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Texas rules spurred by February freeze would designate critical gas infrastructure

Highlights

Information sharing between suppliers and customers sought

Power entities could prioritize restoration during emergencies

Texas regulators proposed new rules Sept. 14 that would designate certain natural gas transportation and end-user infrastructure in the state as critical operators during energy emergencies.

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The rules were prompted by two bills submitted by the state Legislature in response to the freeze disaster in February that led to widespread electricity blackouts across Texas that lasted as long as four days.

Some power and gas infrastructure malfunctioned, couldn't operate at full capacity or were not ready to meet demand during the coldest weather to hit Texas in decades. For power generators, the state Public Utility Commission is considering rules that would address their responsibilities for winterizing equipment to prevent future emergencies.

Among other things, the rules proposed by the Texas Railroad Commission for gas infrastructure would require for designated companies that critical customer information be shared between suppliers of natural gas and consumers of natural gas that use gas for power generation. Only facilities that are prepared to operate during a weather emergency can be designated as critical infrastructure under the rules.

Under the proposed rules, electric entities would have discretion to prioritize power delivery and power restoration among the facilities and entities designated as critical customers and critical gas suppliers by the Railroad Commission.

A public comment period runs until Nov. 1.

The operational disruptions due to the February freeze extended beyond homes and businesses, as US LNG exports were also significantly affected. Feedgas demand fell to the lowest level in two years during the blackouts in Texas and widespread outages that also occurred in Louisiana.

Freeport LNG, south of Houston, shut down the facility temporarily after being asked to conserve power, to allow for more energy to remain on the Texas grid to meet heating demand. The facility is the only liquefaction terminal in the US that uses exclusively electric motors instead of natural gas turbines to drive its liquefaction compressors.

At the height of the freezing weather, pipeline deliveries to US Gulf Coast export facilities were hampered as operators declared various force majeures due to horsepower issues at compressor stations.