The Strategist

US Texas suffers from frost and unprecedented power cuts

02/18/2021 - 03:04

The US state of Texas, the country's biggest energy hub which is proud of its oil industry, was hit by a frost. It caused massive power outages that left millions of people without power and dealt a sensitive blow to the oil industry.

Highsmith, Carol M via picryl
Highsmith, Carol M via picryl
Nearly 75% of the country is covered with snow. Meanwhile, thermometers in Dallas, one of the biggest cities in the southern state of Texas, have reached minus 18 degrees Celsius. Temperatures have set records in North and South Dakota, Louisiana and Mississippi. In Texas (the largest producer of energy in the country) almost 4 million people remain without light, thousands are deprived of access to an electricity in other states.

It is Texas that has suffered the most: water pipes are bursting because of frosts in the state that is not used to them, and if water does get into houses without central heating, it freezes right there.

Because of the cold, local residents have tried to heat their homes with electric heaters, and the increased load on the grid has caused it to fail.

According to local power engineers, the load exceeded the record levels of the summer months, when air conditioners are everywhere. Instead of the rolling blackouts promised by the authorities, there have been chaotic and therefore sudden blackouts.

The increased demand for electricity was compounded by serious generation problems: for example, one of the reactors at a nuclear power plant in the south of the state shut down, depriving the local grid of 1.35 GW of capacity. The management company explained that the pressure measuring system for the water supplied to cool the reactor had failed due to the cold weather. The problem of conventional power was compounded by the problems of green energy: sub-zero temperatures caused almost half of the state's wind power generators to shut down.

Oil production dropped by 1 million barrels per day: well and pipeline operations were also hampered by freezing temperatures, and total oil production dropped by a third. For the sake of saving electricity, the country's largest refinery in the city of Port Arthur is closed. 

Because of the blackout, many conservative politicians and political commentators have called for a shift away from an overemphasis on renewable energy.  

The local energy agency, meanwhile, is not giving a precise answer as to when the problems will end, only that they are trying to avoid a complete collapse of the grid: if that happens, it could take a very long time to recover. Texas cities warn that if the situation worsens, power to hospitals and fire stations could be cut off.