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    Winter Storm Wreaking Havoc in Texas [UPDATE]


Cold freezes wind turbines, some natural gas wells, pushing up gas and power prices.

by: Dale Lunan

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Winter Storm Wreaking Havoc in Texas [UPDATE]

(Updates with comments from RBN Energy)

Winter Storm Uri, the polar vortex weather event that swept southward through the US over the Presidents’ Day long weekend, is still wreaking havoc in Texas, with 4.4mn in the state still without power on February 16, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks US power outages.

On Monday, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the state’s power grid, implemented rolling blackouts, initially by shedding 10,500 MW of customer load – enough to power 2mn homes – and increasing that to as high as 16,500 MW later on Monday, before scaling back to 14,000 MW of load.

“While the grid operator was already contending with frozen wind turbines and limited gas supplies to generating units on February 14, a significant number of additional generating units tripped offline when the weather worsened overnight,” ERCOT said February 15. 

About 34,000 MW of generation – including about 12,000 MW of wind generating capacity – was forced offline as Uri worsened through Monday. Many wind turbines in West Texas, not equipped with cold weather mitigation equipment, froze in the high winds, snow and cold temperatures, while some natural gas wells froze off and pipelines were forced to reduce throughout.

Sheetal Nasta, managing editor for RBN Energy, told NGW in an email February 16 that initial estimates put US gas production today at about 76.1bn ft3/day, down more than 10bn ft3/day from last Friday. With supply constrained, imports from Canada have averaged about 8.3bn ft3/day this week, up about 1.2bn ft3/day from last Friday, while feed gas into US LNG facilities is down 1.15bn ft3/day from February 12 as “triple-digit” prices make it more profitable to send gas back into the market than to Gulf Coast liquefaction terminals, Nasta wrote.

In Houston, marginal prices for electricity climbed to nearly $9,000/MWh, compared to normal peak marginal prices of less than $100/MWh. CME Group quoted prompt month natural gas futures at the Henry Hub in Louisiana as high as $3.21/mn Btu on Tuesday, while some utility traders in parts of Texas were looking at prices as high as $500/mn Btu.

Throughout Texas and Oklahoma, nearly 4.9mn remain without power this morning, according to poweroutage.us. It’s the largest power outage tracked by the service since Hurricane Irma in 2017 left 7.6mn without power in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.