‘It’s all connected’: How February’s power outages knocked out natural gas wells
One form could have helped prevent power outages at critical infrastructure across Texas.
MIDLAND, Texas — When the February winter storms hit Midland, Joe Brosig of Double Eagle Energy says his company did all it could to “winterize” its wells in order to keep running in the freezing cold.
But just like much of Texas, oil and gas wells had their electric power turned off to help keep the state’s electric grid from collapsing. That included every one of Fort Worth-based Double Eagle’s 650 wells.
“This is our whole business making oil and gas,” said Brosig, Double Eagle’s vice president of operations. “And so when we go from … producing 650 wells a day to zero, that’s obviously a huge hit for our business and not good for the entire state.”
As lawmakers and regulators quickly learned, when wells in West Texas can’t run, it means less electricity available to other areas of Texas. That’s because power plants fueled by natural gas generate about 47% of the electricity on the state’s primary power grid.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, known as ERCOT, is the primary power grid that manages the flow of electric power to more than 26 million Texans and represents 90% of the state’s electric load.
For Texans, the power outages due to the devastating winter weather proved that the power grid, simply put, is circular. When there’s no natural gas, the gas-fired power plants can’t run. And when the gas-fired plants don’t run, that may mean electricity is not generated. When there’s no electricity generated, there’s no flow of electrical power to keep the well pumps working and natural gas flowing.
Here in North Texas, Vistra’s Lake Ray Hubbard plant and Denton Municipal Electric’s facility were unable to operate during parts of the winter storm because they could not get natural gas.
“It’s all connected,” Brosig said. “We lose power at our well sites so that we can’t produce natural gas that needs to go to the gas power plants and they can’t run because they don’t have the gas from our wells.”