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    Staples: Critical to nation and world, Texas natural gas sector is winter ready

    December 6, 2022 - Todd Staples


      The Texas natural gas industry is a powerhouse, producing more natural gas than any other state in the nation—and the world is literally knocking at our door in energy need. In addition to cementing America's energy security, Texas' natural gas producers, pipelines, refiners, and exporters are playing an essential role in delivering stability in the form of affordable, reliable energy to our trade partners, even in times of continued global unrest.

      Part of our state's ability to deliver at home and abroad has to do with the sheer volume of natural gas produced here, our vast and growing infrastructure, and our expanding liquified natural gas export capabilities. On the production side, Texas currently produces about 29 billion cubic feet per day of marketed natural gas, up 38% from 10 years ago and 27% of the total natural gas produced in the United States.

      Those production figures are only projected to grow as our liquified natural gas (LNG) export facilities further expand as global buyers seek out our reliable, affordable energy supplies. LNG export facilities along the Gulf Coast like Cheniere, Freeport LNG, Golden Pass LNG, and Sempra LNG are in the planning stages, being built, established, or expanding to meet the world's growing demand for natural gas. This growth could push the North American natural gas market to triple in size over the next decade, according to U.K. research firm Wood Mackenzie.

      In addition to answering the call for our international energy trade partners, Texas produces more than enough natural gas every day to meet our needs here at home. For example, we only use about 5 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day for electricity, about 20% of the total produced daily. Even after supplying other users of natural gas like the manufacturing sector, Texas still has 544 billion cubic feet of natural gas in working storage capacity. That's enough to power the state for months.

      Given how many families, states and nations depend on purchasing available Texas natural gas, it's important to know the lengths to which every sector of the industry goes to be prepared for weather and other emergencies. It's also important to consider what users of natural gas, like power generators, can and should do to best weather any storm.

      Every year, the natural gas supply chain undergoes extensive planning and preparations for extreme weather including methanol injections, heat tracing, insulation, shelters, wind walls, and for many assets, around the clock monitoring—all to prevent freezing. Even with preparedness plans in place, Winter Storm Uri taught every sector of our economy painful lessons, including operators in the natural gas supply chain for natural gas power plants. One of the most profound lessons was that much of our industry was not eligible for critical load (CL) designation to maintain power during an electricity load shed event.

      Fortunately, Texas lawmakers corrected this error, and the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) now has a process that mandates CL designation for the most critical natural gas assets and related systems. And starting December 1, operators with facilities that are required to weatherize will share their emergency preparedness plans with the RRC, including considerations for how each operator will protect their employees, the environment and their equipment when implementing their plans.

      Still, history has shown us that even when power stays on and no matter the level of weatherization, daily oil and natural gas production can drop anywhere between 10% and 30% during extreme weather. This means that users who rely on daily access to natural gas must prepurchase and preplan to have the volumes they need during these rare but inevitable times. Other jurisdictions that do not have access to "just in time" natural gas daily production, like many in Europe, have been buying and storing natural gas all year long, as they do every year.

      A reliable electricity grid is vital to the oil and natural gas industry. Not only are we producers of irreplaceable fuels, but the industry includes some of the biggest electricity consumers in the state. Just like every homeowner, our processing plants, refineries, and production cannot function without electricity. Our ability to operate is directly tied to our ability to meet the nation and the world's energy needs, no matter the temperature, and we are doing our part to be winter ready.

      Editor's Note: The above guest column was penned by Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Staples can be reached by email via:


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