Society of Petroleum Engineers: “The Texas Power Failure — What Went Wrong and Why?” 0900 CST Today

Guest “public service message” by David Middleton

H/T to Big Oil Bob…

SPE Live: The Texas Power Failure — What Went Wrong and Why?

25 February 2021 | 0900 CST

Oil prices peaked at a 13 month high this month, stimulated by the Texas freeze which closed wells in the United States’ biggest oil producing state. The cold snap caused mayhem across Texas, with nearly 4 million homes and businesses experiencing power shortages. The National Weather Service (NWS) announced that more than 150 million Americans are were under winter storm warnings.

As the cold snap continues, the blame game continues to peak, with waggling fingers pointing at each other across the energy mix. The Texas power grid, powered primarily by natural gas and wind turbines saw natural gas shortages and frozen turbines bringing power generation to a near halt. Notwithstanding, iced-over coal and nuclear plants didn’t have much success either — Cue the blame game. As electricity supply and demand factors knocked heads, spot electricity prices skyrocketed and one interesting/yet sad, take away is that at one point, charging your Tesla could have cost you $900! So what went wrong and could this have been preempted? Tune in live to find out!

The conversation is set to be moderated by Trent Jacobs, Digital Editor of the Journal of Petroleum Technology.

How to Watch:

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Society of Petroleum Engineers

The broadcast can be viewed live on LinkedIn or subsequently viewed on YouTube. I will update the post with the video later today.

SPE membership is not a prerequisite for viewing this or other broadcast events.

Update: Video Now Available

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dodgy geezer
February 25, 2021 1:30 am

It is still far to early to gather definitive data about this. We are still in the ‘avoidance of blame’ phase. Give it at least a couple of months…

dodgy geezer
Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 1:54 am

I suspect that the ‘conclusions’ will be:

1 – not the fault of wind

2 – we need more wind

3 – we need more money spent on wind for winter research….

Reply to  dodgy geezer
February 25, 2021 2:29 am

We recently had one of our state politicians here in Australia hand over $AU10MILLION to a Chinese windfarm manufacturer.

Maybe if you ask him nicely he will help you out too. 🙂

We the taxpayers are extremely generous in regard to handing out money to all and sundry, just ask our government.

Reply to  Megs
February 25, 2021 3:14 pm


I take it you’re not a fan of Matt Kean

Reply to  Lrp
February 26, 2021 3:04 am

Who are we to vote for in these upcoming elections Lrp?

We voted for party members who were at one time, left of centre at least, and at arms length of the Labor Party.

They have moved so far to the left that we can no longer distinguish the differences between the two major parties.

Turnbull stabbed our true centre right moderate Abbott in the back, then dragged the party to the left and proceeded to lose the seats the Abbott had gained.

So much arrogance, he still can’t see that the people neither liked him nor wanted him as their PM.

We were glad to see the back of him when he was ousted, and although Morrison wouldn’t have been our first pick if we’d had a choice, at least he wasn’t Turnbull.

When the time came for us reaffirm Morrison as PM the single most reason we voted for him was his stance against renewables. He went against the main platform of the opposition and he won.

Morrison has betrayed us right royally. He will not win the next election.

It’s devastating to see him hand out the subsidies for renewable energy, him and Kean selling out our country in total ignorance of the environmental, economic and humanitarian damage being done globally, directly as a result of the renewables industry.

How absurd is it that their advisors are all biased towards renewables. Their advice is not based on broad and honest research, it’s pure marketing.

Sorry Lrp, a short answer would have been,

“Does it show?”

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 4:16 am

I have to say, I was left scratching my head when I was reading about how, when the frequency dropped to the critical level, the automatic response was to shut down power plants, instead of to shut off customers.
Maybe someone can explain the logic of that to me…or maybe I misunderstood what was being said.

Which reminds me of something else I was wondering about.
Back in the 1980s, and in fact more recently as well, I seem to recall that one strategy of dealing with excessive demand situations that threatened to exceed generating capacity, was to reduce the voltage on the grid, which has the net effect of lowering consumption of power and thus energy usage across a variety of load types.
What were called brownouts.
But I heard nothing about this strategy being employed in Texas in this case.

Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 10:26 am

re: “There are a lot of questions that need to be answered. We were supposedly within 5 minutes of total grid failure.”

Hype and clickbait; The mainstay of media today. I’m not buying the “5 minutes to doomsday” narrative. We had generation online and working that first day, just NOT enough to meet all demand, so, that ‘extra’ demand gets “axed”. Doomsday? That’s Ercot’s job # one, to avoid that scenario, by managing supply (limited that day) versus load (WHICH is a variable under some control via “load shedding” when required.)

Big Al
Reply to  _Jim
February 25, 2021 2:26 pm

Biden canceled President’s EO involving China not interfering in USA power grid. About ? three days? later…..Snow in Tx. Yes, I believe the shutdown could have been VERY REAL.

Paul C
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
February 25, 2021 5:13 am

I believe the automatic response of generators to grid frequency fluctuation is considered safety-critical as there is a large rotating mass which cannot instantly chance speed. The automatic load shedding response should be set with tighter limits to prevent this happening. Looks like a crucial failure to cut off load.
I think the whole structure of electrical grids has moved on from the older, more robust grids we used to have, and the electronic control systems provide both advantages and disadvantages. Non-synchronous power attempts to maintain the voltage without affecting frequency, so a voltage drop may no longer function as expected on a grid..
In the UK during the miners strikes of the 1970’s, both frequency and voltage were allowed to drop beyond their normal parameters. Frequency was made up over night to bring synchronous mains powered clocks back into alignment. That would probably no longer be possible. (Disclaimer: Not an electrician – just an interested individual).

David Thompson
Reply to  Paul C
February 25, 2021 5:36 am

Voltage is less important than phase on the power grid. A generator has to be ahead, leading phase, in order to supply power to the inductive power distribution system. All power input to the grid tends to increase the frequency and loads tend to decrease it. Thing is the non-synchronous generators tend to adjust phase based on available power, without regard to grid needs. Really a lot of spooky vector math. Think of the grid like a man powered warship with some crew pulling oars and some just riding. And half of them can’t hear the drum.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  David Thompson
February 25, 2021 6:25 am

Very apt analogy!

Reply to  David Thompson
February 25, 2021 10:32 am

True. If the phase lead drops too low at the generators, it ends up lagging excessively at the consumer end and electric motors can overheat or possibly burn up.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Paul C
February 25, 2021 6:42 am

Normally if a plant trips out the inertia in the system will slow the frequency drop enough to allow extra fuel to increase generation at working stations for long enough until fast start backup generation can take over, and the frequency drop gets arrested long before blackouts become necessary. When you lose those protections then the only way to restore balance is to go straight to load shedding.

Protection was not there because there wasn’t enough available capacity to give any spare headroom. At $9,000/MWh there was also a huge incentive to turn plants up to 11 and pray. It seems that the grid control room was being macho about avoiding imposing power cuts. They had been running under frequency and praying.

David A
Reply to  It doesn't add up...
February 25, 2021 8:48 am

I would like very much to hear how prices are set. 9k per /MWh should never happen regardless. I am very much a free enterprise advocate, yet I also agree with laws to prevent people from selling crucial materials at way above market in any emergency.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  David A
February 25, 2021 9:45 am

That is why things like water and electricity have been considered public services and regulated as public utilities. A line has to be walked between providing a profit incentive to encourage investment, and providing reliability and affordability to the public.

Tsk Tsk
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
February 25, 2021 11:12 am

The consequences for a private entity with competition failing to provide reliable service are infinitely greater than the consequences of a public one. Water and power are generally regulated public utilities (monopolies) because the argument is it’s too inefficient to have competition in those services, i.e. it isn’t worth the cost to have multiple sets of water lines going to your house.

David A
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
February 25, 2021 12:33 pm

I agree Clyde, and 9 k is way past the line, yet how is the price in this scenario set? I am very suspicious it is anything but free enterprise. I am certain any generating company would produce all possible at far less.

Reply to  David A
February 25, 2021 1:52 pm

Prices typically jump to extreme levels whenever there are shortages. The worse the shortage, the higher the prices.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  MarkW
February 25, 2021 2:04 pm

Some new info emerging from congressional hearings:
Computer Glitch Necessitated $9,000 Energy Price: Texas Update (

David A
Reply to  MarkW
February 25, 2021 3:00 pm

Mark, that is much to vague. Many things don’t do that at such an extreme level at the wholesale or retail level. I want to know how the energy market functions in Texas, who sets the price, what are the rules governing it.

Tsk Tsk
Reply to  David A
February 25, 2021 11:16 am

Government interference in markets is exactly why TX overbuilt wind and underbuilt reliable thermal baseload. Anti-“gouging” laws don’t work for the same reason. You’re entitled to walk away from any trade deal (including electrical spot prices). You’re not entitled to dictate the terms of the sale for both parties. As long as the seller committed no fraud or theft, the price they offer is their choice and theirs alone.

