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A year after February ice storm, new data shows Texas natural gas providers still not ready for freeze 

click to enlarge Millions of Texans went without power in February as the state's electrical grid buckled under the strain from the prolonged cold front. - SANFORD NOWLIN
  • Sanford Nowlin
  • Millions of Texans went without power in February as the state's electrical grid buckled under the strain from the prolonged cold front.
Even though Texas' natural gas industry had 11 months to remedy production flaws that worsened the devastating power outages during last February's ice storm, a new analysis of state data suggests those problems still exist.

During last weekend's cold snap, "instruments froze, output plunged and companies spewed a miasma of pollutants into the atmosphere in a bid to keep operations stable," according to an examination of Texas environmental filings by energy research firm BloombergNEF.

Over the weekend, Texas natural gas providers burned or wasted 1 billion cubic feet of gas due to cold weather-related shutdowns, according to filings with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the state's primary air-quality monitor, cited by Bloomberg.

What's more, the analysis found that gas production during the weekend dropped to the lowest level since Winter Storm Uri, which killed nearly 250 people, according official state figures.

“It makes our hearts beat a little faster because of what we went through last February," Virginia Palacios, executive director of the regulatory watchdog group Commission Shift, told Bloomberg News, an affiliated wire service that reported on the analysis. "It was a traumatic event that I don’t think anybody wants to relive.”

After February's disaster, consumer groups and environmental advocates called on lawmakers to require the natural gas industry to make significant upgrades to their infrastructure in preparation for another freeze. San Antonio's municipally owned utility CPS Energy is also locked in multiple lawsuits with gas companies which it accuses of overcharging during the last year's shutdowns.

However, the Republican-controlled Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees the state's energy industry, isn't expected to enact new weatherization regulations until 2023. Critics also argue that those rules include loopholes would allow some providers to avoid the upgrades altogether.

Neither the Railroad Commission nor the TCEQ offered comment to Bloomberg on its analysis.

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