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The El Paso Exception

PostPosted: February 18th, 2021, 9:32 pm
by toucana
The country is divided into three grids: one covers the eastern U.S., another the western states and then there is the Texas grid, which covers nearly the entire state.

Many people will be aware that large parts of Texas are suffering from a catastrophic failure of their electrical power distribution system in the middle of an exceptional winter snowstorm that has seen temperatures plunge to lows of -18C in parts of Texas that more commonly see daytime highs of up to +25C at this time of year. One part of Texas that has remained unaffected however is El Paso, and it is instructive to understand why.

El Paso escaped the massive power outages seen in much of Texas this week mostly because El Paso Electric is not in the Texas power grid, which is one of three major power grids in the United States. The Texas grid had massive power outages due to power plant problems caused by extreme cold temperatures.

El Paso Electric is part of the Western power grid overseen by the Western Electricity Coordinating Council. It covers 14 Western states; Northern Baja, Mexico; and two Canadian provinces. 

It made geographical sense for El Paso Electric to connect to the Western grid in Albuquerque about 60 years ago to bring in power from the Four Corners power plant in New Mexico. Later, additional connections were made in Arizona to bring power from the Palo Verde nuclear power plant, near Phoenix, which began operating in the 1980s, said Steven Buraczyk, senior vice president of operations.

El Paso Electric sold its interest in the coal-fired Four Corners plant and stopped getting power from it in 2016. About half its power comes from the Palo Verde plant, of which EPE is a part owner.

“It wouldn’t be cost effective to build hundreds of miles of high voltage power lines to connect to the Texas grid,” Buraczyk said.

The real significance of this lies in the fact that the rest of Texas chose to maintain its own electrical power grid system called ERCOT - (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) - which has no interconnection with the rest of the electrical grid systems in North America, and cannot therefore receive emergency supplies of reserve power from them.

The fundamental historical reason for this, is that the state of Texas has always had a relentlessy secessionist political leadership that made a point of cutting their electrical supply system off from that of the rest of the country so that Texan power companies wouldn’t have to deal with Federal regulators and oversight.

You could ask the inhabitants of Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston how well that is currently working for them.


Re: The El Paso Exception

PostPosted: February 19th, 2021, 11:17 am
by TheVat
It's been surreal here, watching the RW propagandists try to (falsely) blame all this on green energy. One photo, widely circulated on social media, showed frozen windmills, as if this was happening in Texas and a principal cause of grid failures. In fact, wind power had a lower failure rate than NG (Texas main source of electricity and home heating) and the pictured windmills were located in...


In 2014.

In an extremely rare event, since windmill vanes in Scandinavia are generally installed with emergency heating elements to keep ice from forming.

(also the case in South Dakota where I live, where no windmills failed, and we had no power failures.)

Re: The El Paso Exception

PostPosted: February 19th, 2021, 12:32 pm
by toucana
Pike Electric service trucks line up after a snowstorm on February 16th, 2021, in Fort Worth, Texas. Winter storm Uri has brought historic cold weather and power outages to Texas

Natural gas wells and pipes ill-equipped for cold weather are a big reason why millions of Texans lost power during frigid temperatures this week. As temperatures dropped to record lows across some parts of the state, liquid inside wells, pipes, and valves froze solid.

Ice can block gas flow, clogging pipes. It’s a phenomenon called a “freeze-off” that disrupts gas production across the US every winter. But freeze-offs can have outsized effects in Texas, as we’ve seen this week. The state is a huge natural gas producer — and it doesn’t usually have to deal with such cold weather.

Texas relies on natural gas more than any other fuel for its electricity generation. Gas generated nearly half of the state’s electricity in 2019, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). Wind and coal each accounted for about 20 percent of electricity generation that year, while nuclear made up about another 10 percent. While nuclear and wind power have been hampered by the storm, neither frigid nuclear plants nor frozen wind turbines bear the largest share of responsibility for Texas’ power problems.