David A
Reply to  Tsk Tsk
February 25, 2021 12:40 pm

So in a hurricane I can sale plywood for 500 dollars a sheet, etc…??

Add the word stupid to your first sentence, and I agree. And true, as Milton Friedman said, ” only the government can create a sand shortage in the desert ”

Yet in this world there are no absolutes, and although government is a necessary evil, the operative word is necessary.

If you know how the price is determined in this case, please share.

All the Best…

Reply to  David A
February 25, 2021 1:54 pm

Why shouldn’t you be allowed to sell plywood for whatever people are willing to pay?
When government artificially holds down prices in an emergency, this teaches people that they don’t need to have their own reserves.

David A
Reply to  MarkW
February 25, 2021 3:02 pm

Because in an emergency it is both immoral and illegal.

Reply to  David A
February 26, 2021 8:34 am

1) What constitutes an emergency? (sp. the market or governing body of the jurisdiction)
2) What if you have 4 x 8 stock but don’t offer it for sale during the declared emergency, would that be immoral and/or illegal?
3) What makes the $500 example immoral or illegal?

Reply to  Tsk Tsk
February 25, 2021 2:23 pm

Most people aren’t checking the spot prices prior to turning on the lights and heat pump. It’s just kind of assumed that the power company isn’t going to jack prices up to the stratosphere. Now we know that’s not the case in TX.

Reply to  David A
February 25, 2021 1:51 pm

Think of it like an auction.
Those with extra power put it up for sale, and the power goes to the highest bidder.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  MarkW
February 25, 2021 2:09 pm

Testimony today to the effect that while the price was spiking, a “glitch” at ERCOT was telling suppliers that the price was falling, and with nat gas prices spiking through the roof, some power providers declined to increase generation.
Also they seem to be saying that $9K was a cap imposed by the gubmint.
Computer Glitch Necessitated $9,000 Energy Price: Texas Update (

David A
Reply to  MarkW
February 25, 2021 3:03 pm

So who actually bid? And who tried to bid and failed?

Reply to  It doesn't add up...
February 25, 2021 10:53 am

re: “At $9,000/MWh there was also a huge incentive to turn plants up to 11 and pray.”

Bear in mind this is incremental or margin ‘spot’ pricing on the last MWh added to the system; the previous MWs ‘in’ the system are going for a previously agreed upon price. Think of it in the same way as a marginal tax rate is thought of, that last dollar you make that puts you into the next tax bracket ONLY for that last extra dollar earned.

David A
Reply to  _Jim
February 25, 2021 12:43 pm

I know of no specific cases of equipment destruction incurred due to doing all possible to maximise output in an emergency such as this.

Do you know the specific process of how prices are set in this situation?

Reply to  David A
February 25, 2021 1:55 pm

_Jim told you.
Prices aren’t set by anyone. Produces sell what they have to the highest bidder.

David A
Reply to  MarkW
February 25, 2021 3:06 pm

Again, who are the bidders, who won the bid, who lost? It is a public function heavily laced with regulations, and I have yet to read a clear description of the price discovery process.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  _Jim
February 25, 2021 1:59 pm

So an additional 50MW on a 1GW plant makes $450,000 an hour, $10.8m a day.

Reply to  Paul C
February 25, 2021 9:28 am

re: “Frequency was made up over night to bring synchronous mains powered clocks back into alignment. That would probably no longer be possible.”


We were 52 seconds slow two days after the mon and tue events last week, we’re back at just -1.2 seconds when I checked a moment ago …

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Paul C
February 25, 2021 11:47 am

The automatic load shedding response should be set with tighter limits to prevent this happening. Looks like a crucial failure to cut off load.”
I did not state my comment very clearly.
This was exactly my point.
But I am not sure if what I have read is the whole story.
One thing seems for sure, when supply was being cut before load was being shed, the problem gets worse, not better.
Did they just wait too long to shed load?
And like I was wondering (but not really knowing one way or the other), did they lower voltage to shed load?
There was one article where people had to get on the phone and give instructions to other people to begin shedding load.
I am not sure about how rapidly this situation occurred, but making phone calls takes time.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
February 25, 2021 11:48 am

It sounded to me that the people doing the monitoring did not have the ability to take immediate real time steps from their control room.

David A
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
February 25, 2021 12:46 pm

?amber power alerts???

dodgy geezer
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
February 25, 2021 5:22 am

“…when the frequency dropped to the critical level, the automatic response was to shut down power plants, instead of to shut off customers.
Maybe someone can explain the logic of that to me…or maybe I misunderstood what was being said….”

Power demanded by a Grid, and hence power that must be put into it, is not static. It varies continually. So an operator needs to run with some reserve generation to allow for this. When the limits of this reserve are reached, customers are removed to maintain the Grid in an operational state. This was happening.

In such a situation, deliverable power will be near its maximum point. If, at that point, some generators fail to input to the Grid, for whatever reason, the grid will start to ’empty of electricity’ (metaphor!). This manifests itself by the frequency dropping. If a power station tries to pump power into an ’empty’ grid, it will rapidly overload, and equipment will be damaged. To prevent this, the frequency at the power station is monitored, and if it falls below a set figure, the generating equipment will be automatically switched off.

This can then result in a cascade failure, as all the power stations automatically switch off.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  dodgy geezer
February 25, 2021 2:20 pm

The sequence of events you describe may be what happened.
But it is not consistent with much of what has been reported ands discussed here.
Of course I understand and know what you just said…the question is why was not load shed first, in time to prevent plants tripping off.
You are saying that load was shed and plants tripped anyway.
Then not enough load was shed, right?
In any case, much of the congressional testimony today from the people involved is contradictory and also at odds with what is being said on WUWT threads.

I understand power, what I am trying to figure out is if there is incorrect or incomplete info being disseminated, or if there were things going on that no one has mentioned yet, or if there was mismanagement, or if there were policies imposed that caused something to occur that did not need to happen?

IOW…I am not in the dark about technical aspects of the grid, I wondering if and why things were done that make no sense?
Like turning off power to places where the gas pipeline compressors were located.
And those compressors had no generator backup?
Why and why?

David Thompson
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
February 25, 2021 5:53 am

Resistive loads, like the emergency heat in a heat pump system, would incrementally draw less power in a brown out. On average over a large number of customers demand for heat won’t change and so the power demand won’t either. A motor, such as a compressor, will simply draw more current as the voltage goes down because it’s speed, and load, are a function of the frequency.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  David Thompson
February 25, 2021 11:08 am

Yes, I understand very well about how different types of loads react to variations in the power supply.
That is why I made sure to point out that only certain types of loads will draw less power when voltage is lowered.
But lights will be dimmer.
And the coil in your heater, or dryer, or hot water heater, will not get as hot.
Such systems are thermostatically controlled, but are generally either on or off.
Over a longer period of time, yes the coil will remain energized for longer and this will tend to cancel out the decrease in wattage caused by lower voltage.
But the idea is to keep failures from occurring. A series of short term steps while other problems are addressed.
When power stations shut down due to frequency drop, this led to less power and a progressive worsening of the underlying issue.
Unless it was also true that a whole bunch of people were also disconnected at the same time.
I did not see it mentioned that this is what occurred.
Shedding capacity instead of load is the opposite of how to bring such a situation under control.
Lowering voltage will instantly decrease load, unless all the load is motors and the like.

Motors are sized and engineered to run at reduced voltage if they have to.
A properly selected motor will be a 200 volt motor when the nominal voltage is 208. And a properly engineered 200 volt motor is able to operate at any voltage within 10% of the nameplate voltage.
(Same for other voltages.)
This is because operating at a voltage near the lower limit can quickly destroy a motor, so there is plenty of wiggle room built in when things are done right.
Some devices will be damaged if the voltage drops too much, and sometimes this damage can be severe, causing complete loss of function.
So there is a limit to how much it can be dropped and retain a margin of safety.
I think grid operators know where there are large percentages of inductive loading, vs locations that do not have that.
They have to account for the power factor after all.

Paul C’s comment was just what I was thinking…load should be shed before entire power stations need to be shut off.
They waited too long to institute rotating blackouts, and I have seen no mention of lowering voltage…although they may have done this.
Or it may be that the amount of loading had already lowered voltage at the load end of the grid by as much as was permissible.
We need more info, which will only become available over time.

The basic problem is that the resilience of the system has been reduced.
And it may be there was poor management and possibly even some incompetency.
Maybe not.
But maybe.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
February 25, 2021 6:00 am

You have misunderstood the sequence of events. The grid just squeaked by providing peak evening demand around 8 p.m. because there was still about 8GW of wind generation. After that demand started to fall as dinner was over, the kids went to bed, and the the adults switched off the TV and did likewise. But most of the demand was still there for heating. Meanwhile wind speeds slackened, losing about 3GW of generation, narrowing the headroom from lower demand.

