDA to be $715 to $765 million or an increase of about 11 percent at the midpoint over 2019 results from continuing operations,” he said.
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