Investors eye midstream sector as production ramps up

HOUSTON - Investors are placing bets that demand for U.S. energy pipelines, storage and processing facilities will outstrip supply in the next few years as the resurgence in shale oil and gas production increases.

With U.S. oil prices mostly above $50 a barrel for several months and a jump in drilling activity this year, new projects are moving off the drawing boards, and backers are lining up customers. There also has been a spate of deals involving existing transportation and storage networks.

The deals should ensure that production growth coming from shale basins has new outlets to market. The amount of money moving off the sidelines also is spurring valuations that potential investors say could trip up some deals. Several long-haul pipelines have been proposed in recent months to move natural gas and liquids from West Texas to the Gulf Coast, including one by private-equity-backed NAmerico Partners. Its multibillion-dollar line would ferry 1.85 billion cubic feet of gas per day from the Permian to Corpus Christi.

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