There are signs of individual plants tripping out with problems in the hour after midnight. That left no spare capacity, and we see after 1 a.m. frequency was consistently low. There was no spare generation to boost it. This is when ERCOT should have started imposing rolling blackouts so that there would have been some spare capacity to absorb the next plant failure.

When the next plant failure happened at about 1:52a.m. because there was no reserve available, frequency fell far and fast enough to trip out several other plants in the seconds afterwards, which only made the problem much bigger. Only when frequency finally got down to 59.3Hz were automated load shed trips triggered.

David A
Reply to  It doesn't add up...
February 25, 2021 8:52 am

I think the 3 Gw wind was an average over several hours. I believe it went considerably lower at some point. One day averages, even 12 hour averages, hide the peaks and lows.

Reply to  David A
February 25, 2021 9:36 am

re: “I think the 3 Gw wind was an average over several hours. I believe it went considerably lower at some point.”

Wind was 5,400 MW thereabouts Monday morning early like 1 AM, and 4,500 MW the next morning ~ 7 AM ish.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  David A
February 25, 2021 11:20 am

I did a chart of the hour by hour changes in generation

The changes in wind were fairly gradual, and small compared with only days previously. I also checked out wind speeds at Amarillo, Lubbock, Abilene, Dallas, Houston, Corpus Christi and near Brownsville, which showed wind speeds gradually dying away. Entirely consistent with the numbers I downloaded for wind generation from the EIA in MW

2/14/2021 4 p.m. CST 9101 2/14/2021 5 p.m. CST 8957 2/14/2021 6 p.m. CST 9015 2/14/2021 7 p.m. CST 8261 2/14/2021 8 p.m. CST 8087 2/14/2021 9 p.m. CST 7642 2/14/2021 10 p.m. CST 7083 2/14/2021 11 p.m. CST 6341 2/15/2021 12 a.m. CST 5450 2/15/2021 1 a.m. CST 5350 2/15/2021 2 a.m. CST 5205 2/15/2021 3 a.m. CST 5154 2/15/2021 4 a.m. CST 5214 2/15/2021 5 a.m. CST 4828 2/15/2021 6 a.m. CST 4612 2/15/2021 7 a.m. CST 4300 2/15/2021 8 a.m. CST 4512 2/15/2021 9 a.m. CST 4409 2/15/2021 10 a.m. CST 4386 2/15/2021 11 a.m. CST 3969 2/15/2021 12 p.m. CST 3185 2/15/2021 1 p.m. CST 2605 2/15/2021 2 p.m. CST 2537 2/15/2021 3 p.m. CST 2323 2/15/2021 4 p.m. CST 1944 2/15/2021 5 p.m. CST 1690 2/15/2021 6 p.m. CST 1185 2/15/2021 7 p.m. CST 788 2/15/2021 8 p.m. CST 649

Yes, wind became essentially useless by 8 p.m. on the 15th, so even if the system had survived with no trips until then it would have been short of 74GW actual demand by around 12GW (assuming that the intertie supply was not available, and that the rest of generation maxed out as it did on 14th for 8 p.m.)

You will see that when the major system trips occurred wind output was fairly stable, only eroding very slowly. It did not cause the trips. It was simply inadequate to make up for the optimistic assumption about the amount of dispatchable capacity ERCOT needed to meet a cold snap, and it ended up falling well short of their assumption that wind could provide 6GW of equivalent firm capacity.

ERCOT Hourly Changes in Generation.png
Reply to  It doesn't add up...
February 25, 2021 9:34 am

re: “This is when ERCOT should have started imposing rolling blackouts so that there would have been some spare capacity to absorb the next plant failure.”

Do you have a plot of demand versus supply? I don’t recall reserve showing less than a 1,000 MW on the main page, and wind was about 5,400 MW at that time too. About 1:17 PM when I went to bed early that Monday morning.

I’ve got screen caps on an iPhone of that time period too of the supply vs demand curves.

Komerade Cube
Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 10:17 am

This picture looks like “wind saved the day.”

Paul Johnson
Reply to  Komerade Cube
February 25, 2021 12:45 pm

The crisis was from Feb 15th to 17th. Wind recovered too late to do any good.

Komerade Cube
Reply to  Paul Johnson
February 25, 2021 7:38 pm

Then I guess wind didn’t save the day. Why did generation drop so precipitously ~21st?

Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 10:19 am

re: “and demand was well-within the 3,000 MW margin to trigger rotating outages.”

That’s not the only criteria; I don’t think you often check the Ercot website when things run ‘tight’ on the supply side.

There was a steady decline in electricity production ALL that morning from 1 AM onward. I have watched during our summers when 3,000 MW showed as the ‘margin’ and we did not have rotating/rolling blackouts. A steadily eroding situation was facing Ercot that morning.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  _Jim
February 25, 2021 11:26 am

Do you mean real demand, or demand that was fulfilled? What we do have is some sort of plot of frequency. Here’s the full unfortunately low resolution plot

comment image

which comes from this link that I first posted here several days ago:

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  Itdoesn't add up...
February 25, 2021 12:28 pm

That got posted by mistake before I had finished the comment. Continuing: the link is

It’s worth noting that the particular stations captioned in their report are two gas fired and one coal fired, and there was at least one other caught in the same major trip.

If you zoom in on the period prior to the big frequency dip at 1:52 you will see that frequency is failing to stay up close to 60Hz as it managed to do before. That means that supply was already less than demand and there was nothing to spare. How do I know it was at 1:52? Because someone saved this at Wayback:

which shows that at 1:52:36, frequency was 59.334 Hz, while wind maintained a steady 5,148MW (in line with other figures – no dip to cause a trip), and there were some intertie imports to add to generation (about 1.2GW in total) to add to total supply, and confirms that the grid had already been struggling, being some 25.41 seconds behind on the frequency clock.

For an impression of how much demand really remained unsatisfied, try this from ERCOT via the EIA:

ERCOT supply demand intertie.png
Reply to  It doesn't add up...
February 25, 2021 10:44 am

A few notable ‘data points’ extracted from the “Operations Messages” page on the Ercot website (what follows is their dispatch):

Update for loss of generation on February 15, 2021.

On February 15, 2021, a sudden loss of generation occurred at 01:54 totaling 528 MW. Frequency declined to 59.306 Hz, ERCOT load was 61, 788 MW.

Another sudden loss of generation occurred at 01:57 totaling 924 MW. Frequency declined to 59.600 Hz, ERCOT load was 60, 035 MW.

Another sudden loss of generation occurred at 05:27 totaling 1389 MW. Frequency declined to 59.775 Hz, ERCOT load was 52, 458 MW.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  _Jim
February 25, 2021 1:53 pm

Experience tells me that such logs are a bit notional on timing, and often inadequate on content. Compare the official REMIT announcements with the reality determined from the frequency plot for the UK August 2019 blackout I posted below.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  It doesn't add up...
February 25, 2021 11:15 am

What you said is exactly what I was talking about.
Load should be shed first, not last.
And one way to quickly shed load without blacking anyone out is to lower the voltage.
This has long been a standard industry practice.
What is a Brownout? | Payless Power

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
February 25, 2021 7:35 am

The operators own the plants, not the grid. When the frequency dips you have the option of
a) continuing to run out of the design parameters of your equipment until it breaks
b) shut down
As an operator you do not have the ability to turn off power to parts of Dallas. ERCOT does have that power, and exercised it to prevent a full grid breakdown.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  chadb
February 25, 2021 11:36 am

Obviously there has to be communication and coordination for things to be optimally managed.
In other places and other times, mostly the dim distant past, such situations were managed effectively.
The general sense I am getting from people that have info I do not have, is that things may not have been well managed when it was important to do so.
But IDK.

Of course they will not just let equipment fail.
But when supply is shut off before loads are reduced by whatever means, instead of only as a last resort, it is very predictable that it is not gonna help.
The customers were shut off. If they had been a little sooner, the supply would not have dropped as much.

Which reminds me of another issue I am wondering about.
If a plant is brought offline because or low grid frequency, or whatever, presumably the equipment is intact.
How long until they are able to restart?
Can they not shed enough load as quickly as possible to restore the proper frequency, then restart the plant?

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
February 25, 2021 11:40 am

Because it sounded to me, and I may be mistaken, that the stations that tripped out were not restarted anytime soon.
Wondering why, if they were shut off before any damage was done?

