Texas is preparing for a blast of arctic weather just 22 months after a deadly freeze cut power to millions of homes and businesses in the Lone Star State.
The National Weather Service says that temperatures in Odessa, which is in the middle of Texas’s Permian Basin, will start to drop on Thursday and drop to 25 F (-4 C) by late Friday. Tom Kines, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc., said that next week, the central US, including Texas, will be hit by a bulge in the polar vortex that could break regional records from 1983.
The most productive shale field in the world is in danger from the weather in the Arctic. A Texas regulator told oil and gas companies on Thursday to “secure all personnel, equipment, and facilities” because wellheads can freeze and pipeline pumping stations can lose power.
The longer-term forecast, which is likely to change, says that the low temperature in Dallas next week could drop to 8 F, while the low temperature in Houston could drop to 18 F. It’s part of a weather system that could make it even colder in Chicago and bring snow to New York City.
Early signs show that the latest freeze in Texas won’t be as bad as the blast that broke the grid in the state in February 2021, but Kines says it will “be close.”
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High need for electricity
The North American Electric Reliability Corp., a group that looks at the risk of blackouts, said Thursday that severe winter weather could put a lot of pressure on Texas’s power grid.
Mark Olson, a reliability manager at NERC, said, “The effect it can have on generators and the way demand can rise quickly in cold weather can lead to load risk.”
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which runs the grid in the state, thinks that the most power will be used on December 22, when about 61.3 gigawatts will be used. That would be less than what Ercot says the high will be this winter, which is 67 gigawatts. (An earlier forecast noted that on December 22, the peak demand would be 72.5 gigawatts.)
Almost two years after the first freeze, the grid is still being watched. Since then, officials in the state have ordered several changes, such as making sure power plants can run in freezing weather. Ercot said in a statement Thursday that it “expects sufficient generation” to meet the predicted demand for electricity next week.