A new wave of cold returns to Texas a year after its great blackout due to lack of gas

One year after the historic blackouts that shook Texas (USA), a new wave of cold is looming over the state. And with the price of gas at record highs, the big question is whether its electricity system will be able to withstand the rise in demand without collapsing.

Temperatures in Midland, the commercial heart of the Permian Basin – the state’s main source of oil and gas – will drop to minus 9 degrees on Wednesday night and remain below freezing until at least Friday, the National Weather Service warned. . Temperatures there won’t moderate until this weekend. In Dallas and San Antonio, the lows will be -6 and -7 degrees on Thursday and Friday, and even Houston could reach -2 degrees.

The cold snap will increase demand for electricity and thus natural gas to produce it, while a widespread ice storm hitting the region in the next 24 hours could leave many places without power as branches of trees begin to fall, snapping nearby power lines.

historical demand

The state’s grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), on Tuesday forecast peak demand of 71,242 megawatts on Friday morning, a level never before reached outside of the summer. A year ago, demand was also around record highs, and the lack of operating natural gas plants to cover it – some froze and went off the grid – forced widespread blackouts for days, killing more than 200 people.

“We’re doing everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said Jim Wright of the Texas Railroad Commission, the regulator that oversees the state’s oil and gas industry. “I guess this weekend will be a test. We still have a lot of room to try to improve.”

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Natural gas futures soared 11% above $5 per million British thermal units in the US on concerns about tight supplies of fuel for heating and power plants. Last year, the lack of gas pushed the price of a megawatt/hour above 7,000 dollars, an exorbitant figure that led to the bankruptcy of several distributors that sold electricity to consumers at regulated prices and, on the other hand, who were in the free market and paid the wholesale price for electricity.

Texas is the only state that is not connected to one of several US regional power grids, so it cannot import power from neighboring territories in the event of a supply crisis.

The expected freeze in Texas is part of a major storm crossing North America that has triggered winter storm warnings, watches and weather advisories from New Mexico south to Maine on the Canadian border. Chicago could get up to a foot of snow, for example. 3,000 regional flights have been canceled so far, according to FlightAware.

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