In the case of the nuclear plant that had frozen intakes, I think they could have had a very easy solution built in if they thought of it ahead of time…have the discharging now hot water be cycled back to the area of the intakes. Not all of it…just enough to keep the water from freezing.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  chadb
February 25, 2021 12:49 pm

I don’t think ERCOT exercised any power at all. They waited for the automated load shedding trips to occur before they did anything. Then they knew they had almost lost the whole grid, and they needed to be much more cautious. My suspicion is that the B team was left to run the control room overnight in the expectation that it would be much less challenging than the demand peak the next day, when the A team would be back on shift.

I note frequency went way high (60.6Hz) in the aftermath of the big trip, which is the result of not scaling back generation to the lowered demand after the blackouts. It’s a pity we don’t have some second by second stuff on frequency, but I bet some of the electricity traders have a good inside track. Compare teh sort of picture we were able to assemble for the UK’s August 2019 blackout (this from Kathryn Porter’s excellent Watt-Logic blog):

comment image

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
February 25, 2021 7:40 am

Brownouts are less effective in an age of digital power supplies.
They can also damage electric motors.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  MarkW
February 25, 2021 11:26 am

It can destroy motors.
When it is done intentionally, it is not done willy-nilly.
Some types of load will draw less power instantly when voltage is dropped.
Some of these are the largest power draw in many residences in cold weather.
Lots of bad things can happen under a variety of scenarios.
Like millions of people losing power in a severe freeze, having pipes freeze and homes get ruined, some people dying…

In any case I was requesting info, not stating that I knew what had occurred.
I only know what I have read.
I am only wondering if they used every tool in the toolbox.

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
February 25, 2021 2:01 pm

The largest draws are resistive heat. They may draw less power, but they will run longer. Overall, not much savings.

I was just pointing out that one reason why they may not have gone to brownouts was they aren’t as useful as they may have once been.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
February 25, 2021 8:30 am

The reason they autotrip at ~59.3HZ is to physically protect the generators themselves.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 25, 2021 11:19 am

Yes, I understand that.
The idea is to prevent it from happening by lowering demand before that occurs.
Lowering voltage is one tool for doing so.
My point was that if supply is shut off instead of loads being shed, the problem will necessarily escalate.
Shedding load before this occurs will mitigate.

Paul Johnson
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
February 25, 2021 12:41 pm

Different players. Local distribution companies control load. If they don’t reduce it enough, power generators shut down to protect their equipment.

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
February 25, 2021 2:54 pm

One explanation I read regarding nat gas boils down to pilot lights and liability.

Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 5:01 am

I generally agree with your points David.

I believe that winterizing your Natural Gas systems is practical, cost-efficient and necessary – especially if I’m correct about global cooling.

The good people of Texas and the mid-continent now understand what we’ve known since forever: “Grid reliability matters – a lot!” If our idiot politicians would just repeat that 1000 times… “Learning the hard way.”

We elect to public office people who are far too stupid and corrupt to get real productive jobs.

Best, Allan

Correct Mark. We do not normally have Natural Gas line freezing problems in Alberta. where winter temperatures reach minus 40C, equal to minus 40F. If it is necessary to winterize your NG systems in Texas, the costs will be minimal and the results far more reliable compared to intermittent green alternatives.
Grid-connected wind power actually sucks – it wastes money and energy and degrades grid reliability.
A decade ago I tried to simplify this message for our idiot politicians and those who vote for them, and wrote:
“Wind power – it doesn’t just blow – it sucks!”
“Solar power – stick it where the Sun don’t shine!”
Apparently even these blunt messages were too difficult for them. Since then, trillions of dollars of scarce global resources have been squandered in foolish green energy schemes.

dodgy geezer
Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 5:27 am

“I think the conclusions will be:

  1. Natural gas supplies, from wellhead, to pipelines, to power plants, need to be more capable of coping “

Resilience is best obtained by storing the energy at the generating station, Coal and Nuclear generators do this, Gas does not.

I note that there was no mention of Wind and Solar in your suggested conclusions. There should be a mention that unreliable power supplies will always need to be backed up with reliable ones, but, unhappily, I suspect that this will be ignored….

David A
Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 8:59 am

Should they not be the first to say that their spare capacity is often absorbed by the un-reliables, and their costs are driven up trying to follow both grid loads variance and the un-reliables, and their equipment suffers with constant variability, as heating and cooling materials us hard on them.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  dodgy geezer
February 25, 2021 8:06 am

“Resilience is best obtained by storing the energy at the generating station, Coal and Nuclear generators do this, Gas does not.”

That should change unless they can guarantee the natural gas supply lines will function properly in any kind of weather.

Otherwise, the powerplants should keep an emergency supply on-site to keep their generators running. Cheap insurance, the State should pay for.

Joe Crawford
Reply to  Tom Abbott
February 25, 2021 10:29 am

“That should change unless they can guarantee the natural gas supply lines will function properly in any kind of weather.”

It’s more than just funny when they designed a system where the natural gas pumping stations run on electricity and the electricity providers (i.e., generators) run on natural gas. D’ya thing anyone will accept responsibility for that? I can see ’em running for cover already :<)

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Joe Crawford
February 25, 2021 12:59 pm

It’s kind of crazy.

One thing about it, I think Texas will find all its weak links in the power distribution network.

They should have backups for essential natural gas pumping facilities, and it looks like they should have had backup for all the city water systems that lost power and now people have to boil their water in order to drink.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Joe Crawford
February 25, 2021 2:31 pm

And the power plants do not keep a supply of fuel on hand, the gas pipeline compressor stations do not have back up generators, and then someone cut off power to the compressors, which then meant that producers did not have enough gas.
It sounds really bad.
Damage done is now being estimated at upwards of $129 billion!

Reply to  dodgy geezer
February 25, 2021 9:39 am

re: “I believe that winterizing your Natural Gas systems is practical, cost-efficient and necessary”

What are called “freeze-offs” occur at each individual producing wellhead and correcting that with Methyl alcohol injection at each wellhead is cost prohibitive and labor intensive for 1 in 10 year events even. Reading your comment its like you’re unaware of where the ‘freezing’ took place, and what the cure is.

Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 10:14 am

re: “Operators who were paying attention to the weather shut in production ahead of the storm.”

That doesn’t help production while IN the event, which was what Dodgy Geezer’s comment was about.

David A
Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 8:43 am

Regarding number 1; has the NG reduction in output increase due to cold been quantified?

So sadly there will be no conclusions about the folly of grid Wind generation?

Reply to  David A
February 25, 2021 9:59 am

NG generators can be designed to run on fuel oil as a backup fuel source. El Paso Electric does this on at least one of their stations. This would allow some run time until NG supply is restored.

Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 10:29 am

re: “ERCOT needs to have a better strategy for load-shedding.”

Individual local “line” companies (like Oncor, the various Co-ops, etc) are responsible for that; Ercot gives the order to each line operator (‘carrier’) in an area along with the amount to “shed”.

Reply to  dodgy geezer
February 25, 2021 5:08 am

Not from the SPE, at least credibly. The value here is to find out more about the preparedness of the Texas fossil fuel supply chain, how it could be improved, is it worth it to do so, and if so, how it might happen.

Phil Rae
Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 3:33 am

I’m sure it won’t have escaped your notice, David, that the SPE has been re-inventing itself in recent years with all kinds of genuflecting to the gods of green energy. Many of the major energy companies (eg BP, Shell, EM) are also publicly embracing the new religion with a pivot towards “renewables”, despite the extant realities.

I realise that this is mainly for PR and virtue signalling purposes (as well as accessing subsidies where available) but it certainly does nothing to help educate the general public about their absolute reliance on hydrocarbons for the foreseeable future.

It will, therefore, be interesting to hear what is said at this event.

Phil Rae
Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 9:04 am

Good for you! I hope you’ll report back to the folks at WUWT on the status of that technology, objectively. It’s difficult to filter out the facts from all the hype and promotion and, of course, the reality is that it adds a not-insignificant cost to energy prices, even in those cases where it might actually be feasible (ie proximity of suitable reservoir for injection, etc). The only way to make it “cost effective” is by hiking carbon taxes so that energy generators are forced to deal with their stack gases for economic reasons.

As we both know, there are valid EOR (Enhanced Oil Recovery) applications for CO2 injection in some hydrocarbon reservoirs but there are so many problems associated with large scale injection (scaling, corrosion, risk of leakage, etc) that it really is a niche market.

Anyway, we’d be better served by allowing the CO2 to go back into the atmosphere where it’s in short supply.

Phil Rae
Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 10:05 am

David……I’m interested to know how you guys handle the issues of corrosion and near wellbore precipitation, in particular, in these CO2 injection streams. Are you looking to inject in deep aquifers or in depleted oil/gas reservoirs and are you planning to use high chrome tubulars? Just curious…..thanks.

Reply to  Phil Rae
February 25, 2021 5:15 am

The companies, not the SPE.