“It appears that a lot of the generation that has gone offline today has been primarily due to issues on the natural gas system,” Dan Woodfin, senior director of system operations at ERCOT, said during a call with reporters on February 16th, the Texas Tribune reported.

While the frigid cold slashed fuel supplies of all sorts, it also drove up demand for natural gas to heat homes. That “mismatch” is what’s driving these blackouts, says Coombs. There simply hasn’t been enough fuel on hand to power the state’s electricity needs. Natural gas production was pretty much halved in Texas and its gas-rich Permian Basin during the recent cold and stormy weather. It fell from 22.5 billion cubic feet of gas produced per day in December to between 10 to 12 billion cubic feet of gas per day this week, according to estimates from BTU Analytics.

That drop-off in production is thanks to freeze-offs at wellheads where oil and gas are pumped out of the ground. But the cold has also stopped equipment from working properly at gas processing plants, Coombs says. Processing plants separate gas from fluid and impurities; when equipment freezes, plants have to heat it up or wait for temperatures to rise before they can resume their work.

While other states invest more in equipment that helps prevent freeze-offs, Texas hasn’t seen the need. North Dakota typically sees 20 days a year with freeze-off events, while the Permian Basin would normally have just four days a year with freeze-offs disrupting gas production, according to BTU Analytics.

“With gas prices being low – and storage being full – the risk of 2-3 days of possible freeze-off every several years is a risk that Gulf Coast producers have been willing to take,” a report on freeze-offs prepared for ERCOT in 2013 says.

Meanwhile, millions of people in Texas remain without power as a second winter storm sweeps through the state. As of Tuesday night, there was still no indication of when the outages would end.

Re: The El Paso Exception

PostPosted: February 20th, 2021, 12:14 am
by Forest_Dump
Hard to believe people would believe the frozen wind mill idea. We have tons here in Canada and they do work even in winter. Bts we had a balmy warm day around here today. Got above -10. Was thinking about hitting the beach.

Re: The El Paso Exception

PostPosted: February 20th, 2021, 12:04 pm
by TheVat
One thing I found depressing were news reports of people losing power and then having all this spoiled food. And I'm wondering, are people really that stupid down there? No one was capable of improvising?? "Hey, it's so cold outside, the power failed... hmmm, wonder how I could keep all this perishable food from spoiling...damn, that's a real headscratcher..."

I mean, how many brain cells does it take to throw the food in some bags and/or a cooler and set it on a porch, or in a shed, or a crawlspace, or an empty bin with a clean liner, or some other place that is unheated and quite cold?

In the northern plains, there's a general attitude that common sense drops as you go south. I'm starting to believe it. Maybe a few weather events like this will smarten up Texans a bit.

Re: too clever not to pass along

PostPosted: February 20th, 2021, 12:54 pm
by TheVat

If Texas renamed the power grid Universal Texas Electric Reliability and Utility System aka UTERUS, they’d regulate it

Re: The El Paso Exception

PostPosted: February 20th, 2021, 2:29 pm
by Serpent
^ snicker ^ But won't they get slapped with five lawsuits for the word 'reliability'?
And here we go again!
Different styles of governance:'
same old propaganda
I guess Biden should have helicoptered in, thrown a few packs of moist towelettes into a crowd and told them what a great job he's doing while doing nothing.

Re: The El Paso Exception

PostPosted: February 20th, 2021, 2:56 pm
by toucana
Turns out that Senator Ted Cruz really *does* understand why desperate men leave home with their families, and cross the Mexican border to escape from inhospitable and intolerable living conditions.

Re: The El Paso Exception

PostPosted: February 23rd, 2021, 2:16 pm
by TheVat
Good one, Toucan! (I passed that one along, elsewhere on the Net)

Meanwhile, Nobel prize-winning economist explains why market deregulation doesn't work as well with electricity as it might for avocados. ... e=Homepage

Re: The El Paso Exception

PostPosted: February 23rd, 2021, 2:34 pm
by Serpent
There goes that problem-riddled grid again!