AUSTIN, Texas - An analysis commissioned by the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA) reveals that power outages were the principal factor for natural gas production and transportation reductions or shutdowns during the February winter storm.
TXOGA says the analysis, prepared by Enverus, examined the performance of the upstream and midstream sectors of the Texas natural gas industry during the recent winter storm and factors contributing to performance issues. The report is based on data from ERCOT and the U.S. Energy Information Administration and surveys of upstream and midstream operators.
"During the February winter storm, failures occurred up and down the line of our state’s electricity system and every sector must improve. This analysis makes clear that the issues with natural gas production and transportation began with outages originating at the power generation units," TXOGA president Todd Staples said. "Texans deserve a serious, thoughtful, factual evaluation of what really went wrong. Along with many stakeholders, the Texas oil and natural gas industry continue to assess the entire operational process to develop specific solutions to better protect Texans against future emergency situation failures."
The analysis shows that once power outages at power generation units began due to the extreme cold weather, natural gas production and transportation were impacted because surface facilities and infrastructure rely heavily on electricity for operations. Then, power outages at natural gas facilities impaired the ability of power generators to receive natural gas supplies.
"While power generation reforms will be needed, we are committed to being part of the solution as well and through analysis and input from stakeholders, we have identified key reforms that will make the most impact," Staples added.
"Based on a thorough review of available data, the most immediate and direct action to ensure sufficient operations of natural gas producers, transporters and storage during future emergencies will be supply chain mapping to identify the infrastructure that is going into the natural gas generators and local distribution companies and, ultimately, ensure power remains to those natural gas production, distribution, and storage facilities," he said. "Mapping will help prioritize critical load designations of those key facilities, and improved communications from response teams will ensure greater coordination from all participants in the process."
According to the report, during the mid-February weather event, all power generation resources showed a decline in output while demand peaked to unprecedented levels. Although natural gas production fell during this event, the timeline outlined in the analysis indicates that power outages made this decline much more significant.
Even so, the analysis confirms that Texas natural gas supply exceeded Texas demand during this period, although matching the supply to the demand could not be accomplished in all circumstances.
TXOGA says the entire energy infrastructure chain was under significant stress during the storm, creating infrastructure challenges that limited the ability of the available natural gas supply to match demand. TXOGA adds a key to pinpointing the reforms needed is the understanding that Texas is a net exporter of natural gas, meaning Texas produces vast volumes of natural gas in excess of in-state demand.
Analyzing data from both upstream and midstream operators found several consistent themes related to causes of natural gas supply limitations. The survey reveals that the common denominator that caused most disruptions to both the upstream and midstream sectors is the loss of power and electricity.
Upstream survey responses, representing 51% of natural gas production in Texas, identified the following causes influencing operations during the storm (operators replied for multiple answers):
- Loss of power to the site – 65%
- Wellhead and equipment freeze-offs – 13%
- Not being able to get production out due to issues with third-party facilities (pipelines, gathering, transmission, processing facilities, plants) – 8.7%
Ninety-one percent of upstream survey respondents said their operations, including wells, surface facilities, and sites, are powered through a connection to the electric grid.
Midstream survey responses, 60% of which said they had to shut down pipelines during the storm, identified these issues as the main reasons for disruptions or shutdowns (operators replied for multiple answers):·
- Loss of power – 80%·
- Lack of production from upstream – 80%·
- Road, crew, truck and other logistical issues – 40%·
- Equipment freeze-offs – 20%
TXOGA says planning for the cold snap by ERCOT was based on 2011 events which was not as extreme as this mid-February 2021 event. TXOGA says ERCOT could have planned for colder weather, potentially using 1989 as its baseline for preparation.
"Missing from many of the post-storm accounts and opinion pieces is the remarkable way natural gas stepped up to power the vast majority of electricity generation in Texas during the storm. On an annual basis, natural gas represents about 48% of Texas’ electric power generation. During the storm, natural gas increased its percentage of the Texas power generation mix, supplying more than 60% of electricity generation every single day between February 11 and February 18. While power generation from natural gas – and all sources of electricity generation – did not ultimately meet the record-setting electricity needs of Texans during the storm, natural gas-fired electricity carried the biggest load of supplying power to the grid during the weeklong weather event," Staples concluded.