I expect/hope that the broadcast will be a discussion of the incremental economics of hardening Texas fossil fuel (i.e. largely natural gas) deliverabilities, given the carrot/stick of $2500/day/household energy bills. If we devolve into boring (for non petroleum engineers) discussion about cost/benefit of downhole chemical injection, more manpower, more buried lines, etc., I’d be tickled to death..

Reply to  bigoilbob
February 25, 2021 9:42 am

re: “given the carrot/stick of $2500/day/household energy bills.”

Where do you see that? Some future point oin time, like 100 years?

Are you referring to the spike on the spot market of electricity pricing? That is a whole ‘nother animal.

Going with Griddy (spot market pricing) is a WHOLE ‘NOTHER thing.

Reply to  _Jim
February 25, 2021 10:38 am

Are you referring to the spike on the spot market of electricity pricing? That is a whole ‘nother animal.”

Yes. A few thousand $/household * a few million households, and you’re talking real money. Whether or not the rate payers have to pay, the producers eat it, the state as a whole gives it up, or some combo, I have NO idea. But that, the ~$50B in various losses, and whatever I’m overlooking, comprises a package of carrots/sticks that SHOULD result in changes…

Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 9:33 am

You got it exactly right. Interesting, but I overexpected. I guess we need to wait for hearings to get testimony from that west Texas E&P District Manager on what she actually went through earlier this month. Or for that matter from a wind turbine field manager on his quantified modes of failure.

Reply to  dodgy geezer
February 26, 2021 3:31 am

The blame will never be put where it lies, with politicians and regulators, but will focus on only external factors. Ask yourself why the other 49 states all pay to have reserve power ready and Texas does not? And why all the northers states can operate in far worse conditions?

Ron Long
February 25, 2021 2:01 am

Thanks, David. It will be interesting to see what they conclude, but I am fairly certain it won’t be “build more nuclear plants, they are very dependable”.

Paul Johnson
Reply to  Ron Long
February 25, 2021 12:49 pm

They will be dependable only if the NRC updates its design criteria for power stations in “warm” climates.

February 25, 2021 2:45 am

Final conclusions are that we need more committees and more money 🤪

February 25, 2021 4:13 am

I do look forward to the dispassionate, reasoned, objective point of view of people who make their money from fossil fuels. Perhaps you could quote Exxon next- well, this site does the next best thing by quoting Heartland, their mouthpiece, so not too much of a stretch. But hey! anyone who doesn’t love fossil fuels is a Marxist, right? That’s what I keep reading here.

However, the wintery conditions have frozen machinery at the state’s natural gas facilities, cutting daily gas production from around 24 billion cubic feet to just 12 billion cubic feet.

Reply to  TonyM
February 25, 2021 4:25 am

Don’t forget the $1500 minimum price that was mandated for extra supply.;)

Reply to  TonyM
February 25, 2021 4:39 am

I am not sure if that is true or false, but think of all the wasted money that poured into unreliable forms of energy like wind and solar.

Nobody would put unreliable fuel in their gas tank, but somehow grid operators are doing it more and more 🙁

Reply to  Derg
February 25, 2021 5:31 am

It’s mind-boggling. Reliability is still a consumer demand in most situations for most products but wind and solar get a pass.

Reply to  TonyM
February 25, 2021 4:55 am

Only in a parallel universe can this be described as a failure of natural gas.

As you can clearly see when wind dropped through the floor, natural gas kicked in to save the day

2021, Central Time.png
Reply to  Redge
February 25, 2021 5:20 am

Both things can be true. Tune in….

Tom Abbott
Reply to  bigoilbob
February 25, 2021 8:24 am

One difference between the natural gas and the wind is the natural gas allowed Texas to recover. The windmills were not capable of doing that.

Steven F
Reply to  Redge
February 25, 2021 1:33 pm

Texas has 67GW of natural gas generating capacity + 5GW of coal. The reset is nuclear solar and wind. You graph clearly shows that about 50% of the natural gas generating capcity went off line along with some coal, nuclear and wind. If all 67GW of natural gas stayed on the blackouts might have not occured.

David A
Reply to  Steven F
February 25, 2021 10:08 pm

If…? How about If a combination of coal nuclear and NG had been built to only 25 percent of winds nameplate capacity, and zero wind was built. Wow, billions of dollars saved and no crisis would have occurred, energy costs greatly reduce.

Reply to  TonyM
February 25, 2021 5:19 am

I do look forward to the dispassionate, reasoned, objective point of view of people who make their money from fossil fuels. \”

You might be surprised. The engineers are all about value addition. This time in the form of being rewarded for lowering the risk of another $50B loss. If the cost of doing o is low enough, then I have NO problem with the E&P’s and pipeliners profiting from spending the money to do so.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  bigoilbob
February 25, 2021 2:41 pm

I think first we need a good healthy period of finger pointing and ass covering.
Like we had today in congressional testimony.
The scale of the economic damage is now being reported as some $129 billion.
With more to come quite possibly.
I am wondering if any lessons will be learned, minds changed, things done differently, if any bouts of sanity will break out amongst people who have promoted policies that lead to this being so costly and deadly and damaging?

Paul C
Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 6:30 am

Just a thought. It would illustrate the data even more effectively if the size of the pie charts were scaled so the area was representative of the total supply,

Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 9:49 am

re: “Wind failed from Feb 9-18.”

Define “fail”

I recall seeing wind produce between 5,400 and 4,500 MW (nowhere installed wind/nameplate values) being produced according to realtime Ercot website that early Monday morning on to Tuesday. I was WAITING for those values to show zero, and they didn’t.

Patrick B
Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 6:43 am

And these types of charts are terribly misleading. The implication is that wind is just like natural gas. But electricity is not a month by month demand, electricity is a minute by minute demand. And if you look at the ERCOT wind integration reports you can see how useless wind is in responding to demand. This true throughout the year, but even more true in our big demand months of July and August. If you review the reports for those months, you will frequently see a pattern of wind power falling off just as demand peaks.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 8:28 am

“We do know that almost all of the wind & solar generation vanished from Feb 9-18, while natural gas and coal carried the load.”

That’s all we need to know to understand that windmills are not fit for purpose when it comes to base load power for the grid. Windmills need 100 percent backup from conventional powerplants.

Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 9:46 am

re: “There appear to have been failures from wellheads …”

Deja Vu, repeat of 1989 and 2011 in case you missed it.

Did you read the 2011 report? It can be found online.

Reply to  TonyM
February 25, 2021 7:49 am

Once again, Tony finds that the only way he can make his point is by lying about what others are saying. Then again, Tony knows that he can’t actually support his point.

Nobody has ever said that anyone who doesn’t love fossil fuels is a marxist. That’s your first lie. Pointing out that most of those who hate fossil fuels are marxists is just a fact. Deal with it.

Heartland is just a mouth piece for Exxon, there’s your second lie.

Using fact check for anything, that’s your third lie.

Quoting the BBC, now you’re just getting silly.

The output from natural gas power plants went up 450%, while the output from wind and solar dropped by more than half. Those are facts, that you conveniently ignore.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  TonyM
February 25, 2021 8:10 am

“But hey! anyone who doesn’t love fossil fuels is a Marxist, right?”

Not necessarily. They may just be seriously misinformed.

David A
Reply to  TonyM
February 25, 2021 9:05 am

I think your 50 percent reduction in NG was for generation only. AFAIK the major generating loss was due to diverting said NG to heating only.

None of this would have been an issued if 25 percent of wind capacity had been coal, nuclear or more NG. Wind failed completely, and winterization of Texas wind would not have helped.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  TonyM
February 25, 2021 9:50 am

Anyone who hates fossil fuels (i.e. Warmunists) is a moron.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
February 25, 2021 2:05 pm

Anyone who’s a Marxist is also a moron.

Reply to  TonyM
February 25, 2021 10:34 am

re: “I do look forward to the dispassionate, reasoned, objective point of view”

Citing three out-of-state orgs with little intimate familiarity with Texas energy isn’t going to do it …

Reply to  _Jim
February 25, 2021 2:06 pm

He starts out by insulting pretty much everyone who disagrees with him, then calls for dispassionate, reasoned and objective points of view.

Irony is totally lost on some.

Reply to  TonyM
February 25, 2021 11:16 am

the factcheck article says it all..

“First, Texas has an isolated network. The grid ERCOT manages, which handles about 90% of the state’s power supply, is the only statewide, standalone grid in the continental U.S. Other states are served by either the Eastern or Western interconnections. So, if Texas needs additional power, it can’t import from another system — except in some areas, such as El Paso and part of East Texas.

Second, the wholesale power market in Texas incentivizes investors to build power plants that sell electricity on the grid, but it doesn’t incentivize the development of back-up plants that can be tapped in emergency situations like this.

