Deep freeze paralyzes Texas and knocks out its power grid

Texas Gov Greg Abbott is calling for an investigation into the state’s main power grid operator after five million Texans have been left freezing in darkness after winter storm Uri knocked out electricity in the energy-rich Lone Star state.

The winter storm has resulted in some people sleeping in their cars to keep warm amid unprecedented rolling blackouts, while an image showing empty office buildings in downtown Houston still lit up overnight sparked outrage given the millions elsewhere without power.

Furious Texans, many of whom are still without electricity for a second straight day, are demanding answers as to why the energy rich state has been left paralyzed and unable to produce enough energy to face a winter storm. 

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees the state’s main power grid, is still struggling to restore power after nearly five million were plunged into darkness after the grid failed to keep up with heightened demand. 

Gov. Abbott on Tuesday called for lawmakers to investigate ERCOT, saying in a statement: ‘The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours… Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable.’ 

Texas, which is the largest producer of oil, natural gas and wind energy in the country, is the only state that operates its own power grid not under federal jurisdiction. Every other state either falls into the East or West interconnect. 

ERCOT provides electricity to about 90 percent of the state.

The cold blast caused by winter storm Uri has wreaked havoc on the energy industry with Texas oil wells and refineries halted and natural gas pipelines and wind turbines frozen. 

Experts say the energy crisis essentially boils down to equipment freezing because power plants failed to properly winterize their hardware.   

The deep freeze that has paralyzed Texas by knocking out its power grid and sparking an energy crisis saw 5 million homes plunged into darkness amid unprecedented rolling blackouts. Pictured above is homes in Houston without power but empty offices still lit up

The deep freeze that has paralyzed Texas by knocking out its power grid and sparking an energy crisis saw 5 million homes plunged into darkness amid unprecedented rolling blackouts. Pictured above is homes in Houston without power but empty offices still lit up

The deep freeze that has paralyzed Texas by knocking out its power grid and sparking an energy crisis saw 5 million homes plunged into darkness amid unprecedented rolling blackouts. Pictured above is homes in Houston without power but empty offices still lit up

TEXAS: Dan Bryant and his wife Anna huddle by the fire with sons Benny, 3, and Sam, 12 weeks, along with their dog Joey, also wearing two doggie sweaters, with power out and temperatures dropping inside their home after a winter storm brought snow and freezing temperatures to North Texas

TEXAS: Dan Bryant and his wife Anna huddle by the fire with sons Benny, 3, and Sam, 12 weeks, along with their dog Joey, also wearing two doggie sweaters, with power out and temperatures dropping inside their home after a winter storm brought snow and freezing temperatures to North Texas

TEXAS: Dan Bryant and his wife Anna huddle by the fire with sons Benny, 3, and Sam, 12 weeks, along with their dog Joey, also wearing two doggie sweaters, with power out and temperatures dropping inside their home after a winter storm brought snow and freezing temperatures to North Texas

Oil production in the country's largest crude-producing state has plunged by more than two million barrels a day due to the storm, which has sent prices surging to $60 a barrel for the first time in a year. Pictured above is Exelon Power Texas in Dallas on Tuesday

Oil production in the country's largest crude-producing state has plunged by more than two million barrels a day due to the storm, which has sent prices surging to $60 a barrel for the first time in a year. Pictured above is Exelon Power Texas in Dallas on Tuesday

Oil production in the country’s largest crude-producing state has plunged by more than two million barrels a day due to the storm, which has sent prices surging to $60 a barrel for the first time in a year. Pictured above is Exelon Power Texas in Dallas on Tuesday

WHY IS TEXAS FACING AN ENERGY CRISIS? 

What is happening in Texas:

Freezing temperatures currently being experienced in Texas led to record demand for electricity as Texans tried to heat their homes.

ERCOT says demand reached a record of 69,150 megawatts on Sunday night, which is more than 3,200 MW higher than the previous winter peak in January 2018.

Experts have said that as people were turning up their heat, power plants and pipelines were freezing or being taken offline due to the temperatures.

At least five oil refineries in Texas have shut down operations because of the storm. Natural gas facilities and pipelines in Texas also closed after wellheads started to freeze up or get blocked with ice and compressors lost power.

Natural gas makes up about half of the state’s power generation but much of what was available was used to enable people to heat their homes instead of generating more electricity.

Half of Texas homes use natural gas for heat and the other half use electricity. Half of the state’s power plants also use natural gas to produce electricity.  

Due to a shortage in the natural gas supply but record gas consumption, gas lines were depressurizing, according to experts.

If natural gas power plants can’t get the pressure they need to operate, they have to shut down. 

Widespread power outages or instability of external power supply can force shutdowns at refineries. 

