Natural Gas Shortage Could Impact and Winter Power Outages

hazardous spills

Natural gas and electricity go hand-in-hand, a fact that is becoming worrisome in areas where the supply of natural gas is limited. For example, in California the Aliso Canyon leak caused a gas shortage that has negatively impacted dozens of power plants (totaling over 20GW of capacity). But leaks are not the only concern.

Some areas have a limited amount of pipeline capacity which, during times of peak demand, can create a bottleneck in terms of fueling gas-fired plants. This is a problem that is particularly acute in New England, where half of the region’s power is generated from natural gas (a 35% increase in the past 15 years). A similar situation was seen in the PJM Interconnection and Midcontinent ISO during 2014’s so-called polar vortex. At that time, 20% of the PJM grid was essentially forced offline due to natural gas supply limitations.

The good news is that lessons-learned from past shortages are being taken into account at the grid operator level. Some enhancements include communication protocols to increase the speed of gas generation requests, improved monitoring programs that estimate the amount of natural gas available for electric generation, increased information sharing across energy sectors, and more stringent penalty and reward systems. And more good news – all the major grid operators expect to have adequate supplies of natural gas this winter to avoid gas-fired plant interruption.

For much more detailed information about these strategies and tactics at the grid operator level, click here.

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