Third, while those who run the power system do what they can to plan for as many contingencies as they can, sometimes events arise that are outside their parameters. Cohn cited the 1965 Northeast blackout, one of the biggest power failures in U.S. history, as an example.”

To blame wind is nonsense. Iowa produces 40% of it’s power through wind and it got through this storm fine. Texas was just ill prepared.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Simon
February 25, 2021 1:24 pm

“To blame wind is nonsense. Iowa produces 40% of it’s power through wind and it got through this storm fine. Texas was just ill prepared.”

What Texas shows is you cannot depend on windmills to provide base load power. For the grid to remain stable, windmill output has to have an immediate backup when the windmills quit working, otherwise, your grid goes into gyrations and something like Texas ensues.

What would Texas look like if all their electricity was supplied by windmills? It would have been a much bigger disaster.

Windmills are not the answer to power society.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  Simon
February 25, 2021 1:36 pm

ERCOT was actually importing about 1.2GW when the big trip happened. Supplies later reduced at one point to just 123MW, becuase there was nothing to spare to import. Of course, California depends on imports for 30% of its supply. Then there are fires in the forests where the transmission lines run, and no supply. Transmission lines are a risk. On January 8th, Europe had a series of blackouts that could easily have spilled over into something much more serious when transmission lines in Croatia, Slovenia, Romania became overloaded and tripped out, leaving NW Europe short of 6.5GW of imports in seconds. In effect it turned out that France was relying on Turkey for power.

If you subcontract you electricity supply elsewhere there are no guarantees that the supplier will keep you supplied. That’s already the experience in California, isn’t it?

Reply to  Simon
February 25, 2021 2:07 pm

Did Iowa lose half their wind turbines to ice?
Natural gas power production, up 450%.
Wind power production, down 50%

You make the call.

Reply to  MarkW
February 25, 2021 3:49 pm

“Did Iowa lose half their wind turbines to ice?”
Nope they were built to take it. As they are in many parts of the world. Just not in Texas it seems

Reply to  Simon
February 25, 2021 3:25 pm

you mean 40% at all times? source please

Reply to  Lrp
February 25, 2021 4:03 pm
Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  TonyM
February 25, 2021 2:52 pm

Delighted to quote EXXON:

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Exxon Mobil Corp began restarting its 560,500 barrel-per-day (bpd) Baytown, Texas, refinery on Monday after it was shut by extreme cold weather, said a company spokesman.

“We have begun restart activities at our Baytown facilities,” said Exxon spokesman Jeremy Eikenberry. “Our primary focus continues to be the safety of employees, contractors and communities in the region.”

The Baytown refinery, Exxon’s largest in the United States, restored electrical power and enough water supply to begin an attempt to restart on Monday, said sources familiar with plant operations.

In addition to refinery, the Baytown complex is the site of a chemical plant and an olefins plant.

The refinery was shut because of severe cold weather last week and limitations in the natural gas supply to power, Exxon has said.

February 25, 2021 4:13 am

Network Problems with embedded generation are not new, and at this point in time there are no reliable technical solutions.

February 25, 2021 5:00 am

Read which provides a summary of the initiating events. Something caused three widely separated gas power plants to trip offline together at precisely 1:55AM on February 15. Subsequent events rippled out of that single event and appear to have been exacerbated by cold and lack of gas. It seems unlikely that weather or low gas supplies could have caused the 1:55 event, three trips at precisely the same time. It will be interesting to learn the truth but, if the trips were caused by malfunctioning of the failing wind-farms and their inverters, we may never know. The Green Mob won’t allow it.

David Thompson
Reply to  DHR
February 25, 2021 5:43 am

Power failed at a gas pumping station starving the gas powered plants for fuel.

Sweet Old Bob
Reply to  David Thompson
February 25, 2021 7:48 am

Pumping station electrically powered ? To reduce those ” terrible fossil fuel emissions ” ?
Could have been gas powered ?

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  DHR
February 25, 2021 7:17 am

I think we can be certain that wind did not directly cause the trips . Wind output had decreased fairly steadily over the evening as winds became slighter. It was stable at just 5 GW. Not enough to provide much help, or much of a destabilising problem. Perhaps it meant the grid control room became complacent because they no longer needed to keep a reserve to guard against big problems from wind.

The damage from wind has been more subtle. It has reduced the operating hours and income of other generators.and driven up their costs for more intermittent operation. Capacity has been lost to closures, and open plants strained financially making things like winterisation a luxury. Some of the subsidy wind gets could have been better deployed. Goodness knows how ERCOT managed to conclude that wind old provide an equivalent firm capacity of 6GW, thus causing them to underestimate how much dispatchable capacity they needed. Wind fell to just 649MW at what would have been the demand peak of 8p.m. on the Monday.

Reply to  DHR
February 25, 2021 9:54 am

re: “It seems unlikely that weather or low gas supplies could have caused the 1:55 event, three trips at precisely the same time.”

PERFECTLY EXPLAINABLE if the ‘frequency trip’ (relay) values were the same at those plants. They ARE, after all, all tied to the same grid.

February 25, 2021 6:05 am

From my vantage point in Boulder, Colorado, I’ve observed that roads are becoming more poorly maintained and the city has difficulty with the complex task of removing snow from roads in the winter.

Think about the complexity of filling potholes and plowing roads. Now, the government for whatever reason is failing at these simple tasks and yet taxes are rising.

Without going out on a limb, increased government intrusion into electrical supplies can only lead to higher costs and poorer service reliability.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Scissor
February 25, 2021 8:32 am

Increased government intrusion into anything leads to problems.

Reply to  Scissor
February 25, 2021 9:57 am

re: “Without going out on a limb, increased government intrusion into electrical supplies can only lead to higher costs and poorer service reliability.”

REMEMBER city-owned a utilities? Nobody else does either … Texas went with a de-regulated market in 2002.

Reply to  _Jim
February 25, 2021 10:42 am

Regardless if they are regulated or not the purpose of the grid is reliable power at the lowest cost. This automatically excludes unreliable solar and wind.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Scissor
February 25, 2021 11:08 am

Government engenders crony capitalism. If the government doesn’t mandate reliable electric supplies, their subsidized crony green capitalists rake in the dough while reliability suffers. I’m a firm free market capitalist. But government interventions and subsidies in the electric power supply business has so distorted the markets that reliability is vanishing.

Your food supply is extremely reliable without government intervention demanding you buy a certain percentage of organic foods. If the government demands a certain percentage of organic foods prices will rise and supply will become unreliable.

Reply to  Dave Fair
February 25, 2021 2:09 pm

Taking money from the workers and giving it to those who are friends with the politicians.
That’s socialism, not capitalism.
Crony capitalism is a name that was come up with by the socialists to disguise their involvement in the scams.

February 25, 2021 7:42 am

More than anything else, normal human beings were faced with important decisions under conditions they were totally unfamiliar with. We Northerners understand snow, our grids are designed for sub-freezing temperatures, and our power operators have a better understanding of dealing with these conditions.
Texans had to guess what to do under new conditions, and that guaranteed mistakes. From what I have read, there was a decision to cut power to gas or petroleum wells, which then made it very difficult to keep gas generators online. They will figure it out, eventually, and if this happens again, they will do much better.
Blame is unfair, inaccurate, and thus unwise.
All grid operators on Earth should study Texas conditions, surprises, and decisions. Our grids are vulnerable to EMFs and solar flares worldwide. We could lose the grid for months over the entire USA under a plausible solar flare phenomenon. If our grid operators understood conditions under which to institute blackouts, that would save the nation at such a time. I am American, and thinking USA, but this is true everywhere on Earth. Suppose YOUR grid operators were faced with decisions as sudden and unusual as Texas. Do they know what to do? Would they do any better?

Reply to  LadyLifeGrows
February 25, 2021 10:00 am

re: “More than anything else, normal human beings were faced with important decisions under conditions they were totally unfamiliar with.”

Except for 1989 and 2011. Nobody has memories either. “He who does not remember the past is condemned to repeat it.”

Article: “February Power Blackouts Across Texas echoed 1989 Failures”
By Eric Dexheimer, Austin American-Statesman, Apr. 10, 2011
Posted Apr 11, 2011 at 12:01 AM, Updated Dec 12, 2018 at 10:13 AM

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  LadyLifeGrows
February 25, 2021 10:08 am

Texans had to guess what to do under new conditions, and that guaranteed mistakes.

That would be the case if all inhabitants were native-born and raised in Texas. However, there have been a lot of people move to Texas from colder climates.

Dave Fair
Reply to  LadyLifeGrows
February 25, 2021 11:12 am

What happened to the post 2011 TX power failure studies/recommendations? What recently happened in TX was predictable and predicted. Government did nothing because there are no advocates for the consumer any more in our politicized electric power systems.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  LadyLifeGrows
February 25, 2021 1:32 pm

“Our grids are vulnerable to EMFs and solar flares worldwide. We could lose the grid for months over the entire USA under a plausible solar flare phenomenon.”

