Texas Bill Would Require Pipelines to Winterize

Texas Bill Would Require Pipelines to Winterize
It would require the owners of all power generators, transmission lines, natural gas facilities and pipelines to protect their facilities against extreme weather.

(Bloomberg) -- The Texas Senate passed a sweeping bill to overhaul the state’s electricity market following last month’s historic blackouts by forcing power plants to winterize and barring the type of business model used by Griddy Energy.

The measure, which still needs approval by the state’s House of Representatives, would require the owners of all power generators, transmission lines, natural gas facilities and pipelines to protect their facilities against extreme weather or face a penalty of up to $1 million a day.

Nearly half of Texas’s power-plant capacity went down in February after a severe winter storm froze equipment, halted gas supplies and triggered blackouts that left more than 4 million homes and businesses in the dark for days. More than 100 people died during the crisis. In its aftermath, lawmakers have scrambled to address some of the power-system flaws laid bare by the catastrophe.

The bill aim to rein in, albeit modestly, Texas’s laissez-faire approach to electricity markets, which some have argued contributed to the crisis. The state’s power system operates independently from other grids so as to avoid federal oversight, and the market relies almost exclusively on price signals to secure electricity rather than holding supply in reserve for emergencies.

On Tuesday, the Texas house preliminarily approved its own package of bills designed to respond to the grid failure. They includes a measure that would only require power plants and power line owners to weatherize.

Notably, both the Senate and House measures would ban power providers from offering electricity plans tied to the state’s volatile wholesale power market, a practice that resulted in exorbitant bills for customers during the energy crisis. Griddy, whose customers received bills in the tens of thousands of dollars, declared bankruptcy in the wake of the crisis.

The Senate bill would change the way that electricity is priced during an emergency -- and limit the amount of time any price cap can be in place -- to protect utilities from the sky-high bills.

It would also require renewable energy sources to have backup plans to provide power at critical periods by purchasing so-called ancillary services. The American Clean Power Association, which represents renewable-power companies, argued that the provision would unnecessarily increase costs for generators without increasing reliability.

“This measure will ultimately raise costs to Texas electricity consumers without addressing the cause of the February blackouts.” said Susan Williams Sloan, the trade groups’s vice president of state affairs.

The Senate measure now heads to the House of Representatives. The House bills will need a final vote before moving onto the Senate. Both chambers will need to reconcile the various pieces of legislation before sending it to the governor’s desk for signing.

--With assistance from Josh Saul.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.



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Gary Thelen Leseman  |  April 01, 2021
Many of the gas pipeline compressor stations are now electric motor driven compressors whereas in the past they were recip engine driven compressors. The Fed Gov has mandated this to pipeline companies as a method to reduce their carbon footprint. So when the electricity goes out, the electric motor driven gas compressors cannot run. It is not a matter of the gas pipelines freezing up in cold weather (natural gas is all dehydrated before it goes into the pipeline. It is a matter of not having the right equipment to pump the natural gas through the pipeline. We need to get back to letting the gas pipeline compressors operate off of natural gas as in the past or else whenever the electrical power goes out we will all continue to freeze in the dark.
Lawrence  |  March 31, 2021
I am fortunate that ?I have a household sized natural gas powered emergency generator, so when power was being cut to many areas, mine was not interrupted except for the time required to start the engine. Now, I have seen the effects of cold temps on both gas lines in Canada where, when I was a kid, it got so cold in our basement that the gas meter froze after the dew point was reached and the pressure regulator froze in the meter. In another instance at a power station in Trinidad, Texas, I saw the main gas shutoff valve coated in ice in July when the pressure drop across the gas regulator caused an auto-refrigeration effect and the s/d valve and its control devices iced over and the valve would not trip closed and had to be subsequently electrically traced ( winterized) to allow the shutdown system to operate properly. It was a mess, but it solved the problem. Obviously, the natural gas, unless it is "saturated" will not freeze, so when winterizing of the gas pipelines is discussed, the solution is to winterize the valves that control the flow and pressure, as well as any other instruments used in the system.