ERCOT’s dirty little “cleaner burning” secret

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Urban Electric NG Compressor Stations & NG Fired Power Plants don’t make good Kissing Cousins. Photo with Affíí Vysavač Chcípni and Štěpán

Urban Electric NG Compressor Stations & NG Fired Power Plants don’t make good Kissing Cousins. Photo with Affíí Vysavač Chcípni and Štěpán Bartoš

Who ever thought that electric compressor stations were appropriate for urban drilling was mistaken…electric compressor stations depend on “electricity from the grid” but also plays a role in “supplying natural gas to the power plants that MAKE electricity for the grid”.  Interdependency Flaw is pretty obvious now isn’t it? Natural Gas and Electricity aren’t good kissing cousins.

In the summer of 2011, Texas’ power grid set record level power use for three consecutive days. The high demand topped off at 68,294 megawatts in early August.” 

Read on to find out how unreliable nagural gas is when we need it most – during storms and freezes….

sure the sun doesn’t always shine,

and the wind doesn’t always blow,

but when it comes to natural gas-

pipelines don’t always flow.

Texas and New Mexico power outages February of 2011 during the extended freeze was a lesson learned about how not so great/reliable natural gas is for example…some urban natural gas compressors and compressor stations are powered with “electricity” and when the lights go out, so do the compressors.

Those power plants that have switched from coal to natural gas now have an added risk called “interdependency of natural gas and electricity to each other”. This opens the door for wind, and solar to be playing an important role in being what keeps rolling blackouts from happening when those natural gas fired power plants have interruptions in receiving natural gas (ie during freezes or storms or during pipeline disruptions).

Texas and New England are about 40% dependant on natural gas at their power plants, so they have more interdependency risk than other states.

If natural gas ever does go back up high enough…I read that some power plants will just switch back to burning coal-whatever is cheaper (this won’t help Chesapeake).

But wait it gets worse…ERCOT says demand cannot keep up with supply and that

“one of its statewide priorities will be to address growing power demands tied to booming oil and gas production in the Permian Basin of West Texas and Eagle Ford Shale in the south. The expected completion this year of increased transmission capacity to Dallas-Fort Worth from West Texas, where wind generation has mushroomed in recent years, should help ease some congestion.”

Read more:

In the meantime as I type this on Jan 11, 2013, the grid is under strain near Houston because of a nuclear facility fire.  When they try to bring back up that reactor unit, “Let’s hope we don’t have one of those before unit 2 comes back online.” says Citizen Carol of The Texas Vox

Here is a Ft Worth drill site as pictured above in cold temperatures.

The freeze of Feb of 2011 and subsequent rolling ERCOT blackouts proved how vulnerable our natural gas infrastructure is. Complicating that is the interdependency on electricity when our urban gas well lift compressors and compressor stations are electric.

Curious me, metroplex wifey, has questions as to how prepared we are at the actual drill sites for freezing temperatures…
a). Have we insulated all exposed piping/flow lines?
b). Do we have in-line heaters between the wellhead and before the separators? If not, then
c). Do we have installations of (solar powered) methanol injection pumps? These cost about $6,800 annually to run/man with a one time upfront investment of about $2,800 at each well.
d). Does our fluid storage tanks have failsafe shut-in devices so that when roads are impassible, and prevent produced water evacuation trucks from getting to the sites that these BRINE tanks do not overflow? ANSWER = ***YES….whew!

e). Does our production separators have exposed equipment/sensors?….if so, can they be housed or insulated?

f). Are downhole chokes being employed by taking some of the pressure drop (The Joule-Thomson affect) and decreasing the risk of surface well head freezing?

g). Does electric lift compressors or the electric compressor stations have dedicated grids so they are unaffected by power outages?

These are questions I never intended to learn, but feel the need to babysit the industry since Feb 2011 was so “eventful”.

But don’t take my “wifey word” on this…here

is a report backing up the idea of how interdependent natural gas and electricity are with respect to rolling blackouts risk.  Electric (urban) gas compressor stations exacerbate this risk….how you like urban drilling now?

————–here is another related article……..

