ChE in Context: Impact of Winter Storm Uri on Texas’ Petrochemical Industry | AIChE

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ChE in Context: Impact of Winter Storm Uri on Texas’ Petrochemical Industry

The ChE in Context

During Feb. 14–18, 2021, much of Texas was slammed by Winter Storm Uri, which led to the general failure of electricity and natural gas systems. Texas’ independent electric grid managed by ERCOT was four and a half minutes away from complete collapse (1), which could have crippled the state for several weeks, perhaps many months. This winter storm and the failure of the energy system caused at least 210 deaths and cost tens of billions of dollars.

This disaster was substantially a repeat of history from previous winter storms in 2011 and 1989. It was worsened by the duration and the geographical extent of the cold snap, the absence of preparation such as winterization of the hydrocarbon production and electricity-generation facilities, as well as the lack of planning to account for the interdependencies of the electricity and natural gas systems. Electricity prices spiked to a capped price of $9,000/MWh for over 72 hr in response to a loss of 40% of the grid’s nameplate capacity. Natural gas prices spiked to $400 per million BTU in the Houston Ship Channel, over 100-fold higher than normal. This failure of the energy system had rolling impacts on transportation, drinking water, food supply, and the chemicals industry. Over 4.8 million homes and businesses were without electricity for days and 4 million people lost access to drinking water for several days...

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