Texas Railroad Commission proposes rules to ensure natural gas supply in weather emergencies
AUSTIN – Railroad Commission of Texas commissioners approved a proposed sweeping weatherization rule to help protect Texans during weather emergencies that could occur any time of the year.
The proposed rule that was approved today is open for public comment through August 15, 2022, after which staff will review comments before commissioners adopt a final rule, which is expected before the end of the summer.
The weatherization rule covers critical facilities that are on the state’s Electricity Supply Chain Map at the time of adoption of the rule, and any subsequent iterations of the map. These include natural gas wells and oil leases producing casinghead gas, underground storage facilities, and gas processing plants. Gas pipelines that are on the Electricity Supply Chain Map and directly serve electric generation are also subject to the rule.
Provisions of the rule include, but are not limited to, the following requirements:
- Implement weather emergency preparation measures intended to ensure sustained operations during a weather emergency that can put the state’s electricity grid operation at risk.
- Correct known weather-related forced stoppages that may have occurred prior to Dec. 1, 2022.
- Contact the RRC if a facility sustains a weather-related forced stoppage during a weather emergency.
The rule covers a large group of types of facilities and infrastructure across regions of the state with different weather patterns and geography. Operators will be required to weatherize facilities using weatherization methods applicable to the facility based on the type of facility, the facility’s critical components, the facility’s location, and weather data for the facility’s county or counties. The rule includes a table with extreme low and high temps for each county in the state compiled by the state climatologist.
Common weatherization methods that are utilized throughout the oil and gas industry – from heat tracing devices to thermal insulation and chemical injection systems – are included in the rule for operators to utilize as appropriate for a facility based on locations.
RRC’s Critical Infrastructure Division inspectors will inspect facilities and enforce all provisions of the rule; and fines for administrative violations could reach up to $1 million per day.
“These new weatherization rules will further ensure Texans have access to reliable natural gas when they need it most,” Chairman Wayne Christian said. “The proposed weatherization rules represent more than a year’s worth of collaborative efforts between RRC Staff, our sister state agencies, and industry partners who spent countless hours working on this proposal.
“This is a critical step toward ensuring more production of oil and gas during inclement weather, but with 1,000 people moving to Texas each day, the long-term solution for our state’s energy needs is to invest and build more cheap, reliable natural gas-fired electric generation,” Christian continued. “Now is the time to end all preferential market treatment and taxpayer subsidies for unreliable, intermittent forms of energy and to invest in reliable, resilient forms of electric generation, like fossil fuels, instead.”
“Today’s proposed rule is a culmination of countless hours of hard work by agency staff, stakeholders, and other regulatory and legislative leaders,” Commissioner Christi Craddick said. “Working to ensure that power generators can access the energy supplies they need during weather emergencies is critical, and I am proud of the steps we have taken so far. We have taken extreme care to consider the needs of all Texans, resulting in a thoughtful proposal that protects the natural gas supply chain. I look forward to receiving feedback and adopting this rule once finalized.”
“Today’s proposed rule strikes an appropriate balance to ensure facilities are prepared for extreme weather events while providing needed flexibility for operators to ensure compliance with Commission standards,” Commissioner Jim Wright said. “This flexibility component is crucial as we must ensure weatherization requirements do not adversely harm current or future production of our natural resources. I look forward to receiving public input on this proposal and finalizing the critical infrastructure weatherization rule as required under Senate Bill 3 in the coming months.”
The proposed rule and section to provide comments can be found under Chapter 3 on the RRC website at https://www.rrc.texas.gov/general-counsel/rules/proposed-rules/.