“Early this month (Feb 2011), New Mexico was transformed by snow and sub-freezing temperatures. Exceptionally low temperatures and lack of wind stoped wind turbines from generating energy, resulting in rolling blackouts on the Texas power grid. Across state lines, subzero 
temperatures froze gas wellheads. This, combined with increasing demand 
for natural gas, lowered pressure in transmission pipes. The pre-packed 
transmission lines were no match for the cumulative effects of subzero 
temperatures, idle turbines and rolling blackouts in Texas, frozen 
wellheads, increased demand, and low pressure in the natural gas 
pipeline system.
    Now, the studies have begun, and investigations have started. It 
could be years before official decisions are handed down, but the New 
Mexicans who lived through the shortage firsthand demand solutions. Now 
is the time to ask tough questions and find thoughtful answers that can 
lead to the strategic changes needed to avoid this sort of crisis in 
the future.
    I am pleased that those New Mexico communities hit the hardest by 
the cold are represented here today, as well as the natural gas 
providers and their regulators. I use the term ``regulator,'' loosely, 
as the bulk of the Texas wind corridor operates largely ``off-grid.'' 
Furthermore, the delivery system to New Mexico is so closely 
intertwined with the Texas market that a blackout in Texas, as we 
learned this month, has staggering results in Southern New Mexico. If 
there is one thing I hope you take away from this hearing, it is that 
we need more planning and better communication between Texas, New 
Mexico and the other states that are dependent on the Texas delivery 
    I have heard the term ``perfect storm'' used to describe what we in 
New Mexico experienced. A once-in-50-year storm knocked out 82 power 
plants in Texas. Freezing temperatures suspended equipment and shut 
down gas compression stations, reducing pressure in the pipelines. Like 
a blocked artery, the movement of natural gas slowed to a dribble. At 
the same time, the freezing weather increased demand. With the 
Southwest's abundant supply of natural gas blocked, we faced an 
unprecedented shortage. Supply could have remained steady-we had 
the natural gas, but the pressure was missing." 

Now for the biggest question – who can answer my questions? Here is a little “drama” in trying to get answers….

Reference No: W010086-010713
Full Name: Kim Feil
Email Address:
Phone Number:

Type of Information Requested: Community Development and Planning
Describe the document(s) you are requesting: 1) Do the gas well produced waterstorage tanks auto shut in the wells when the tanks get full? I’m asking because if roads get icy and trucks cannot get around…will the tanks overflow?2) Will the drillers adjust the chokesappropriate for this “MacFarland”weather freeze that is hitting us next week?


W010086-010713 Open Records Request No Records Exist 1/8/2013 1/7/2013

Seven hours hours later after asking “someone else” in her department for this info, the same person that said “No Records Exist” earlier, finally answered some of my questions that I boldfaced for emphasis….

—- Forwarded Message —-

From: City of Arlington – Open Records <>
Cc: “” <>
Sent: Tue, January 8, 2013 10:33:53 AM
Subject: Open Records Center Update :: W010086-010713

1/8/2013Feil Kim
Old Town Neighborhood Association
Arlington, TX 76011 RE: Gas well produced water storage tanks questions 
Reference Number: W010086-010713
Dear Feil Kim,Your January 7th public information request has been referred to me for response.  Under the Texas Public Information Act, the City is not required to create answers to questions in response to a request.  If there are specific records, currently in existence, that you would like to request from the City, please let us know.
Sincerely,Bridgett White
Assistant Director, Strategic Planning Division
Community Development & Planning
—– Forwarded Message —-
From: Bridgett White <>
To: “” <>
Cc: Jim Parajon <>
Sent: Tue, January 8, 2013 5:27:18 PM
Subject: Responses to Questions

Ms. Feil,

You recently sent staff a number of questions.  Below are responses to those questions:

1)  Does the Truman drill site have auto shut in feature to prevent spillage on storage tanks?

Per Section 7.01(A)(28)(e) of the Gas Well Ordinance, “Each storage tank shall be equipped with a level control device that will automatically activate a valve to close the well in the event of excess liquid accumulation in the tank.”

2)      What is the city’s definition of onsite gas processing?  Or maybe the question is what is the name of the equipment that is considered as “gas processing”?

Per Section 7.01(A)(17)of Gas Well Ordinance, “Except for a conventional gas separator or line heater, no refinery, processing, treating, dehydrating or absorption plant of any kind shall be constructed, established or maintained on the premises unless approved as part of the Gas Well Permit.”

3)      What is inspected for on this equipment?

As there is no onsite gas processing permitted in the City, the inspector surveys the site to ensure that no such equipment has been constructed.

Please note that the recently adopted Gas Well Ordinance (No. 11-068) is available on the City’s webpage at and may contain answers to additional questions you may have.


