Texas Gas Supplies Still Not Reliable

January 3, 2022

Quick freeze in Texas over the New Year Weekend showed the lessons of the Valentine’s Day blackout of last winter have not been learned.

Bloomberg:

Texas’s natural gas industry had almost a year to prepare for last weekend’s cold blast and avoid another loss of production. But yet again, instruments froze, output plunged and companies spewed a miasma of pollutants into the atmosphere in a bid to keep operations stable.

Though Saturday’s cold front wasn’t as severe as the February storm that killed hundreds and knocked out power to much of the state, nearly 1 billion cubic feet of gas was burned or wasted due to weather-related shutdowns, according to filings with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. At the same time, production plunged to the lowest level since the last freeze, BloombergNEF data shows.

That has environmental implications. Natural gas is composed mostly of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. And the roughly dozen gas facilities that reported problems with the cold also emitted a combined 85 tons of sulfur dioxide and 11 tons of carbon monoxide, among other pollutants, according to a Bloomberg review of environmental filings. 

“We know this is pollution that can hurt people’s health and, overwhelmingly, this is avoidable,” said Luke Metzger, executive director of the nonprofit Environment Texas. “These facilities could be investing in better insulation and other kinds of things that would prevent equipment from freezing,” he said. “It’s easier to pay a fine.”

It’s a stark reminder of the industry’s continued vulnerability to extreme weather. Despite calls for producers to harden their infrastructure against cold, much of the industry has managed to avoid doing so. The Texas Railroad Commission, the state’s top regulator of the industry, plans to adopt some weatherization standards but those won’t go into effect until 2023, and they include loopholes that allow some companies to opt out of compliance. 

One Response to “Texas Gas Supplies Still Not Reliable”

  1. J4Zonian Says:

    “the lessons of the Valentine’s Day blackout of last winter have not been learned.”

    Really? Electric bills went up—for some people, from $28/MW to $9000/MW. Just like all the other times, nothing bad happened to those at fault and the price-hike hair-trigger is set for next time. It seems to me the lessons have been learned very well.


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