Some experts say part of the issue is because the power grid in Texas is mostly prepared for heat waves rather than winter storms.

They say it is an unprecedented strain on both natural gas and electricity grids that is ‘way beyond what they were designed to handle’.   

Advertisement

Oil production in the country’s largest crude-producing state has plunged by more than two million barrels a day due to the storm, which has sent prices surging to $60 a barrel for the first time in a year. 

Wind turbines, which account for a fifth of the state’s energy, have frozen solid as temperatures plummet to a bitter -20F. 

Texas’s grid operator and the Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities across 14 states, imposed unprecedented rolling blackouts because the supply of reserve energy had been exhausted. Some utilities said they were starting blackouts, while others urged customers to reduce power usage, in a bid to prevent the collapse of their networks. 

Surging demand, driven by people trying to keep their homes warm and cold weather knocking some power stations offline, has pushed Texas’ system beyond the limits.

Dan Woodfin, a senior director of system operations at ERCOT, has defended preparations made by grid operators and described the demand on the system as record-setting. 

‘This weather event, it’s really unprecedented. We all living here know that,’ he said. 

‘This event was well beyond the design parameters for a typical, or even an extreme, Texas winter that you would normally plan for. And so that is really the result that we’re seeing.’ 

He said limited supplies of natural gas and frozen instruments at power plants are partly to blame for the blackouts. 

Experts trying to shed light on the crisis say it started to unfold when freezing temperatures that started at the beginning of the month led to record demand for electricity as Texans tried to heat their homes, which sent prices for heating fuels, including oil and natural gas, surging higher. 

ERCOT said demand reached a record of 69,150 megawatts on Sunday night, which is more than 3,200 MW higher than the previous winter peak in January 2018.

Experts have said that as people were turning up their heat, power plants and pipelines were freezing or being taken offline due to the temperatures.

At least five oil refineries in Texas have shut down operations because of the storm. Natural gas facilities and pipelines in Texas also closed after wellheads started to freeze up or get blocked with ice and compressors lost power.

Natural gas makes up about half of the state’s power generation. But much of what was available was used to enable people to heat their homes instead of generating more electricity.

Joshua Rhodes, of the University of Texas, told Gizmodo: ‘We don’t have the supply of gas that we normally do and we’re consuming gas in record numbers, which is also depressurizing the gas lines.

‘Natural gas power plants also require a certain pressure to operate, so if they can’t get that pressure, they also have to shut down. Everything that could go wrong is going wrong with the system.’

Rhodes said part of the issue is because the power grid in Texas is mostly prepared for heat waves rather than winter storms.

‘We just have this unprecedented strain on both our major energy grids that is just way beyond what they were designed to handle,’ he said.

‘About half of Texas homes heat their homes with natural gas, about half do it with electricity, and about half our power plants also consume natural gas to make that electricity.’      

A map from poweroutage.us showed that nearly 5 million people were without power in Texas, and several hundred thousand in Louisiana and Oregon

A map from poweroutage.us showed that nearly 5 million people were without power in Texas, and several hundred thousand in Louisiana and Oregon

A map from poweroutage.us showed that nearly 5 million people were without power in Texas, and several hundred thousand in Louisiana and Oregon

Some utilities said they were starting blackouts, while others urged customers to reduce power usage, in a bid to prevent the collapse of their networks

Some utilities said they were starting blackouts, while others urged customers to reduce power usage, in a bid to prevent the collapse of their networks

Some utilities said they were starting blackouts, while others urged customers to reduce power usage, in a bid to prevent the collapse of their networks

Nearly five million households in Texas were without power overnight and many residents took desperate refuge in their cars for warmth after the electric grid failed to keep up with heightened demand

Nearly five million households in Texas were without power overnight and many residents took desperate refuge in their cars for warmth after the electric grid failed to keep up with heightened demand

Nearly five million households in Texas were without power overnight and many residents took desperate refuge in their cars for warmth after the electric grid failed to keep up with heightened demand

Nearly five million households in Texas were without power overnight and many residents took desperate refuge in their cars for warmth after the electric grid failed to keep up with heightened demand

Nearly five million households in Texas were without power overnight and many residents took desperate refuge in their cars for warmth after the electric grid failed to keep up with heightened demand

Neil Chatterjee, a member of the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, told Bloomberg the situation was critical.

‘I’ve been following energy markets and grid issues for a while, and I cannot recall an extreme weather event that impacted such a large swath of the nation in this manner – the situation is critical,’ he said.  

Reports are now emerging of Texans staying in their cars just to keep warm, including 44-year-old Clint Cash. 

He told CBS: ‘It was awfully cold and of course getting colder, but honestly I slept in all my clothes, pretty much what I’m wearing right now I slept in. I am taking it minute by minute day by day. I don’t plan on driving.’ 

