Both natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) are much in the news these past few weeks, as Europe looks for alternative sources of energy to replace natural gas supplied from Russia. However, Berkshire Hathaway has been making key natural gas and LNG acquisitions long before the latest headlines.
Already a major player in natural gas distribution, in 2020, Berkshire made a big strategic bet on natural gas and LNG when it paid $4 billion for the natural gas transmission and storage assets of Dominion Energy, and assumed $6 billion of its debt. The acquisition, rocketed Berkshire from roughly 8 percent of all U.S. natural gas transmission to 18 percent.
Berkshire Hathaway’s Expanding Natural Gas and LNG Operations
Berkshire’s natural gas pipelines consist of BHE GT&S, LLC, Northern Natural Gas Company and Kern River Gas Transmission Company.
Berkshire’s BHE GT&S, which was acquired in the Dominion Energy deal in November 2020, is an interstate natural gas transmission and storage company headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, that operates around 5,500 miles of transmission lines in the eastern U.S and 756 bcf of total natural gas storage — with 420 bcf of working gas capacity — as well as gathering, processing and field services businesses. It provides a variety of LNG solutions through Pivotal LNG, its 25% operating stake in Cove Point LNG — the import, export and liquefaction facility in Lusby, Maryland — and other LNG processing and storage initiatives.
One of BHE GT&S’s key LNG assets is currently undergoing rapid expansion. Located along the St. John’s River in Jacksonville, Florida, the JAX LNG facility began operations in 2018 as a joint venture between Pivotal LNG, a BHE GT&S company, and NorthStar Midstream. In May 2021, Pivotal LNG announced that it will be tripling liquefaction to 360,000 gallons a day and doubling its LNG storage to 4 million gallons by early 2022.
Following the completion of the JAX LNG expansion, Pivotal’s full network of LNG assets will reach a production capacity of over 470,000 gallons per day and a storage capacity of approximately 9 million gallons at its three facilities in Alabama, Florida, and Pennsylvania.
This LNG will mostly serve customers in the eastern U.S. and Puerto Rico, with some of the JAX LNG committed to reducing international maritime emissions through a long-term LNG supply agreement with a major maritime company for its dual-fueled ships.
As for other Berkshire natural gas and LNG assets, Northern Natural, which is based in Nebraska, not only operates the largest interstate natural gas pipeline system in the United States, as measured by pipeline miles, but also has three underground natural gas storage facilities and two LNG storage peaking units.
And Kern River, which is based in Utah, operates a 1,400 miles interstate natural gas pipeline system travels from supply areas in the Rocky Mountains to consuming markets in Utah, Nevada and California. Kern River transports natural gas for electric and natural gas distribution utilities, major oil and natural gas companies or affiliates of such companies, electric generating companies, energy marketing and trading companies, and financial institutions.
Just a couple of years ago, some analysts were saying that a push towards electrification of homes in order to meet climate change goals would reduce worldwide demand for natural gas and LNG.
Shell, a major LNG producer, thinks otherwise. The company notes that pre-COVID worldwide demand for LNG was at 358 million metric tons in 2019, and according to Shell’s LNG Outlook 2021, “Global LNG demand is expected to reach 700 million tonnes by 2040, according to forecasts, as demand for natural gas continues to grow strongly in Asia and gains further traction in powering hard-to-electrify sectors.”
Once again Berkshire Hathaway finds itself in the right place at the right time, as its natural gas and LNG distribution investments proved prescient.
© 2022 David Mazor
Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.