Bridgett White, AICP

Assistant Director, Strategic Planning Division

Community Development and Planning | City of Arlington, TX


Regarding my above question about choking back the well- city official, Roger Venerables, made a statement at an Arlington Tomorrow Foundation (ATF) meeting back in May 0f 2012 (where drilling funds are managed) about some drillers adjusting the choke on the wells in response to low prices of natural gas, but Roger has been unresponsive to earlier requests for the list of which drillers are actually doing this, so I know the information exists. Enjoy this video from that ATF meeting where Councilwoman Wilemon says “We Just Want More Money”. In this video, there are moot points in how the ATF board controls this cash and if/when City Council gets involved…..moot point in that the majority of the ATF board IS made up of City Council members….guess who approves gas wells? CITY COUNCIL-what a blantant conflict of interest!



*ref the question on if we employ auto storage tank shut off feature… this knarley pic was posted on an industry site to “scare”/ forewarn those brine mixers/handlers who deal with the heavier densitiy brine recipes for well completions and workovers. I have a question out to OSHA/NIOSH if they have any information as to how often or where the heavier density brine receipes are being used.

Frackers say “Its just salt water-lay back down”….so where are the regulations to prohibit the mixing of “high-density” brine formulations (such as the above pic risks) in urban areas? case in point to the NG loosly regulated entity.

I know I went “off topic” on how toxic brine can be in different areas, but if those storage tanks “did” spill, I couldn’t resist a shock picture of  a worst case scenerio brine injury.

In general, I am still in the dark as to how prepared Arlington is for freezing temps or storms that could and have has affected drill sites but the open records request is rather cut and dry and really not transparent because  “…the City is not required to create answers to questions in response to a request.  If there are specific records, currently in existence, that you would like to request….”

Now U R informed about how unreliable natural gas is especially when all these smaller “electric” compressor stations need to stay “on” during storms. When the blackouts happen, they worsen the situation if the gas isn’t flowing through the pipeline that the power plants need….who ever thought that electric compressor stations were appropriate for urban drilling was mistaken…electric compressor stations depending on “electricity from the grid” could mean the difference of supplying natural gas to the power plants that “make electricity for the grid”.

About Kim Triolo Feil

Since TX Statute 253.005 forbids drilling in heavily settled municipalities, I unsuccessfully ran for City Council Seat to try to enforce this. Since Urban Drilling, our drinking water has almost tripled for TTHM's. Before moving to Arlington in 1990, I lived in Norco’s “cancer alley”, a refinery town. It was only after Urban Drilling in Arlington did I start having health effects. After our drill site was established closest to my home, the chronic nosebleeds started. I know there are more canaries here in Arlington having reactions to our industrialized airshed (we have 55-60 padsites of gas wells). Come forward and report to me those having health issues especially if you live to the north/northwest of a drill site so I can map your health effects on this blog. My youtube account is KimFeilGood. FAIR USE NOTICE: THIS SITE MAY CONTAIN COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL THE USE OF WHICH HAS NOT ALWAYS BEEN SPECIFICALLY AUTHORIZED BY THE COPYRIGHT OWNER. MATERIAL FROM DIVERSE AND SOMETIMES TEMPORARY SOURCES IS BEING MADE AVAILABLE IN A PERMANENT UNIFIED MANNER, AS PART OF AN EFFORT TO ADVANCE UNDERSTANDING OF THE SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH EMINENT DOMAIN AND THE PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE (AMONG OTHER THINGS). IT IS BELIEVED THAT THIS IS A 'FAIR USE' OF THE INFORMATION AS ALLOWED UNDER SECTION 107 OF THE US COPYRIGHT LAW. IN ACCORDANCE WITH TITLE 17 USC SECTION 107, THE SITE IS MAINTAINED WITHOUT PROFIT FOR THOSE WHO ACCESS IT FOR RESEARCH AND EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES. FOR MORE INFORMATION, SEE: HTTP://WWW.LAW.CORNELL.EDU/ TO USE MATERIAL REPRODUCED ON THIS SITE FOR PURPOSES THAT GO BEYOND 'FAIR USE', PERMISSION IS REQUIRED FROM THE COPYRIGHT OWNER INDICATED WITH A NAME AND INTERNET LINK AT THE END OF EACH ITEM. (NOTE: THE TEXT OF THIS NOTICE WAS ALSO LIFTED FROM CORRIDORNEWS.BLOGSPOT.COM)
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