Deaths in Texas included a woman and a girl who died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning in Houston at a home without electricity from a car running in an attached garage, police said. 

Law enforcement also said subfreezing temperatures were likely to blame for the deaths of two men found along Houston-area roadways. 

A half-dozen Houston residents were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning on Monday after using a charcoal grill to warm their home, officials said. 

Texas officials have requested 60 generators from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and planned to prioritize hospitals and nursing homes. The state opened 35 shelters to more than 1,000 occupants, the agency said. 

More than 500 people sought comfort at one shelter in Houston. Mayor Sylvester Turner said other warming centers had to be shut down because they lost power. 

As nightfall threatened to plummet temperatures again into single digits in Texas, officials warned that homes in the state still without power would likely not have heat until at least Tuesday.  

‘Things will likely get worse before they get better,’ said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top elected official in the county of nearly 5 million people around Houston.  

Temperatures nosedived into the single-digits as far south as San Antonio, and homes that had already been without electricity for hours had no certainty about when the lights and heat would come back on. 

In Dallas, officials told residents to refrain from calling 911 to report power outages as the 911 call center became overwhelmed with power outage calls.  

Drone footages captures snowfall in Galveston, Texas amid winter storm Uri

Drone footages captures snowfall in Galveston, Texas amid winter storm Uri

Drone footages captures snowfall in Galveston, Texas amid winter storm Uri

TEXAS: State officials said surging demand, driven by people trying to keep their homes warm, and cold weather knocking some power stations offline had pushed Texas' system beyond the limits

TEXAS: State officials said surging demand, driven by people trying to keep their homes warm, and cold weather knocking some power stations offline had pushed Texas' system beyond the limits

TEXAS: State officials said surging demand, driven by people trying to keep their homes warm, and cold weather knocking some power stations offline had pushed Texas’ system beyond the limits

TEXAS: Ice and snow blanket parts of a Grandview Avenue and Charles Walker Road on Monday in Odessa

TEXAS: Ice and snow blanket parts of a Grandview Avenue and Charles Walker Road on Monday in Odessa

TEXAS: Ice and snow blanket parts of a Grandview Avenue and Charles Walker Road on Monday in Odessa

TEXAS: The Trinity River in Fort Worth is mostly frozen after a snow storm Monday that saw millions lose power

TEXAS: The Trinity River in Fort Worth is mostly frozen after a snow storm Monday that saw millions lose power

TEXAS: The Trinity River in Fort Worth is mostly frozen after a snow storm Monday that saw millions lose power

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas sought to cut power use in response to a winter record of 69,150 megawatts on Sunday evening, more than 3,200 MW higher than the previous winter peak in January 2018.

About 10,500 MW of customer load was shed at the highest point, enough power to serve approximately 2 million homes, it said, adding that extreme weather caused many generating units across fuel types to trip offline and become unavailable.

‘Controlled outages will continue through today and into early tomorrow, possibly all of tomorrow,’ Dan Woodfin, director of systems operations at ERCOT, told a briefing.

The storms knocked out nearly half the state’s wind power generation capacity on Sunday. Wind generation ranks as the second-largest source of electricity in Texas, accounting for 23% of state power supplies, ERCOT estimates.

Of the 25,000-plus MW of wind power capacity normally available in Texas, 12,000 MW were out of service on Sunday morning, an ERCOT spokeswoman said.

An emergency notice issued by the regulator urged customers to limit power usage and prevent an uncontrolled system-wide outage.

The spot price of electricity on the Texas power grid spiked more than 10,000% on Monday.

TEXAS: A snow-covered Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge leads to downtown after a heavy snow on Monday

TEXAS: A snow-covered Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge leads to downtown after a heavy snow on Monday

TEXAS: A snow-covered Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge leads to downtown after a heavy snow on Monday 

TEXAS: Homes in the Westbury neighborhood are covered in snow in Houston, Texas, on Monday

TEXAS: Homes in the Westbury neighborhood are covered in snow in Houston, Texas, on Monday

TEXAS: Homes in the Westbury neighborhood are covered in snow in Houston, Texas, on Monday 

TEXAS: A man snowboards down Congress Avenue after a heavy snow on Monday

TEXAS: A man snowboards down Congress Avenue after a heavy snow on Monday

TEXAS: A man snowboards down Congress Avenue after a heavy snow on Monday

TEXAS: Baylor University students enjoy their snow day without classes while posing near a fountain on campus

TEXAS: Baylor University students enjoy their snow day without classes while posing near a fountain on campus

TEXAS: Baylor University students enjoy their snow day without classes while posing near a fountain on campus

link

(Visited 61 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply