Analysis: Texas Storm Showed “Resiliency,” Importance of Residential Natural Gas

Residential natural gas helped keep many Texas families warm during February’s unprecedented freeze. The demand for natural gas to heat homes and power electricity generation set new records in February, and a reliable supply was crucial to ensuring that the state had access to the energy it needed, according to new analysis from the American Gas Association.

EID has written previously about the important role natural gas played during the winter storm in Texas. During the days of prolonged freezing temperatures, Texas residents turned to natural gas fireplaces and appliances to stay warm, while generation companies brought in additional fuel to meet the rising demand for electricity.

The AGA report found that Texas residential and commercial natural gas use increased 238 percent, and gas flows to power generation increased 184 percent during the period. It included:

“Overall, Texas set a new record for natural gas consumption even with the severe challenges associated with the electric power outages. The cold drove a substantial increase in natural gas use for power generation, industrial consumption, and residential and commercial demand.”

Natural gas storage was also crucial to ensuring that homes and electric power generators had access to the fuel they needed. According to Energy Information Administration data, withdrawals from underground storage the week of February 12-19, 2021 were the second-highest on record, and Texas and the surrounding region saw withdrawals increase a record 184 percent from the two weeks prior.

Through the use of underground storage, natural gas utilities were able to both buttress against potential outages when production slowed and to protect customers from the worst of energy price swings. These storage locations “allow for the withdrawal of natural gas from storage during peak demand periods to meet customer needs.”

This is only one of the tools utilities used to ensure customer access to natural gas. Even during the worst of the storm, Texas’ natural gas utilities were effective at safeguarding their customers’ access to energy. The AGA report notes that this is the result of the industry having more than a century of experience planning and preparing for extreme and emergency weather conditions and the emphasis it places on resiliency:

“The resiliency of the natural gas transmission and distribution system was on display throughout the middle of February 2021. While large areas of the country struggled with the effects of the polar cold event, natural gas utility companies were able to use their investments in infrastructure, operations, and planning to keep customers supplied with a reliable energy source to heat their homes, even amid severe supply constraints.”

This is supported by testimony from Texas Railroad Commission Chair Christi Craddick, who told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that 99.95 percent of Texans did not lose residential natural gas service during the storm.

In addition to investments to support resiliency, natural gas utilities also used contractual arrangements to ensure secure energy supplies and employed financial tools to shelter customers from the worst of the energy price swings.

Analyses of the storm’s impacts continue to show the importance of maintaining a diverse grid that includes natural gas – a fact that needs to be considered in any policy decisions.

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