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UPDATE 1-Pipeline operator Energy Transfer mulls chemicals acquisition -chairman

(Adds details from presentation)

May 12 (Reuters) - Energy Transfer is weighing acquisitions in the booming chemicals business, co-founder and executive chairman Kelcy Warren said on Wednesday at a conference in North Dakota.

The company, which got a $2.4 billion windfall from a February storm-related surge in natural gas prices, could enter the chemicals and plastics market, preferably through an acquisition, he said.

“I want to buy someone,” said Warren, who recently stepped into the role of executive chairman. Warren said consolidation in the oil industry will also accelerate, noting that companies “must consolidate if you’re going to make it.”

Energy Transfer operates crude oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids pipelines and storage facilities. The company was one of several natural gas firms to post extraordinary profit from sales during February’s Winter Storm Uri, which sent natural gas prices soaring.

Warren expressed confidence that Energy Transfer’s controversial Dakota Access Pipeline would continue to run, despite being embroiled in a legal battle over a key permit.

“We’re not shutting down the Dakota Access Pipeline. It’s not going to happen,” Warren said at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference. He said it’s “business as usual” for the pipeline system while the Army Corps of Engineers completes a required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Lawsuits against long-haul pipelines would likely stymie new transport projects, he said.

The ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, which has been shut for six days and led to fuel shortages in the U.S. Southeast, raised questions, he said.

The pipeline’s operator has said that the attack affected only its business systems, not the pipeline’s control systems.

However, the 5,500-mile (8,850-km) line should have been able to operate if operational systems were unaffected, he said.

“That’s what I don’t understand,” Warren said. “...I can’t wait to find out what actually happened.” (Reporting by Liz Hampton in Denver Editing by Chris Reese and Cynthia Osterman)

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