Texas Braces for Cold Snap as Natural Gas Pipeline Block; Electric Blackout Worries Increase

Arctic air has poured into Texas this week as temperatures plunge well below freezing. Texas regulators have reassured the public multiple times the principal grid operator for Texas, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), will have the capacity to supply energy to houses and businesses as heating demand increases.

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"The grid is ready, and the lights will stay on for Texans," Peter Lake, chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. He claimed earlier in the day that ERCOT "doesn't anticipate any rolling blackouts at all."

Weather forecasts anticipate a heavy frost in the Lone Star State through Saturday. Average temperatures have fallen from 60 degrees Ferinhight on Jan. 31 to as low as 25 degrees Ferinhight on Friday. An ice storm is also striking the state and will continue until the end of the week.

ERCOT predicts peak demand would be approximately 72 gigawatts on Friday morning, a figure only seen during very hot periods of the summer. The deep frost is already showing very worrisome indicators of looming peril.

Gas supplies in Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and Arkansas plummeted 22 percent Wednesday from Tuesday as frozen wellheads hampered the flow of natgas, according to new data from BloombergNEF.

Colder weather and the threat of depleting supplies are largely responsible for natural gas prices rising as high as 17 percent on Wednesday then retreating 7 percent on Thursday morning. Prices soared as high as $5.50/MMBtu Wednesday, back to levels not seen in nearly a decade.

"This is just the beginning," said BNEF analyst Jade Patterson. Frozen pipelines might hinder Midcontinent gas supplies through the weekend. As readers may recall, frozen natgas pipes were one of the major reasons of the energy crisis in Texas last year. If natgas power production facilities can't acquire fuel, there will be severe challenges and threats of blackouts in the Texas.

"This weather system has really strengthened, particularly in the Midwest and in the producing region," said John Kilduff, co-founder of Again Capital LLC. "There is bound to be freeze offs, there is certain to be operational snags in terms of transmission and transport via pipes of gas molecules."

"The combination of increased heating costs and lower output due to freeze offs will compress the market during the next two weeks," said Peter Rosenthal, head of power and North American gas at Energy Aspects.

The cold weather is part of a major winter storm affecting the central, eastern, and southern U.S.

The issue readers have is if ERCOT can meet demand while avoiding pipes from freezing. If not, a redux of the 2021 energy crisis might be near.

An ERCOT control room. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the flow of electric power to more than 26 million Texas customers -- representing about 90 percent of the state’s electric load. ERCOT is very much on the mind of Texans as a winter storm arrives Feb. 2, a year after the devastating 2021 deep freeze and blackouts.

An ERCOT control room. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the flow of electric power to more than 26 million Texas customers -- representing about 90 percent of the state’s electric load. ERCOT is very much on the mind of Texans as a winter storm arrives Feb. 2, a year after the devastating 2021 deep freeze and blackouts.(Electric Reliability Council of)

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Colder & Snowier Winter Headed for U.S. With Incoming ‘Polar Vortex’ — Texas Inspects Power Plants Ahead Of Freeze Warning — ERCOT Claims it Is “Confident That Its Electric Generation Fleet and the Grid Are Winterized and Ready to Provide Power — People Prepare For Power Failure In TX

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