Texas Faces Arctic Blast 22 Months After Freeze Knocked Out Power

(Bloomberg) — Texas is bracing for a blast of arctic conditions just 22 months after a deadly freeze knocked power out for millions of homes and businesses in the Lone Star State.

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Temperatures in Odessa, in the heart of Texas’s Permian Basin, are forecast to begin falling Thursday and dip to 25 F (-4 C) by late Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Next week, the central US — including Texas — will be gripped by a bulge in the polar vortex that could challenge regional records that date to 1983, said Tom Kines, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc.

Arctic weather poses grave threats to the world’s most prolific shale field. Because wellheads can freeze and pipeline pumping stations can lose power, a Texas regulator on Thursday urged oil and gas companies to “secure all personnel, equipment, and facilities.”

The longer-term forecast, which is far enough out that it’s liable to change, calls for lows in Dallas to plunge to as low as 8 F next week, while Houston could see temperatures fall to 18 F. It’s part of a weather system that may bring even colder arctic conditions to Chicago — and potentially snow to New York City.

Early signs suggest the latest Texas freeze won’t be quite as bad as the blast that broke the state’s grid in February 2021 — though it will “be close,” Kines said.

High electricity demand

The North American Electric Reliability Corp., a commission responsible for assessing blackout risks, warned Thursday that extreme winter weather could lead to major stresses on Texas’s power grid.

“The effect it can have on generators — and the way demand can rise sharply in cold weather — can lead to load risk,” said Mark Olson, a reliability manager at NERC.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas — the state’s grid operator — expects power demand to peak Dec. 22 at about 72.5 gigawatts. That would exceed the high of about 67 gigawatts that it had forecast this winter.

The grid remains under scrutiny almost two years after the earlier freeze. Officials in the state have since ordered several reforms, including that power-plants can operate in the extreme cold. In a statement Thursday, Ercot said it “expects sufficient generation” to meet next week’s power-demand forecast.

–With assistance from Josh Saul and Mark Chediak.

(Updates with Texas regulator’s warning in 3rd paragraph.)

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