Texas power outage - Feb 2021

Earlier this week, we here in Texas went through a major cold snap, with state-wide rolling power outages and burst water pipes. A few died from cold or carbon monoxide poisoning. I was without power for about 2/3’s of the time Monday and Tuesday … which didn’t cause me any serious problems.

I’ve tracked down enough data to shed some light on the overload of the Texas power grid that forced shutting down a substantial part of the load (about a third of the state’s customers at any given time, from what I recall), in order to keep the remaining power plants from failing due to being overloaded.

From the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) , between 2 AM and 3 AM Monday morning 15 Feb 2021, the following changes occurred in the amount of power provided to the Texas grid, from the following sources:

  • Coal - dropped 1 GigaWattHours
  • Natural Gas - dropped 7 GigaWattHours
  • Nuclear - steady
  • Wind - steady

Then over the next 12 to 15 hours, these further drops occurred:

  • Coal - further dopped 2 GigaWattHours
  • Natural Gas - further dropped 3 GigaWattHours
  • Nuclear - dopped 1 GigaWattHours
  • Wind - dropped 2 GigaWattHours

Finally, through evening of Monday, Wind dopped 2 more GigaWattHours, down to almost nothing.

The other power sources, hydro, “other”, and solar did not provide as much power as the above, at any point.

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From something else I recall seeing a day or two ago - I have no link now - Texas electric was already running close to the edge - just enough power online to meet demand.

So the incoming cold spell, which would have increased demand for natural gas, both as the largest provider of electricity, and for heating, apparently lost some natural gas electricity providers (why?), caused an over load condition, which forced shutting down load. Too little power available trying to feed too high a load forces remaining providers to shut down hard and fast, to avoid major damage, so the load had to be dropped harder and faster.

… which they did … as reported in the following:

From Texas was “seconds and minutes” away from catastrophic months long blackouts, officials say (Denton Record-Chronicle:

Texas’ power grid was “seconds and minutes” away from a catastrophic failure that could have left Texans in the dark for months, officials with the entity that operates the grid said Thursday.

As millions of customers throughout the state begin to have power restored after days of massive blackouts, officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which operates the power grid that covers most of the state, said Texas was dangerously close to a worse-case scenario: uncontrolled blackouts across the state.

The quick decision that grid operators made in the early hours of Monday morning to begin what was intended to be rolling blackouts — but lasted days for millions of Texans — occurred because operators were seeing warning signs that massive amounts of energy supply was dropping off the grid.

As natural gas fired plants, utility scale wind power and coal plants tripped offline due to the extreme cold brought by the winter storm, the amount of power supplied to the grid to be distributed across the state fell rapidly. At the same time, demand was increasing as consumers and businesses turned up the heat and stayed inside to avoid the weather.

“It needed to be addressed immediately," said Bill Magness, president of ERCOT. “It was seconds and minutes [from possible failure] given the amount of generation that was coming off the system.”

Grid operators had to act quickly to cut the amount of power distributed, Magness said, because if they had waited, “then what happens in that next minute might be that three more [power generation] units come offline, and then you’re sunk.”

Grand Summary:

I agree with Martin Armstrong that this was a major, but not unnatural, weather event, experienced in both Central US, and at similar latitudes, down to Syria and Lebanon.

The critical initial point of failure seems to be a combination of:

  1. a Texas electric grid whose spare capacity is more focused on summer heat than on winter cold,

  2. running close to the edge as a big cold spell hit,

  3. with an Achilles heal of its natural gas power plants, which

  4. compete for natural gas with residential and (I presume) commercial heating.

At 2 AM Monday morning, Texas was getting 40 GigaWattHours of its total 60 GigaWattHour electrical demand from natural gas fired plants.

Over the next few hours, Texas lost 10 of those 40 GigaWattHours of electrical power coming from natural gas, with 7 of those lost 10 coming in the first hour.

Secondarily, over the rest of Monday,Texas also lost all 5 GigaWattHours (my above numbers only add to 4 …rounding errors) of its Wind power. I suppose that was just the typical calm winds as the cold, dry, air mass settled in.

Unknown, to me, at this time: What started those natural gas fired power plants to start going offline? I could speculate on possible causes, but I don’t have sufficient (in either quantity or quality) information to make a determination.

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Martin Armstrong, one of the great students of cyclic economic, monetary, financial and other behaviour, also figures that this Texas cold spell was a cyclic, natural, event.

Martin Armstrong is a cycle-man if ever there was one. In this article, he describes the “Arctic Oscillations” that shift middle latitudes between hotter and colder spells, over the months and years.