There are recent (within the last couple of years) recommendations to Congress to fix the EMF problems the US grid has and it is estimated to cost around $3 billion to implement. Really cheap insurace, imo.

It seems the holdup is the government wants the industry to pay for the upgrades to equipment and the industry wants the government to pay.

Tom Abbott
February 25, 2021 7:46 am

The Ford F-150 pickup has an option that incorporates a 2 kilowatt or a 2.4 kilowatt generator into the truck.

A commenter asked the other day what this version of the F-150 costs. The answer is about $70,000.

One preson who used an F-150 to power his home in Texas when the electricity went out, said the truck generator powered three space heaters, his refrigerator, tv, and a couple of other items.

He said the F-150 would run for 32 hours in this mode before requiring refueling.

The F-150 is a very quiet generator that will run for a long time, and is easily refueled in minutes. What’s not to like?

The Ford dealerships in Texas were lending out all their F-150 pickups with this option. I think they had over 400 of them in stock.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
February 25, 2021 10:01 am

re: “He said the F-150 would run for 32 hours in this mode before requiring refueling.”

Nice, but we also had fuel (gasoline) supply problems too here in the DFW area.

Dave Fair
Reply to  _Jim
February 25, 2021 11:14 am

Gas cans.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  _Jim
February 25, 2021 1:36 pm

Many of the fuel supply problems in this kind of scenario have to do with the gasoline pumps not operating for lack of electricity.

Plug that gasoline pump into the F-150 and the truck can fuel itself, and others, too.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
February 25, 2021 2:14 pm

Only if the pumps are wired for it.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  MarkW
February 26, 2021 1:07 pm

If memory serves, I think it was Florida, a few years ago, that had a hurricane coming through the State and it knocked out all the electricity, while tens of thousands of people were trying to evacuate in front of it, and the gas stations could not pump gas and the whole scene turned into a fiasco as people ran out of gas and abandoned their cars along the road.

After that happened, I believe the Florida legislature proposed a bill to require gas stations in Florida to have a connection to their gasoline pumps that could be accessed by a portable generator.

That’s probably a good idea for all States.

Itdoesn't add up...
Reply to  Tom Abbott
February 25, 2021 2:58 pm

They have to do with many things. Refineries not operating. Pipelines not operating. Truck diesel waxing up. Snow and ice covered roads preventing trucks making deliveries.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Tom Abbott
February 25, 2021 6:19 pm

Highly competitive stations probably have backup generators, e.g. truck stops.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
February 25, 2021 2:13 pm

Running 3 space heaters on a 2.4KW generator? I find that hard to believe. Most of the space heaters that I am familiar with are 1000 to 1500 watts each.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  MarkW
February 26, 2021 1:16 pm

That is a little much for a 2.4 kilowatt generator, but maybe he was only running each one at 750 watts.

One thing about those space heaters, if you get in a small room, like a bathroom, one 1500 watt space heater would keep that room as warm as you wanted.

Another thing about that article. The guy said he was running his refrigerator, when he had a natural refrigerator outside his front door. 🙂

There was a case some time ago where the electricty went out here for several days in 15F weather, and one couple had no heat or light but they did have a woodburning fireplace, so they could keep the house above freezing but just barely.

They left all their food in their freezer and when the temperatures warmed up, all the food spoiled. All they would have had to do was carry it outside, but they said it didn’t cross their minds at the time, they were too concentrted on a wood fire and keeping warm.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Tom Abbott
February 27, 2021 6:17 am

I’ve had some experience with space heaters, and it is my observation that radiant heaters should not be run at the 1500-watt maximum because that eventually burns out the space heater and it quits working.

If you run the radiant space heaters at half power of 750 watts, the raidant heaters will last a very long time. I had two radiant heaters of the exact same design that I had hung on the wall of my bedroom and one of them was always set at 1500 watts and the other was always set at 750 watts. The heater set at 1500 watts quit working within about a year, but the other one set at 750 watts is still working four years later.

The oil-filled space heaters don’t seem to have this burnout problem. You can run them at 1500 watts without any trouble.

Just be sure not to overload your electrical circuits. Your normal house circuit is good for 1850 watts, so it can handle a 1500-watt heater.

February 25, 2021 7:48 am

I thought extreme cold weather was a thing of the past

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Neo
February 25, 2021 1:38 pm

You’ve been listening to too many alarmists. 🙂

Reply to  Tom Abbott
February 25, 2021 2:14 pm

Or he’s been listening to the wrong alarmists. Many of the ones out this way have been proclaiming that more heat creates more cold.

Patrick Hrushowy
February 25, 2021 8:44 am

The evidence points to a lack of due diligence on the part of all players in the Texas power system, which suggests they are all exposed to serious risk of lawsuits. If these legal actions were successful it could force many of these entities into bankruptcy. Could this make them take customer security more seriously, or will climate activists succeed in bringing in legislation making green initiatives immune from legal challenge for damages?

Ric Howard
Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 11:39 am

Generators are paid to maintain capacity.

David, shouldn’t this be “Generators are not paid to maintain capacity”, or am I missing the point?


David A
Reply to  David Middleton
February 25, 2021 10:19 pm

So how does NG have so much spare capacity?

Reply to  Patrick Hrushowy
February 25, 2021 10:05 am

re: “The evidence points to a lack of due diligence on the part of all players in the Texas power system,”

Deja what?

Report Title: “Impact of Cold Weather on Gas Production in the Texas and New Mexico Gas Production Regions of the United States During early February, 2011”

Prepared by the Staffs of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, Causes and Recommendations

An excerpt from pg 188:
Texas has recently enacted legislation to deal with the problem of inadequate winterization by generators. A bill was introduced in the Texas legislature following the February 2011 blackouts, with provisions directing the PUCT to prepare a weather emergency preparedness report, to review the emergency operations plans on file, and to recommend improvements to the plans to ensure electric service reliability. In introducing the bill, State Senator Glenn Hegar stated: “What I don’t want, is another storm and another report someone puts on the shelf for 21 years and nobody looks at.”

After a Senate Committee hearing, the bill was amended and unanimously adopted by the Texas Senate. The House unanimously passed the bill on May 23, and the bill was signed into law by Governor Richard Perry on June 17, 2011.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  _Jim
February 25, 2021 1:40 pm

“Glenn Hegar stated: “What I don’t want, is another storm and another report someone puts on the shelf for 21 years and nobody looks at.””

It looks like Glenn got just what he did not want.

To bed B
February 25, 2021 1:05 pm

Without a shadow of a doubt, keeping the gas on was easier than keeping the windmills turning. There was a lack of preparation. Even in the case of coal and nuclear, if the cold was foreseen, there would have been adequate backup.

Three weeks out and the NOAA predicts much higher than average temperatures for most of Texas, for February. I’ve yet to crunch the numbers but I suspect 100 degree days for the rest of the month will not get the average within 10 degree of the average.

February 25, 2021 1:38 pm
  1. Back in days of yore we had Automatic Generation Control to maintain frequency; 10 minute spinning reserve, 10 minute reserve and 30 minute reserve to provide operational reserve at a minimum to cover potential loss of the largest generation injection on the system. Above all, there was a comprehensive contingency and disturbance plan that was implemented and practiced in training. All this seems to be missing in Texas because it is expensive and who is going to pay? Like the old Fram filter advertisement: you can pay me now or pay me later.
Kit P
February 25, 2021 1:48 pm

Certainly not a panel of experts of the subject. Why do people in the petroleum industry think that knowledge in one industry translates to another. Bill Gates has the same problem as David M.

Normally cascading failure is a problem with the grid failing for various reasons like ice ot smoke from wildfires.

I will keep it simple. A generator will produce demanded power or die trying. I am not expert on electrical protective devices but they are elaborate. There are also mechanical trips.

For example, a neighboring utility had a grid fault at a substation that there system failed to provide protection. The fault was sensed on a pump at my nuke result scramming. The nuke plant got the blame for the blackout.

A large west cascading failure occurred when because of wildfires and a poorly maintained took out one transmission after another. Where I lived did not lose power because our local nuke was able to decrease power rapidly to match load.

The rolling blackouts in California 2000/2001 were not an example of grid failure. It was an example multiple problems at the same time. It started with a hotter than normal summer with a drought . Higher demand, less hydro. One nuke was out because of bearing failure. A coal plant in Utah blew its main transformer. A 1000 MWe of natural gas generation was off line while being replaced with CCGT. A gas pipeline failed interrupting natural gas.

I find it interesting that even in Texas, people are still blaming ENRON. The head finger pointer was S David Freeman, GM of LADWP. The biggest gouger of California ratepayers with coal generation in other states. He pass also GM of SMUD when the nuke plant I worked at was closed.

