ERCOT Issues Alert Over Possibly Danger to Power Lines, But No Power Availability Problems Expected

January 18, 2022 — A grid management alert has been issued to warn of concerns about upcoming Texas weather, but there are no worries about whether electricity is or will be available — the concern is over strong winds that could affect power lines.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas issued an Operation Condition Notice at 9:30 am CST, warning of minor frozen precipitation in Texas, especially in Central Texas.

There is no indication of possible problems with the availability of electricity, certainly nothing like last Valentine’s Day.

Strong winds are expected Thursday as a cold front moves through the state, endangering some power lines.

ERCOT said Tuesday morning, “OCN issued for the predicted extreme cold weather event for the ERCOT Region for Thursday, January 20, 2022 through Friday.”

ERCOT and PUC Getting In Sync in Series of Meetings This Week: Here Are Details

More than $7 million in fines have been imposed as PUC utilizes new powers to fine entities for lack of cooperation; staff members are being hired as inspections of ERCOT-related facilities are ramped up; the vast majority of power generation problems have been resolved, ERCOT says

January 17, 2022 — ERCOT is meeting in the early days of this week as it attempts to put systems in place for weatherization of power generators.

Monday’s meeting cointinued with a second meeting Tuesday, while closed executive sessions expected.

With board members now fully seated as of the past few weeks, subcommittees and special short-term committees that have been on hold while ERCOT and the PUC are reorganized are now getting underway again.

Weatherization policies and procedures are now coming together, with needed staff members being hired, with contract labor among the first hirings.

ERCOT has been using in-house staffers to help with inspections while efforts ramp up.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas met on Monday, with an update on the hiring of new staff to contribute to inspections of facilities, but ERCOT is waiting for more specific instructions from the Public Utility Commission of Texas before full staffing efforts get underway.

PUC Chairman Peter Lake has noted that there are now teeth in the penalties for not weatherizing, which has not been true in the past, so inspections are being taken more seriously.

One of the most challenging projects turns out to be accurate data collection, and new systems are needed to do so, said Woody Rickerson, ERCOT VP of system planning and weatherization.

Neither agency is getting more closely involved in supervision or weatherization of individual natural gas production facilities; the Railroad Commission of Texas remains in control.

All three agencies are involved in extensive mapping of important and critical natural gas infrastructure, although the project is nowhere near completion.

First draft of the map is expected in April, with final mapping expected by late summer or early fall.

ERCOT said on Monday it’s had to quickly gather information from around the state, including requiring 847 generators to submit readiness reports, and the vast majority, 828, filed before deadline.

The remaining 19 followed up later.

Almost all transmission service providers filed their compliance reports on time, by December 1st.

More than 300 facilities have been inspected, taking about 3,600 hours in 2021, a huge increase over the policy of doing an average of 80 inspections per year (conducted by one person) before the legislature mandated more inspections last year.

About 302 generators were inspected (comprising more than 80% of capacity that ended up offline during last February’s Winter Storm Uri), ERCOT said.

One result of the effort: most of the deficiencies found during compliance filings and inspections have been resolved by mid-January.

Of the 532 generation entities that claimed good reasons for not being able to comply with the latest weatherization rules, 418 have been resolved, 54 are still being tracked by ERCOT.

In addition, there are 60 generators that are not in compliance and are being referred to the PUC for any further action.evaluation and possible penalties.

Among the things inspectors are looking for are heat tracers for pipes to help prevent them from freezing and wind screening for protection of equipment against the cold of winter.

The PUC, meanwhile, is looking at raising penalties for violations of Texas reliability policies by providers such as CenterPoint and Entergy because of concerns that reported violations (or deficiencies) are not being corrected in a timely manner.

Among on-site inspections, ERCOT said on Monday that 22 were transmission facilities, 174 were dispatchables and 122 were intermittent providers such as renewable power.

RRC Statement on Reports of Cold Weather Impact on Natural Gas Production

January 7, 2022 — Many media reports beat the warning drums of a dire situation with the state’s natural gas production last weekend. That is incorrect.

The Railroad Commission’s objective is to help ensure there’s enough gas to protect Texas residents. Power stayed on, lights were on, and gas kept flowing to residences last weekend.

Yes, production can fluctuate on any given day at any given hour for various reasons. However, the RRC has not received any indications that production decreased anywhere near the extent that has been reported. During the weekend and after, major producers we contacted did not report any drastic disruptions of gas production.

We have looked at data, and according to S&P Global analysis, production on the Texas side of Permian was up 570 million cubic feet/day on Jan. 3, largely a function of a return to normal after a one day decrease in production on Sunday. This volume accounts for 2% of Texas’ daily production. Sunday’s temporary drop did not have a real impact on the gas market or the grid.

Again, there was plenty of gas flowing to power generators and homes.

The sources used in some media reports utilized pipeline nominations – which are basically contract requests for space in the pipeline system to transport gas – to estimate real-time gas production. That approach is speculative and does not paint a complete picture, especially given that gas trading markets were closed for the holiday weekend.

The Permian Basin also saw a recent acceleration in drilling and completion activities. Since the start of the fourth quarter of last year, Permian operators have added more than 30 rigs to the basin, bringing the total to an estimated 300 in the week ended Dec. 29. In November, the number of wells drilled surged to a 19-month high at 300. From August to November, well completions averaged more than 400 per month – the highest since first-quarter 2020, based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Production is just one piece of the puzzle to help gas flowing to Texans and electrical power producers throughout the state. Gas storage plays a very important role, as well.

Processed, dry gas that is already in storage, ready to flow to homes and facilities, including power plants, is critical. It can lessen the impact of potential gas market or production fluctuations. As of mid-December ahead of this winter season, the state had approximately 448 billion cubic feet of working gas already in underground storage.

A final point to note, is that the first media outlet to claim significant problems from the cold weather, Bloomberg, has now revised some of its claims. Their early week article stated that nearly 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas had to be flared due to cold weather issues. But they have issued a correction that it was nearly 1 million cubic feet that was flared, a thousand-fold drop. One million cubic feet represents about 0.0035% of Texas production statewide.