One of his article’s images - this TIME magazine cover from January of 1977 (President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration):

Time-January-31-1977-The-Big-Freeze

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Consistent with Armstrong’s take:

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Consistent with the above, and explaining why Texas in particular failed to handle this arctic blast:

Hofmeister is stating that it is against current Texas regulations for electricity providers (coil, natgas, nuclear, solar, wind, …) to build in winterization and charge their current customers for such infrastructure. Texas power producers are a profit motivated lot, and much of our power is built to profit from the higher electrical demands during summer heat waves.

Young man, and young woman, this is no heat wave” —- Mooster the Elder.

… and so, an elder of the energy business is arguing for more money for the energy businesses … yeah right … totally altruistic I’ve no doubt …

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The following article states that natural gas fired power plants were short of natural gas, due to freezing wellhead equipment, and that the primary nuclear power plant shutdown was not due to grid inbalances, but also due to inadequately weatherized water pump freezing that was needed for reactor cooling.

From Texas Failed To Winterize Nuclear Plant Leading To Reactor Shut Down (nemosnewsnetwork.com):

A polar vortex split dumped Arctic air into Texas, along with multiple winter storms, created havoc on the state’s power grid operated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). What happened, and why, more specifically, how did one nuclear power plant which provides power for two million homes shutdown?

How is it possible that a nuclear power plant in Texas had to shutter operations due to freezing weather, but nuclear power plants can operate without disruption in Russia?

The answer is simple – the South Texas Nuclear Power Station failed to winterize its facilities. After all, whoever thought Arctic conditions would be seen in on the Gulf of Mexico?

On Monday, the nuclear power plant had to shut one of two reactors down, halving its 2,700 megawatts of generating capacity. The plant, which operates on a 12,200-acre site west of the Colorado River about 90 miles southwest of Houston, provides power for more than two million homes.

According to Washington Examiner, the nuclear power plant was not winterized to withstand cold weather.

“It’s very rare for weather issues to shut down a nuclear plant,” said Brett Rampal, director of nuclear innovation at the Clean Air Task Force. “Some equipment in some nuclear plants in Texas has not been hardened for extreme cold weather because there was never a need for this.”

On Monday, South Texas Nuclear Power Station posted “Event Number: 55104” on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission website explaining low steam generation was due to the loss of water pumps. In response, reactor one was shutdown.

SouthTexasReactorOffline_2021-02-18_08-05-50

“It was the connection between the power plant and outside systems,” Alex Gilbert, project manager at the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, told the Washington Examiner.

The reactor’s shutdown only represented 1,280 megawatts of the 30,000 megawatts of outages on Monday. Nuclear power provides about 11% of ERCOT’s power.

Much of the power generation loss was due to freezing wellheads that impeded the flow of natgas to power stations, triggering electric shortages as demand overwhelmed the grid.

The high concentration of natgas generation on ERCOT’s grid makes it vulnerable to power disruptions if fuel flow is disrupted.

TexasPowerSources_2021-02-17_0

What’s worse is that ERCOT is a separate grid than the rest of the country. This means ERCOT had limited ability to pull power from other grids, which was why blackouts occurred.

Texas_Electric_Grid_Separate_2021-02-16

The reactor’s return would boost the grid and help in restoring power. Overnight, ERCOT tweeted that they “continue to restore power, electric companies continue to bring generation back online.”

Arctic air is expected to leave the Lone Star State by the late weekend. This means power generation could be mostly restored as various fuel types of generation come back online.

Texas_Storm_2021-02-18_06-29-44 (1)_0

But even as power returns, Texas is facing a humanitarian crisis as unintended consequences of a several day power grid collapse have left many people hungry, emotionally distraught, local economies ground to a halt, skyrocketing power bills for some, broken pipes in residential and commercial structures, water main breaks, and a major embarrassment for state leadership.

Maybe – just – maybe – Texas should start winterizing their power grid for a start. Significant reforms to ERCOT will come, and it wouldn’t shock us if a movement begins to push the power operator to tie its grid into the rest of the nation’s.

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Thanks for the report, Paul…I figured you would give us a logical explanation of what happened!! :wink: You were in my thoughts, hoping you were o.k.!! :innocent:

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Just wanted to mention that YouAreFreeTV was on fire in her last two videos showing how the Disaster COULD have been avoided…but on a directive the Gov. received from “above” it all happened!! :woozy_face:

Thanks to a friend for a link to the following analysis of the Texas power outage.

Apparently, one of the primary causes of failure was ERCOT getting behind in shedding load, as the grid became overloaded with electrical demand for heating, causing ERCOT to shut down some of the electrical supply essential to running the natural gas equipment, which in turn deprived some of the natural gas powered generating stations of their fuel source, which contributed to those stations then shutting down and having trouble with freezing equipment.

Er, eh, ERCOT - perhaps next time - don’t shut down power to portions of the grid essential to fueling the grid?

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