Texas Survives a (not so stressful) Stress Test

February 5, 2022

Graphs above and below show that during the worst part of the recent winter storm, solar and especially wind, performed well, beating expectations.
Also above, note the neat fit as wind rises at night, and solar spikes during the day. Will be interesting to track especially as more solar comes on line, and Texas installs more storage.

KUT Austin:

At Thursday’s news conference, ERCOT CEO Brad Jones said the group had revised its energy demand forecast for Friday upwards, but also expected more electricity to be available from West Texas wind turbines than it had initially forecast.

The reason for the wind expectations to increase is that we had been forecasting a significant level of icing in the western part of our state that has not occurred as severely as we expected,” Jones said.

Indeed, wind power Thursday morning far exceeded ERCOT’s forecast; at times wind farms provided nearly a third of all the power Texans used.

Houston Chronicle:

The Texas power grid and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas passed a closely scrutinized cold-weather test as the grid withstood this week’s winter storm, but one that critics say didn’t measure up to the damaging freeze of 2021.

At a news conference Friday morning, Gov. Greg Abbott said Texas’ electricity demand had peaked hours earlier at 69,000 megawatts, according to ERCOT projections, well below the 86,000 megawatts the governor said was available during the storm, and shy of the 75,000 megawatts of demand projected by state officials earlier this week. One megawatt is enough to power about 200 homes on a hot summer day.

Still, Texas’s gas system didn’t get through the cold snap unscathed.

Kinder Morgan said Thursday morning that its El Paso Pipeline was operating at reduced pressure because wells in the Permian Basin had frozen.

And some power companies burned fuel oil at their natural gas-fired plants – a fairly unusual phenomenon in gas-rich Texas. One of the state’s largest power companies, Dallas-based Vistra Corp., turned to fuel oil at four of its natural gas plants after being unable to come to terms with pipeline giant Energy Transfer for natural gas delivery.

Some experts did not view this winter storm or the lack of outages as a testament to the grid’s stability.

“This was absolutely not a stress test of the Texas grid,” said Alison Silverstein, an Austin-based energy consultant who worked for the PUC from 1995 to 2001 and with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from 2001 to 2004. “It’s great the grid ‘survived’ this storm, but gosh it should have, and had it not I’d be pretty darn worried.”

Silverstein pointed to the temperatures, which were warmer than during the 2021 storm. The low in Houston on Friday morning, for example, reached 26 degrees, while the lowest temperature during last year’s was 13 degrees. Temperatures were at 32 or below this week for 18 straight hours, while last year Houston-area residents endured 44 straight hours of temperatures at freezing or lower.

Facing scrutiny in the wake of last year’s deadly freeze, however, ERCOT took no chances. It brought online far more power earlier than it did in February 2021. At times on Thursday, there were more than 84,000 megawatts of available power online — about equal to the power that could have been generated last year before the cold knocked it offline. Often the supply of electricity in recent days exceeded demand by more than 22,000 megawatts.

Report below points out that, while drillers claim that wells and pipelines have been “winterized”, no one quite knows what “winterized” means.

NBC Dallas/FtWorth:

The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates natural gas companies, announced in January that it had visited thousands of gas wells and pipelines to check their readiness for the upcoming season.

In a January news release, the commission declared, “… about 98% of the facilities visited had been winterized.”

But when NBC 5 Investigates filed an open records request asking the commission for records detailing those site visits, the data the commission provided seemed to raise more questions than answers about the definition of “winterized,” and what those site visits really found.

The records show when inspectors asked oil and gas well operators, “Have you finished preparation for this facility for the winter season?” 94% responded “Yes.”

But when asked specifically what they had done to prepare for winter the answers the inspectors received seemed less reassuring.

When oil and gas facility operators were asked, for example, “Was there a test/simulation of the weather preparedness procedures at this facility?” 61% said “No,” “Did not know” or “Did not answer.”


One Response to “Texas Survives a (not so stressful) Stress Test”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Alison Silverstein is definitely clueful about the dynamics of the Texas grid.

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