December 20, 2023
AUSTIN – 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 and into this weekend.
According to the U.S. National Weather Service, a polar air mass will push south through the Central U.S. Plains and down into Texas on Wednesday night into Thursday morning, and temperatures will fall to below freezing behind the front, bringing the coldest temperatures this season thus far. In the Permian Basin region of Texas, the arctic front is expected to bring new December lows. “On Thursday night and Friday morning temperatures forecasted for Midland will be in the lows teens,” according to the U.S. National Weather Service. Friday’s forecast includes highs in the mid-20s and lows in the lower teens. These low temperatures are expected to rise above freezing by Saturday afternoon and into the 50s by Christmas Day.
If the power stays on to oil and natural gas production and transmission systems, some impact to production will likely occur but will not be to the severity experienced during Winter Storm Uri.
Following action by the Texas Legislature, the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) mandated critical load designation for the most critical natural gas assets and related systems, and starting December 1, operators with facilities that are required to weatherize must also share their emergency preparedness plans with the RRC, including considerations for how each operator will protect their employees, the environment and their equipment when implementing their plans. Requirements extend to external support operations such as water disposal wells, a necessary function to continue oil and natural gas production.
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. 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
- Adjusting employee schedules to ensure planning and preparations in place
- Having 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
Even with these winterization techniques in place, production fluctuations are expected during extreme weather conditions. Variation in daily natural gas production occurs with sudden temperature changes because these are field operations, not controlled factory settings. According to the RRC, even on mild weather days, daily natural gas production can fluctuate for a variety of reasons. Prudent users of natural gas domestically and globally plan on back up fuel sources or contract for firm storage and supply to meet their needs during production decline periods.
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 that have contracted for these services. Texas typically produces/markets about 29 bcf/d of natural gas, and natural gas used for electricity generation is typically only about 5 bcf/d. Texas has 544 bcf of working natural gas storage capacity, enough to power 5 bcf/day of power generation for approximately 109 days.
Peak electricity demand is expected to occur on Friday morning between 7:00-9:00 AM. Power generators with firm contracts for supply, storage, and transmission for the volumes they need during extreme weather prove more reliable and resilient.
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.
About South Texas Energy and Economic Roundtable (STEER)
STEER is the leading Eagle Ford Shale resource in the region and is the primary coordinator for communication and public advocacy surrounding the oil and natural gas industry in South Texas. STEER serves as the bridge connecting the industry and communities throughout South Texas to ensure positive collaboration and communication surrounding the activities associated with energy production in the Eagle Ford Shale and Rio Grande Valley. In 2018, the boards of STEER and TXOGA approved the merger of STEER into TXOGA. The merger was finalized on January 1, 2020.
Founded in 1919, TXOGA is the oldest and largest oil and gas trade as