As Texans prepare for the coming cold weather, operators in the Texas oil and natural gas industry are also preparing for the freezing temperatures that are expected for much of the state later this week.
Oil and natural gas operators have extensive resources in place to monitor and prepare for inclement weather on an ongoing basis and utilize best practices and operational plans in order to maximize product flow.
The Railroad Commission of Texas inspectors have been conducting site visits to thousands of oil and natural gas sites across the state and have reported that 98% of the facilities visited had been winterized, with the remaining 2% in the process of winterizing. Onsite, seasonal weatherization techniques include methanol injection temperature activated pumps, steamer units, equipment shelters, and insulated critical lines and valves.
Additional pre-storm and offsite measures also prepare operators to better respond during inclement weather to ensure assets and personnel are safe and able to respond to critical needs. Examples of additional measures include:
- Secure shelter/housing and pre-positioning personnel to be closer to assets for access
- Adjust employee schedules to ensure planning and preparations in place
- Have extra methanol and other supplies on trucks
- Preparing and draining tanks to increase on-site storage and provide a temporary buffer for necessary 3rd party movement of product
- Pre-inspection of assets prior to weather event
- “Line-packing” to maximize product and pressurization in pipelines
- Communication with 3rd party vendors to prepare for inclement weather contingencies
- Identification of the most critical assets to help maintain power from electric utilities
With all the winterization techniques in place, those who understand oil and natural gas production know that production fluctuations are expected. Variation in daily natural gas production occurs with sudden temperature changes – these are field operations, not controlled factory settings. According to the Railroad Commission of Texas, even on mild weather days, daily natural gas production can fluctuate daily for a variety of reasons.
Texas is more fortunate than most states due to our vast natural gas storage infrastructure. During significant weather events and expected production declines, daily production combined with natural gas storage provides ample access to product for power generation and local distribution companies. Texas typically produces about 25 Bcf of natural gas per day, and natural gas used for electricity generation is typically only about 4 Bcf/day. Texas has 544 Bcf of working natural gas storage capacity, enough to power 4 Bcf/day of power generation for 125 days. Power generators with firm contracts for supply, storage, and transmission for the volumes they need during extreme weather prove more reliable and resilient.
ERCOT data confirms that during Winter Storm Uri, fuel limitations were only 12% of the reason for natural gas power generation outages. Keeping the power on continues to be the best winterization tool.
All sectors of the Texas oil and natural gas industry take steps to prepare for weather events in order to ensure the production and transportation of energy can continue even in the most extreme conditions. For more information on what the oil and natural gas industry in Texas does and is doing to prepare for winter weather, visit www.txoga.org/winterready.