Enbridge lays off some Houston-area workers

Enbridge Energy Partners said Friday it has laid off some workers in the Houston area, becoming the latest in a string of energy companies to announce cutbacks.

The Houston-based pipeline company last week cut fewer than 100 positions in its under-performing domestic gas pipelines and processing business unit, including jobs in the office and field locations, spokesman Michael Barnes said in an interview with Fuel Fix. Barnes did not specify the number of workers affected.

The reduction was isolated to Midcoast Energy Partners, a business unit focused on gas processing and transmission within Enbridge.

Enbridge had been seeing a decrease in shipments of natural gas and natural liquids on its pipelines as producers pare back drilling activity in East Texas and the Anadarko basin in Western Oklahoma. Reduced volumes caused the company’s natural gas adjusted operating income to tumble by $20 million in the third quarter of this year compared to the same time last year.

“This is part of a broader cost-reduction effort that will help the business unit meet its strategic objectives and financial goals while maintaining our commitment to the safety and operational reliability of the pipeline system,” Barnes said in an email.

The company has not instituted a hiring freeze because there are positions that need to be filled, Barnes said.

“With each opening, we are looking at opportunities to redeploy existing employees first before hiring external candidates,” he said. “Additionally, where positions can be deferred, we are doing so.”

Other key energy companies have also announced layoffs in recent days as oil tumbles to its lowest price in years. Halliburton on Thursday said it would slash 1,000 jobs in the Eastern Hemisphere as part of a $75 million restructuring. BP on Wednesday revealed plans to accelerate job cuts and pare back its oil production business amid crumbling oil prices.

But Enbridge’s decision, targeted toward its natural gas business, was unrelated to crude price declines, Barnes said.

That segment of the business has been growing, and in November Enbridge posted a 38 percent increase in profits as record amounts of oil flowed through its pipelines in Canada and North Dakota, offsetting declines in natural gas. Total liquids deliveries up about 21 percent from the same period last year.

Related: Profits up at Enbridge in the third quarter

Shares of Enbridge’s stock fell 94 cents Friday to close at $38.31 on the New York Stock Exchange.