There is no doubt that our state’s natural gas supply chain and electrical grid are stronger today than they were during the Uri winter storm. The severe aftermath of the storm has identified significant opportunities for improvement within our system, and the work to address these challenges has been strong and ongoing.
Uri showed us the vulnerabilities and complexities of our state’s electrical grid and the challenges associated with acquiring various power sources in an emergency. Texas is blessed with an abundance of dispatchable energy like natural gas, coal, nuclear, and hydro that can be deployed at any time, but planning and positioning are required.
With good planning, there is more than enough natural gas. Texas typically produces about 25 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, and the natural gas used for power generation is typically only about 4 billion cubic feet per day. Texas has 544 billion cubic feet of natural gas storage capacity, enough to power 4 billion cubic feet/day of electricity generation for 125 days. While there is plenty of natural gas in production fields, pipelines and storage to meet any peak demand, natural gas power generators must secure firm contracts for natural gas, transportation and storage to ensure the most reliable product delivery. During Uri, installation issues, purchasing practices and infrastructure limitations created difficulties in procuring and receiving the products needed to generate electricity.
It is important to note that the generators have invested in improving facilities and the Public Utilities Commission has been authorized to incentivize generators to properly purchase the product they need.
The oil and natural gas industry invests hundreds of millions of dollars each year to air-condition equipment and facilities with techniques such as methanol injections, heat-tracing systems, insulation of critical pipes and valves, and temperature-activated pumps. Uri taught us how to pre-position labor closer to field assets during forecast inclement weather and how to drain tanks so more product can be kept on site longer if roads are impassable. However, if communications with the wells are interrupted or the sites are not accessible, shutdowns will occur as these are remote mechanical systems and often operated from control centers that require electricity and capacity. Communication. Output fluctuation is expected and manageable if power is left on.
Substantial improvements in communications have been made between all stakeholders to better coordinate the natural gas supply chain, especially with electricity providers to keep the power on. The oil and natural gas industry worked closely with state regulators to implement Senate Bill 3 (SB 3), which aptly called for more clarity in the process for designating the “critical load”, the mapping of natural gas installations directly linked to the production of electricity. and requiring the weatherization of these installations. The Railroad Commission of Texas and the PUC have improved rules regarding the designation of critical loads. The PUC and RRC have inspected and reviewed weatherization plans for natural gas generators and thousands of oil and natural gas sites across the state, a process that will continue.
What about the “energy experts” telling Texans that the fuel supply chain and the electrical grid aren’t any stronger? Unfortunately, many people these days pose as energy experts and endanger Texans by calling for changes that won’t increase grid reliability. Texas is the top energy producer for a reason. Texas field engineers and technicians are the best in the world at ensuring product flow to buyers here at home and around the world.
By working together, the Texas Petroleum and Natural Gas Industry, PUC, ERCOT, RRC, TDEM, Electricity Generators, Transmission and Distribution Facilities, Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Legislature are committed to ensure that the electricity remains on in future emergency situations.
Last February, we saw the Texans rally like the Texans do, and the work continues. Winter Storm Uri exposed weaknesses in our state’s entire electricity supply chain, and every Texan involved is meeting the challenges with determination, creativity, and collaboration to keep Texans safe now and in the years to come. .
— Todd Staples is president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association and former Texas commissioner of agriculture.