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The Effects of the Texas Deep Freeze on the Petroleum Feedstocks

WHY THE DEEP FREEZE SHUT DOWN TEXAS

WINTER STORM URI CRIPPLED THE POWER GRID

  • Texas is the largest producer of energy in the U.S., and it is a mostly deregulated, market-based system.
  • It is the only lower-48 state disconnected from the national power grid with the intention of avoiding federal regulations.
  • Texas cannot send power to another state; nor can it receive power from others.
  • The majority of Texas power is generated by natural gas-fired power plants.
  • Many power plants in the southern United States are not enclosed inside a building, with boilers and turbines exposed to the elements. This is by design. Leaving  key power plant infrastructure outside prevents excessive heat build-up during warmer periods but vulnerable in cold weather.
  • Feb 13-17, 2021, URI caused the whole state to experience record cold, preceded by ice storms, which were followed by snow.  Central Texas, for example, recorded the coldest temperatures in more than three decades and the most snow – about 6 inches – in more than seven decades.
  • Ice storms caused tree limbs to fall onto distribution lines, causing power outages.  Wind turbines were taken offline due to icing of their blades. Distribution of natural gas to power plants was shut-off or curtailed when key components in the gas system froze up.  Even a nuclear plant had a cold-weather-related failure.
  • The extreme cold caused a huge spike in demand for heat at the same time the power supply was collapsing.
  • The historic storm crippled the state’s power grid, causing widespread rolling blackouts to avoid a total meltdown of the power supply.
  • Petrochemical plants were given one hour to shut-down causing hard stops which damaged pipes, fittings, and pumps.
  • Trucks were stranded on the highways.  Their cargo, if not freeze thaw stable, froze solid.
  • Even 30 days later, some Gulf Coast plants are still assessing the damage and have not started production.
  • The petrochemical industry is a complex chain of interconnected chemistries.  Many complexes require a sequential start up.

Courtesy of Henkel Adhesives

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