By LOU WILIN
MPLX LP, Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s pipeline subsidiary, will create an estimated 150 Findlay jobs averaging $100,000 per year by December 2017, the state Development Services Agency reported.
The planned job additions reflect general growth in the pipeline business, said Stefanie Griffith, communications manager for Marathon Petroleum.
Marathon Petroleum also will be making $80 million in investments, the state agency said. The agency would not report the purpose of the $80 million investment, and Marathon said Monday it had no comment “at this time.”
The investment may involve a headquarters for MPLX LP, currently located at 200 E. Hardin St. in the Marathon Petroleum complex.
Marathon “has been exploring several options for a significant investment that would include new space to accommodate headquarters for MPLX LP,” according to a statement Monday from JobsOhio, Gov. John Kasich’s private nonprofit development corporation.
Marathon has considered other states in the Midwest and the South for its MPLX headquarters, JobsOhio reported.
For its promised investments, Marathon Petroleum on Monday won a four-year extension of a state job creation tax credit which started in 2012 when it added 100 jobs. The tax credit, approved in 2011, was worth $78.5 million. The extension of the tax break is worth an additional $3.9 million, the state reported.
Headquartered in Findlay, Marathon Petroleum employs 1,800 here. It buys crude oil and refines it into gasoline, diesel and other petroleum products, which it then sells. That’s been generating the vast majority of Marathon Petroleum’s profits in recent quarters.
But while the refining business has been booming lately, historically it has been vulnerable to periods when it loses money. In contrast, the MPLX LP pipeline business is lower-return but more stable.
“It’s a business that is almost predictable, unlike refining, which is volatile,” said Fadel Gheit, senior energy analyst for Oppenheimer. “Companies can plan ahead, knowing there will be no surprise to derail their investment … It is not exposed to market risk.”
Marathon Petroleum Chief Executive Officer Gary Heminger told industry analysts in December that he planned to grow the pipeline business “to achieve better balance in (Marathon’s) source of earnings and cash flow.”
MPLX LP generates profit mainly by charging for use of its network of pipelines in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia, Louisiana and Texas; a barge dock on the Mississippi River near Wood River, Ill.; and storage tanks in Patoka, Wood River and Martinsville, Ill., and Lebanon, Ind., and Neal, W.Va.
Most of its revenue comes from Marathon Petroleum’s use of those assets.
Growth in pipeline networks and in fleets of barges and trucks is needed because U.S. oil production has surged 64 percent in the past five years, the federal Energy Information Administration reported.
The supply surge is depressing prices. Refiners are straining the country’s shipping networks — including pipelines, rails, barges and trucks — to get oil.
“Business is good” for MPLX LP, Gheit said. “They continue to grow and upgrade their (pipeline, barge, and truck) assets.”
MPLX LP was spun off from Marathon Petroleum in 2012 as a master limited partnership. That arrangement pleases shareholders because it requires the company to pay them most profits not invested in the business.
MPLX LP has announced a cash distribution of 31.25 cents per common unit for the fourth quarter of 2013.
The distribution will be paid Feb. 14 to unit holders of record Feb. 4.
This represents an increase of 1.5 cents per unit, or 5 percent, over the previous quarterly distribution, and a 19 percent increase over the minimum quarterly distribution at the time of MPLX’s initial public offering in October 2012.
MPLX has increased its distribution every quarter since its initial public offering.
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