Feds Review: Texas Blackout Primarily Due to Gas Failure

November 16, 2021

Houston Chronicle:

WASHINGTON – A shortage of natural gas during the winter storm that swept Texas and other states in the south central United States in February was primarily caused by the oil and gas industry’s failure to weatherize its systems, resulting in more than 58 percent of generation outages occurring at natural gas-fired power plants, the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency reported Tuesday.

Over a more than 300-page report, federal officials catalogued how one of the largest blackouts in the nation’s history came to pass, leaving millions of people in Texas without power for days on end. And while all parts of the region’s energy industry shouldered some of the blame, federal officials reported natural gas operators’ equipment freezing up was responsible for more than twice as much of the gas supply shortages as were rolling blackouts and downed power lines.

“The (report) highlights the need for substantially better coordination between the natural gas system and the electric system to ensure a reliable supply that nearly 400 million people across North America depend upon to support their way of life,” Jim Robb, president of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, said in a statement.

The Texas Oil and Gas Association and the American Petroleum Institute did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The report comes nine months after a historically cold winter storm caused the largest forced power outages in the nation’s history, and was the third largest blackout after the Northeast blackout in 2003 and the West Coast blackout in 1996. All in all the storm knocked out 61,800 megawatts of power across the Midwest and South, including 34,000 megawatts on Texas’s power grid.

At one point there was so little power the Texas grid almost collapsed all together, requiring a “black start” that could take weeks or even months to complete.

In September, FERC and NERC issued a preliminary report recommending power plants and natural gas producers be required to protect critical equipment from freezing temperatures, as well as providing compensation for generators to recoup weatherization costs – similar to recommendations made following a similar but less severe power outage in Texas in 2011. 

The agencies reiterated those recommendations Tuesday but also included more detail on what in went wrong in February. 

Among their findings were:

– Eighty-one percent of freeze-related generating unit outages occurred at temperatures above the units’ stated ambient design temperature.

– Eighty-seven percent of unplanned generation outages due to fuel issues were related to natural gas, predominantly related to production and processing issues, while 13 percent involved issues with other fuels such as coal or fuel oil.

– Natural gas fuel supply shortages were caused by natural gas production declines. Some 43 percent of natural gas production declines were caused by freezing temperatures and weather, and 21.5 percent caused by midstream, wellhead or gathering facility power losses, which could be attributed either to rolling blackouts or weather-related outages such as downed power lines.

“The final report on Winter Storm Uri is a sobering analysis that highlights the significant work that needs to be done,” FERC Chairman Rich Glick said in a statement. “The devastating effects of extreme cold on our bulk power system’s ability to operate in 2011 and now, 2021, must not be allowed to happen again.”

One Response to “Feds Review: Texas Blackout Primarily Due to Gas Failure”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Eighty-one percent of freeze-related generating unit outages occurred at temperatures above the units’ stated ambient design temperature.

    OK, there’s some liability right there (if the original maker/vendor of the equipment is still in business).


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