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State’s Critical Natural Gas Supply Demonstrating Significant Progress Winterizing Equipment

January 19, 2022

AUSTIN – Ongoing RRC site visits to natural gas facilities show that significant progress has been made by Texas facilities to supply the fuel in emergency weather conditions.

As the recent freezing weather at the end of December demonstrated, much needed quantities of natural gas did flow to electric generating power plants and into people’s homes for heating.

It’s very important to understand that daily gas production can fluctuate from hour to hour due to a variety of reasons, such as scheduled maintenance and scheduled downtime for safety reasons. Average statewide daily production can vary as much as more than 2 billion cubic feet per day, even during late spring. Given Texas’ production totals, this means more than 90% of the daily stays online.

Daily natural gas production is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to natural gas supply. Gas produced from wellheads needs to be processed and transported to end users.

The vast majority of the state’s natural supply is stored in underground storage facilities and packed in major pipelines. For this reason, RRC inspectors not only visit natural gas wells but, more importantly, natural storage and pipelines.

As of mid-December, the state had approximately 448 billion cubic feet of working gas in underground storage, and another 30-35 billion cubic feet is typically in pipelines at any given time.

Since the end of last summer, RRC inspectors have conducted site visits at more than 3,800 natural gas facilities representing oil and gas leases with nearly 22,000 active wells, gas storage facilities that account for about 76% the state’s gas storage, and more than 350 pipelines transporting natural gas.

During the site visits, which are continuing throughout the winter, RRC inspectors have been directly observing measures operators are undertaking to provide gas supplies under normal and emergency conditions. Inspectors have physically observed what devices natural gas facilities have put in place and processes to harden their assets against cold weather.

About 98% of the facilities visited had been winterized. The remaining 2% or so were in the process of winterizing at the time when RRC visited them in the last few months.

“We have been putting boots on the ground and eyes on the state’s critical assets,” said Ted Wooten, RRC Director of Critical Infrastructure. “Based on what our inspectors have observed, natural gas producers and pipeline operators have taken necessary actions to ensure gas will continue to flow this winter to people’s homes and power plants.”

Preliminary data for October 2021 shows the statewide average natural gas production at about 26.5 billion cubic feet per day, which was up by more than 1.5 billion cubic feet per day than in October 2020.

And Texas continues to add more production capacity.

Since the start of the fourth quarter of last year, operators in the Permian Basin have added more than 30 drilling rigs to the basin, bringing the total to nearly 300 as of January with the state at more at more than 400. From August to December, well completions averaged more than 400 per month – the highest since first-quarter 2020, based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Information RRC inspectors have been collecting is also helping the agency to develop industry best practices and guidelines. There is a best practices report that’s included as the last attachment in the Texas Electricity Supply Chain Security and Mapping Committee Report.

About the Railroad Commission:
Our mission is to serve Texas by our stewardship of natural resources and the environment, our concern for personal and community safety, and our support of enhanced development and economic vitality for the benefit of Texans. The Commission has a long and proud history of service to both Texas and to the nation, including almost 100 years regulating the oil and gas industry. The Commission also has jurisdiction over alternative fuels safety, natural gas utilities, surface mining and intrastate pipelines. Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the oldest regulatory agency in the state. To learn more, please visit https://www.rrc.texas.gov/about-us/.