Why, Yes, President Trump, the U.S. Does Make Pipe for Pipelines

From the fracking fields in North Dakota to the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, there is an abundance of petroleum.

But there is a catch.

Although the U.S. has a vast network of pipelines at the ready to transport natural gas, oil, refined products and even coal, this network was built out before much of the newer field developments became a major source of fossil fuels. 

The result has been that much of the petroleum is put on train cars and trucks to be shipped to refineries or transport hubs thousands of miles east and south in the U.S. The cost of shipping is many, many times the cost per barrel of sending the stuff through pipelines.

Worse, much of the petroleum from these expanded and newer fields can be more volatile in its composition. This has resulted in a series of horrific train disasters with lives and even whole towns lost.

And when it comes to natural-gas fields in the Dakotas with limited or no pipe, the gas is flared-off, meaning that it is just burned to get rid of it as a by-product of crude oil.

Pipelines are the solution, and the good news is that there are companies at the ready to build and expand pipelines to more cheaply and safely transport petroleum products. This trends represents a stellar growth opportunity for investors.

The catch has been that President Barack Obama held up approvals for pipeline construction, particularly two pipe projects well under way: the Dakota Access Pipeline and the expansion of the Keystone Pipeline known as the XL.

That hold-up got kicked to the curb with when President Donald Trump signed the first of what may well be a series of controversial executive orders to move along project approvals.

This is great news for producers and refiners and the pipelines companies.

The Dakota Access Pipeline owned by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP)  will move crude from North Dakota to refinery and storage operations in Illinois. And Keystone XL, which is owned by TransCanada  (TRP) , will bring the heavier tar sand crude to refineries and storage tank farms in Southern Illinois just east of St. Louis.

But the play to be made to cash in on new pipes is in the companies supplying the actual pipe for the lines.

Trump has said that he wants new pipelines to use U.S.-made pipe. And while that might sound like a tall order, it really isn't.

Sure, much of the world's pipe is made in Asian foundries including from Posco in South Korea. But there are U.S. pipe makers, too.

One such company that has already supplied much of the pipe for the existing Keystone line is in Little Rock, Ark. Welspun Tubular is held by Welspun of India. This is an impressive company, but its depositary shares aren't accessible to individual investors.

But pipe company Tenaris (TS)  is a good investing option. The parent is based in Luxembourg for tax treatment but produces pipe and other related products for the production, refining and transport of oil and gas products throughout the southern U.S. as well as in Europe and elsewhere.

Tenaris is poised to be a growth stock winner this year.

The company has been acquiring smaller U.S. companies and consolidating them into its fold including Maverick Tube of St. Louis in 2006.

The pipe is prime to be targeted by pipeline companies seeking to get White House support for approved pipeline construction.

Tenaris isn't baggage-free, however. The company sells worldwide, and with the global economy not firing on all cylinders, there has been an overhang on the potential of the US.

But with so much pipe needing to be built or replaced around the U.S., including pipe for rebuilding water systems throughout the country, there is a lot of upside in this country alone.

The company's shares are a bargain at about $36 apiece. Valued at less than half that of its global peer group based on the price-sales ratio and also at a discount to its peers' price-book ratio, Tenaris can be bought on the cheap now just as U.S. demand picks up.

And with a dividend that is at a premium to its industrial peers at 3.21%, perhaps the market is catching on to Tenaris, with shares on an upward ascent.

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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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