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Texas Lost 1.3 Gigawatts of Gas-Power Capacity in the Recent Cold

(Bloomberg) — Texas lost about 1.3 gigawatts of electrical generation in a cold snap at the start of January — about 1.5% of its winter capacity — as power-plant operators faced fuel problems tied to natural gas.

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Operators of gas-fired plants reported forced outages totaling 402 megawatts that started on Jan. 2 due to fuel limitations or lack of availability as temperatures plunged below freezing in some areas, according to data from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s grid operator. Another 865 megawatts of gas-fired generation were lost to maintenance outages tied to fuel woes.

It’s not clear yet what role, if any, cold temperatures played in the fuel issues. The outages, however, raise questions about whether the state’s power grid remains vulnerable to outages nearly a year after a historic winter blackout that left more than 200 people dead.

Also See: Texas Pollution Soars After Cold Upends Gas Sector

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other officials have insisted the state’s grid is ready to withstand extreme weather, thanks to a series of reforms enacted in June in response to last year’s blackout. Yet critics and federal regulators warn the system remains susceptible. That’s in part because the reforms did little to force gas suppliers that fuel most of the state’s power plants to prepare better for cold snaps.

Also See: Texas Had All Year to Prep for Winter, and It’s Still Not Ready

During the recent cold snap, gas production in Texas plunged by the most in nearly 11 months as instruments froze. In response to questions about fuel issues forcing power plants offline, the Texas Oil & Gas Association said outages occur routinely for a variety of reasons, including cold weather.

“Some variation in production occurs with sudden temperature changes,” the association said said in an emailed statement. “The recent variation in natural gas production was within expected operating ranges and was not unique to Texas, and it did not lead to emergency conditions.”

The Texas Railroad Commission, the state’s main oil and gas regulator, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Total outages tied to gas supplies were equal to 2.4% of the peak demand during that day. Ercot said in November that it anticipated there’ll be enough generating capacity to meet peak demand in winter, with nearly 85,000 megawatts of available power supply.

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