California had 7 concurrent failures on top of an aging grid. All were public knowledge.

The last midwest and northeast cascading failure as started with existing generation off line and poor transmission line maintenance. I did not lose power because PJM grid is better managed.

If it is like the last two US energy disasters that result in a large number of deaths, arrogance will be a factor. It can not happen to us because we are the ‘best’ while ignoring how the best are always getting better.

Steve Richards
February 25, 2021 2:29 pm

I find it strange that load shedding was not aggressive and automatic. Events happen too quickly for human intervention. It needs to be fully automatic.
Arrh, you say but the grid and distribution arms are separate companies with their own needs and wants (making money) and the generators can only feed all of the grid or trip off.

Well, I don’t believe that!

It is stupidity squared if the distribution companies did not monitor frequency and voltage and had preference tripping which would automatically trip and protect the grid.

A ‘nice’ distribution company would have a list of preference trips which would implement rotating blackouts to keep the total load on the grid to survivable levels.

Even in a society that believes that maximum profit at all costs could surely come up with a cooperative system and allows the grid to survive and most customers to be supplied most of the time.

H@ll it might maximize profits as well!!!!!

Walter Sobchak
February 25, 2021 4:47 pm

“How can Texas prevent another power failure?” by Tom Tribone | February 25, 2021 |

* * *

“Texas adopted one of the purest free markets for electricity about 20 years ago. But something happened in the interim. Renewable energy came to the fore. …

“Renewable energy (wind, solar, hydroelectricity) all ultimately come from sunlight, which is free. So, renewable marginal cost is zero. If marginal cost is zero and it equals marginal revenue, then things break down. This is what we actually see in real markets where renewable energy is big enough to be the marginal producer of power.

“Wholesale prices for electricity can be close to zero — sometimes below zero due to subsidies. At that point, companies no longer have a strong price incentive to invest in new capacity. They underinvest in the system.

“When you add in the intermittency factor of renewables and the severe extremes that Mother Nature sometimes hits us with, there is, in some sense, almost no amount of storage that would be enough if renewables dominated. Sometimes, you just need conventional sources.

“… Brazil has introduced enough conventional electricity plants to ensure that doesn’t happen again. It did that by establishing structures to compensate for the market failure of the zero marginal cost issue that occurs whenever a large proportion of renewables has been built up. We do the same thing in many parts of the United States. The technical term is a “capacity market.”

Nick Schroeder
February 25, 2021 5:53 pm

Once upon a time it was common for large utilities to be vertically integrated. This means they owned everythang from the mine to the meter – and profited.

The great powers that be (FERC) decided this was unseemly and, much like the energy cost adjustment that discourages efficient operation and the SOX scam, declared that all utilities use an independent power operator, an arm’s length/firewalled group that would monitor the grid and auction power supplies for the lowest cost operation. The typical grid clearing ENERGY price might be on the order of $40 to $50 per MWh. DEMAND is the fixed costs of e.g. a car. ENERGY is the variable, i.e. fuel, maintenance, when you actually drive it.

The IPO’s get together and wheel & deal energy & demand supplies, compile schedules and hope to make gozintaz/goezoutz balance, i.e. make the Area Control Error equal zero at the top of each hour.

When there are problems, large units out for scheduled maintenance or a forced outage because water in instrument air lines froze and the uncontrollable unit trips out of self-protection. The IPO then desperately starts looking for anything that can put MW on the grid. Could be an old oil-fired ICE or dormant CT. Those owners expect a huge premium just like that plywood sheet in a hurricane. If it costs them $100,000 to keep it ready and the utility buys 50 MW = $2,000/MW.

BTW I was at Tolk in 2011 and saw it up front and close from the power plant perspective.

Interruptible contracts:
Such contracts are reasonably priced. Firm contracts are not. Utilities hold their critical customers as first priority, hospitals, residential, elder care, etc. Just like the utilities, commercial and industrial customers can also use interruptible deals. When the demand exceeds supply interruptible customers start getting shutoff. There is not such thang as a brownout. Power is on or not. Brownouts are rolling blackouts.

100% reliability is expensive.
If that’s what the ratepayers and arm-chair know-it-all quarterbacks expect, open up that checkbook.

Or if that reliability it is so important do what hospitals and similar critical facilities do, buy your own generator. There are rows of them down at Harbor Freight and Home Depot. They are simpler than cars and motorcycles.  Buy one, set in it your garage. Take care of it, test it once a month, so you can use it for a couple of days once every ten years.

Otherwise, pretend you are a responsible adult, prepare to hunker down for a weather-related outage and quit whining like some loser “wictim”!!!

Kit P
Reply to  Nick Schroeder
February 26, 2021 2:22 pm

Buy one, set in it your garage. Take care of it, test it once a month, so you can use it for a couple of days once every ten years.

Portable generators are basically cheap junk, inherently unreliable and dangerous. Especially when owned by armchair quarterbacks.

I was a navy nuke and then worked in power industry. Firewood, candles, beans, rice, and lots of water was my emergency plan.

A coworker with the same background wanted an emergency generator. I talked him out of it by listing all the failure modes.

When I retired my last job was at a nuke in China. I had 30 days on expense account with a rental car. Found a 20 yo motorhome that was cheap and made a great moving van. The installed ONAN generator with only 80 hours did not work so I deducted $1000 from the deal.

Bought a $88 HF generator for camping on the beach. Eventually got the Onan running. Then got a new motorhome with a new set of generator issues. Being propane fueled, had to figure that out. Every year I run a gallon of gas through the HF generator and store it dry.

Last year I bought a second portable generator because it was a really good deal. One person can lift a generator that will run a 15000 BTU air conditioner. Tested it out of the box and then stored in dry. Then used while off grid for a month during nice weather. Then again put it dry.

So I have gotten good at nice weather reliability keeping beer cold. When it extremely hot or cold getting fuel is the failure mode to worry about.

February 26, 2021 8:15 am

I like the comment about how Texas “created an old style Soviet purchasing bureau” when it created ERCOT. I’m paraphrasing of course.

February 28, 2021 8:14 am

Just to add my 2 cents. I worked for an oil company for 30 years, mainly in gas project engineering.

I suspect what happened is that the gas production wellhead systems ‘froze up’. There are thousands of gas wells in Texas that operate on some complicated system that matches supply to demand. Specifically the chokes on the gas wellhead are automatically adjusted such that the gas production rate from the well matches demand. In reality some low rate wells have fixed chokes while higher rate wells have remotely adjustable chokes to match demand.

The process system at each wellhead separates liquids produced with the gas from the gas and then dehydrates (removes water from) the gas such that the gas does not freeze up (form gas hydrates) in the gas gathering pipeline from the gas well to the gas plant. The gas plant is a major process facility for that areas gas wells that further removes both water and petroleum liquids from the gas as well as contaminating gases such as H2S and excessive CO2. The gas plant ensures that the gas meets the gas distribution pipeline requirements with regard to pressure and gas specification.

I suspect the weak spot is the gas dehydration system at each wellhead as well as perhaps the safety and control systems at the wellhead.

The dehydration system has a very specific minimum design temperature. I don’t know what it is, but I suspect it is up to the owner/operator of the well. The dehydration system also degrades over time (removes less water) and needs regular (somewhat expensive) maintenance to be able to operate at it’s minimum temperature.

The quality and cost of the control systems on wellhead varies. The better and more expensive systems use electronic instruments and air compressors with dehydrated air to operate pneumatic controls such as the wellhead surface shutdown valves. Older or cheaper systems use dehydrated gas which is much more sensitive to low temperature freeze up.

To the above you can add in a range of cheapness and quality regarding the owner/operator of the wellhead(s). You can see the makings of a low temperate disaster with regards to basic gas supply.

Loss of electrical supply to the wellhead would also cause most of the wellheads to shut in, especially the larger ones. Some might have a UPS (battery) system that would keep the control systems up for a few hours.

My version of the failure is thus that:

  1. Gas demand went up due to increased electrical demand to be supplied by gas turbine generators.
  2. Gas supply went down due to various forms of wellhead freeze up.
  3. Gas Distribution Pipelines supply gas to the turbine generators as well as other users (e.g. public gas utilities). The pressure in the distribution pipelines started going down due to insufficient supply. When it got to the lower pressure limit the pipeline operator issued constraint or shutdown orders to users. Presumably they (with ERCOT involvement) first shut in some export from Texas, then industrial users (e.g. refineries), then power plants and lastly public utilities (home and business heating).
  4. When power plants got shut-in, things cascaded.

The freeze-up of the gas wellheads happen over a period of time. ERCOT and the gas pipeline operators knew it was happening at least a day or so before it got really bad. They did not know how bad it was going to get, but they had to have has suspicions.

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