I set out with this missive to explain the role natural gas played in the rolling and other blackouts in Texas during Snovid 2021. To that end I requested information from ERCOT, and the Texas RRC, specifically from Commissioner Wayne Christian, he because he was commenting on the issue on Midland’s KWEL (1070 AM, 107.1 FM, KWEL.com).
The questions I asked of both was based on a statement I heard, that the issue of freezing temperatures on natural gas distribution and generation had been raised to ERCOT over a decade ago (in 2009). That the issue had been raised, coupled with the directive that natural gas distribution and generations facilities were not, as a matter of policy, treated as “essential businesses” during the crisis caused power to the heaters protecting valves and lines to be cut off, is the issue I wanted to clarify. I’d heard from a source that wishes to remain anonymous that safety protocol in the NG industry dictates that a situation where the system is uncontrolled (such as when valves are not operable because they are frozen) it must be shut down until it can be opened in a controllable process.
I didn’t get a direct response from either TRRC or ERCOT, and I could find no external evidence that such a presentation had been made. I could not find any evidence of any deliberations by ERCOT at all. If I were they I’d be sequestering all information on my internal processes, the policies generated therefrom, and the impacts of those policies on the blackouts.
They (ERCOT) released a report on March 12: This spreadsheet identifies each outage or derate of an ERCOT-registered Generation Resource or Energy Storage Resource that began at any point during the period of February 10-19, 2021 (http://www.ercot.com/content/wcm/lists/226521/Unit_Outage_Data_20210312.pdf)
and another (Tuesday April 6), a letter to the Public Utilities Commission of Texas wherein it states: “ERCOT cannot disclose the unit-specific outage causes because they are Protected Information.” (http://www.ercot.com/content/wcm/lists/226521/51878_ERCOT_Letter_re_Preliminary_Report_on_Outage_Causes.pdf) wherein they talk about outage causes generally but not specifically. In order to keep this from happening again, we need to address the specific problems. No information on specific timeline related decisions and effects has been offered.
This was likely a once in a lifetime coincidence of events, but it perhaps evinces a vulnerability. A vulnerability which could be lessened with more transparent processes. I’d really like to be able to say “ERCOT policy forced power blackouts on NG infrastructure, which created unsafe conditions, which caused NG generation facilities to be derated.” but I can’t know that for sure.