Was there a gas shortage during the rolling blackouts? Not if you had the right contract.

The Texas Railroad Commission added an emergency item to their agenda today so it could hear from the Texas Energy Reliability Council about natural gas service’s impact on the rolling blackouts that swept the state.  They told the Commission that Texas was never in danger of a natural gas shortage during last week’s statewide deep freeze and no electric generating company with an “uninterruptible” contract for gas had to do without.

Of course, one could also read that as gas supplies could have been interupted at generating facilities that chose to purchase their fuel under contracts offered at a lower price, but with the risk that delivery cannot be absolutely guaranteed in all circumstances.  That is, in fact what happened, so if those plants had been able to get delivery of natural gas, it is possible that the state might have been in danger of a natural gas shortage.

During the prolonged winter storm, gas production in the Barnett Shale was shut down as well as some others around the state. But that short-term gap in supply was filled by tapping reserves warehoused in underground salt domes, at least for those power plants that had uninteruptable contracts.

But be forwarned,  the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) warns that more blackouts might be needed as state braces for Arctic Blast Round 2 and  issued another plea for conservation, especially during the peak-use hours of 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., saying the grid is still down some 2,700 megawatts of capacity and that rolling blackouts might return with the next round of sub-freezing weather.

ERCOT said tomorrow’s peak demand is projected to exceed 54,000 megawatts between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. , and then top 58,000 megawatts between 7 and 8 Thursday morning. That would surpass the current winter peak demand record of 56,334 megawatts, which occurred Feb. 2.

Today’s hearing at the Railroad Commission was the first public review of the circumstances surrounding the rolling blackouts. It focused solely on natural gas supplies and production.

A more comprehensive hearing will occur Feb. 15 when the Senate Business and Commerce Committee meets jointly with the Natural Resources Committee to review issues surrounding the outages.

If you want to watch today’s hearing, you can catch it online at www.texasadmin.com.


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