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Four Ways Texas Gas and Power Suppliers Can Protect Against the Coming Freeze

From wrapping equipment to injecting methanol into pipes, operators have ways to keep gas flowing.

A plant covered in snow in McKinney, Texas, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. The energy crisis crippling the U.S. showed few signs of abating Tuesday as blackouts left almost 5 million customers without electricity, while refineries and oil wells were shut during unprecedented freezing weather.
A plant covered in snow in McKinney, Texas, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. The energy crisis crippling the U.S. showed few signs of abating Tuesday as blackouts left almost 5 million customers without electricity, while refineries and oil wells were shut during unprecedented freezing weather.Photographer: Cooper Neill/Bloomberg

When a deadly cold seized Texas nearly one year ago, desperate power companies burned mesquite in barrels and blasted propane torches to keep their equipment from freezing. Still, large swathes of the grid went dark as instruments iced over and gas production came to a halt, leaving millions without electricity and heat for days. 

Now, with an arctic blast again threatening Texas with below-freezing temperatures, power and gas suppliers are under pressure to prevent a repeat of last year’s catastrophe. While the gas supply network — the lifeblood of the power system — has yet to complete many of the proposed changes meant to protect it from extreme weather, there are plenty of routine steps operators can take to keep the lights on. Here are some of them: