US shale shippers to foot bill for Trump steel tariffs

US-China trade friction has led to the imposition of tariiffs on goods, with steel at the heart of the conflict. Now, rising costs are being passed on to other US industries, including fuel. (Shutterstock)
Updated 03 August 2019

US shale shippers to foot bill for Trump steel tariffs

  • Pipeline operators begin to introduce fees to pay for cost of administration’s China trade war

BEIJING: Plains All American Pipeline said it will tack on a fee for users of a new oil pipeline to pay for the cost of the Trump administration’s imported steel tariffs, becoming the first US operator to do so.

In addition to steel levies announced last year, President Donald Trump said on Thursday he plans to expand US tariffs to $300 billion of Chinese imports in a trade dispute that has increased costs for US consumers on everything from steel to electronics.

Houston-based Plains will begin charging shippers a 5 cents per barrel fee on its 670,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Cactus II pipeline next April to offset higher construction costs from “governmental regulation and tariffs,” according to a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Plains last year estimated the 25 percent steel tariff would add $40 million to its costs for the $1.1 billion pipeline, which runs 550 miles (885 kilometers) from the Permian basin of West Texas and New Mexico to the US Gulf Coast.

The Trump administration last year imposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum to shield US producers and jobs from overseas competition. It was one in a series of tariffs imposed by Trump since becoming president in 2017.

“This is an example of how harmful trade policies such as steel tariffs and quotas are hurting the US energy industry, economy, and potentially energy consumers,” said Natalia Sharova, a spokeswoman for the trade group American Petroleum Institute.

Two other new pipelines could also raise their prices if Plains’ surcharge sticks, three analysts said. They pointed to Kinder Morgan Inc’s Gulf Coast Express pipeline and an EPIC Midstream pipeline, which were constructed after the steel tariffs were levied.

“There’s certainly a risk of them passing on inflationary costs,” said Kendrick Rhea, an analyst at industry researcher East Daley Capital.

“This is an issue for the next go-around of pipelines,” added Matthew Blair, an analyst at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co.

Kinder Morgan declined to comment. EPIC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Plains Chief Executive Officer Willie Chiang last year told a congressional hearing that the tariffs on critical energy projects could have “significant unintended consequences that could undermine important progress toward realizing American energy independence, strengthening national security and improving the balance of trade.”

The US Commerce Department rejected Plains’ two initial requests for a waiver, and the company has filed a third request, said Brad Leone, a Plains spokesman. He did not say how much the surcharge would raise.

“It’s making it clear the steel sanctions are increasing costs,” Sandy Fielden, an analyst at financial services firm Morningstar, said of the company’s new fee. “The shipper’s going to have to pay, come what may.”

Plains disclosed spot tariff rates on the new pipeline from $4.75 to $5.60 per barrel, according to Friday’s regulatory filing, when the tariff went into effect.

It is one of three new pipelines entering service over the next few months and is expected to relieve a bottleneck that has weighed on regional oil prices for over a year.

Permian crude differentials rallied on market speculation that the Cactus II pipeline will begin service in August, traders said.

Pipeline operator EPIC Midstream Holding recently began filling a new 400,000 bpd crude pipeline from the Permian basin, and expects to begin making deliveries this quarter, President Brian Freed said in an interview with Reuters.


Gulf Marine CEO quits after review sparks profit warning

Updated 22 August 2019

Gulf Marine CEO quits after review sparks profit warning

  • Tensions in the Arabian Gulf, a worrisome global growth outlook and uncertainty over oil prices have recently dampened investor confidence

DUBAI: Gulf Marine Services said on Wednesday Chief Executive Officer Duncan Anderson has resigned as the oilfield industry contractor warned a reassessment of its ships and contracts showed profit would fall this year, kicking its shares 12 percent down.

The Abu Dhabi-based offshore services specialist said a review by new finance chief Stephen Kersley of its large E-class vessels operating in Northwest Europe and the Middle East pointed to 2019 core earnings of between $45 million and $48 million, below $58 million that it reported last year.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Anderson, who has served as CEO for 12 years, was asked to step down. Anderson could not be reached for comment.

The company, which in the past predominantly operated in the UAE, expanded operations and deployed large vessels in the North Sea and Saudi Arabia nine years ago and listed its shares in London in 2014.

Tensions in the Arabian Gulf, a worrisome global growth outlook and uncertainty over oil prices have recently dampened investor confidence.

The North Sea has seen a revival in production in recent years due to new fields coming on line and improved performance by operators following the 2014 oil price collapse.

Still, the basin’s production is expected to decline over the next decade, according to Britain’s Oil and Gas Authority.

“(The CFO’s) review has coincided with a pause in renewables-related self-propelled self-elevating support vessels activity in the North Sea, which will impact several of the higher day-rate E-Class vessels,” Investec wrote in a note.

Gulf Marine appointed industry veteran Kersley as chief financial officer in late May as it sought to halt a slide which has seen the company’s shares fall nearly 80 percent last year and another 23 percent so far this year.

The company said market conditions remained challenging and that it was still in talks with its financial advisors regarding a new capital structure.

“Management, the new board and the group’s advisors, have been in negotiation with the group’s banks on resetting its capital structure and progress has been made,” it said in a statement.

Last year, Gulf Marine said contracts were delayed into 2019 as the company was seen to be in breach of certain banking covenants at the end of 2018.

The company said it was still in talks with its banks and individual lenders with hopes of getting a waiver or an agreement to amend the concerned covenants.