SAN ANTONIO — New data compiled and analyzed by Bloomberg experts indicates cooler weather hampered Texas natural gas production this week.
Suppliers likely tapped into reserves to stabilize production, the report indicates.
During the cold snap at the beginning of 2022, supply dropped to its lowest point since the Feb. 2021 winter storm. The supply plunged between 5 percent and 10 percent this week.
But energy researchers say the new research isn't cause for alarm.
"(The data) looks like it would look in most previous years," said Daniel Cohan, an environmental engineering professor at Rice University. "The average Texan doesn't have a lot to worry about."
When temperatures plunge, condensates in natural gas pipelines freeze and form ice dams. The flow of gas that suppliers send to power generators can stop, called a 'freeze-off.'
"If it got this cold in 2017, then we probably had reductions like this in 2017 or other years," said Joshua Rhodes, an energy researcher at the University of Texas. "We are just paying closer attention to it nowadays because it was such a big part of why the entire system failed in Feb. 2021."
"I don't think those numbers are something we necessarily need to be concerned about, because historically it does get cold and we've had reductions in supply with freeze-offs in the past. Things have been just fine," he continued.
Cohan says it is evident, though, that natural gas suppliers are not as prepared for cooler weather as the power plants they feed.
Gas suppliers are not held to the same weatherization standards that electric operators are under new laws Gov. Greg Abbott approved in the fall.
"ERCOT and the Public Utilities Commission are the ones that have say over the power plants. They've really been stepping up and sending out inspectors to the plants and putting in tough rules," Cohan said. "The Texas Railroad Commission is elected and get most of their campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry (that they regulate), so there's been a lot more closeness between the regulators and the industry."
In other words, a colder storm or longer freeze might cause catastrophic problems for gas suppliers.
"To say 'Mission Accomplished' after this would kind of be like building a huge flood wall for a hurricane, and a little thunderstorm comes through and we say, 'Oh, we stayed dry. We're okay,'" Cohan added.