New ‘deep freeze’ poses grave threat to Texas power supply

Could another Arctic blast bring Texas’s power supplies to a grinding holt in the coming days?

Tom Fenton
Thursday 20 January 2022 19:19
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Fresh warnings are being issued over power supplies in Texas, as the state braces for sub-zero weather conditions in the coming days.

Just over a fortnight ago, the first Arctic blast of the year crippled numerous gas wells and processing plants, raising concerns over the Lone Star State’s level of preparedness this time around, Bloomberg reported.

The primary concern for Texan lawmakers will be to protect natural gas drillers, wind farms and solar arrays which continue to be the lifeblood of the state’s economy – and which help provide power to its 30 million residents.

During the Arctic chill earlier this month, more than 10 per cent of Texas gas production was knocked offline over a two-day period, according to data provided by Bloomberg NEF.

America’s second-biggest state is still very much reeling from the effects of last year’s big freeze, which killed more than 200 people in the month of February alone.

Some, such as Democratic Congressional candidate Coy Branscum, have criticised Texas’s Republican leadership for not taking effective action in the elapsing 11 months that would help prevent a repeat occurrence.

The temperature drop will vary across Texas, but one city which could suffer more than most is Midland. Home to the Permian Basin oil and gas field, temperatures are forecast to bottom out at 18 degrees Fahrenheit next week.

While virtually all power supplies are at risk of being affected by such extreme conditions, gas wells are especially susceptible to so-called ‘freeze offs’ because of the high volumes of subterranean water that typically flows out of the ground alongside fuel.

Texas has been hit by record-breaking winter storms

During this month’s earlier cold snap, West Texas crude rallied to a two-week high as buyers scrambled for supplies in anticipation of shortages to come.

The Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees oil and gas production in the state, sent an email and held two conference calls about the upcoming freeze with top producers and major pipeline operators on Tuesday.

“They didn’t anticipate anything other than normal production fluctuations, however, they are prepared to address any issues they may have with overnight freezing temperatures,” Railroad Commission spokesman R.J. DeSilva said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg.

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