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San Juan Basin natural gas field not affected by Texas freeze

Lines from region go to Northwest, California
Natural gas production and distribution in northern New Mexico and Southwest Colorado was not affected by winter weather in Texas because pipelines in this region don’t run to the Lone Star State.

As a winter freeze crippled energy production across Texas, some residents living in Southwest Colorado and northern New Mexico may be wondering if the slowdown had any impact on natural gas leaving the San Juan Basin.

Christi Zeller, who heads the Energy Council, a Southwest Colorado oil and gas advocacy group, said that wasn’t an issue, as natural gas from the region does not go to Texas.

Zeller said the primary gas types in the San Juan Basin in Southwest Colorado and northern New Mexico are conventional gas (such as heavier hydrocarbon, like propane and butane) and coal-seam or coalbed methane gas.

Most of the natural gas from San Juan Basin in New Mexico, Zeller said, is routed to the Ignacio plant, and then sent north to Seattle and areas around Washington. The plant in Bloomfield sends gas to California.

“There are no direct pipelines to Texas from San Juan Basin fields that I know of,” Zeller said.

One reason, Zeller said, is Texas doesn’t need to import natural gas – the Lone Star state has plenty of it.

Texas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, leads the nation in natural gas production, accounting for one-fourth of U.S. gross withdrawals in 2019.

“Natural gas is shipped from Texas across the U.S. and into Mexico,” the EIA reported. “Large volumes of natural gas also enter the state, primarily through Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico, but more natural gas leaves the state than enters. Most of it continues on to Louisiana and Mexico.”

The natural gas that is imported from New Mexico, Zeller said, is likely from the Permian Basin, which spans southeastern New Mexico and western Texas.

According to the EIA report, Texas leads the nation in natural gas consumption, accounting for almost 15% of the U.S. total.

“More than one-third of Texas households rely on natural gas as their primary heating fuel,” the report said.

As temperatures dropped to record lows in Texas this month, residents there used more energy for heating, increasing demand at a time when the electricity grid’s infrastructure was being compromised by the cold.

Although the infrastructure for all forms of energy – natural gas, nuclear, wind – at least in part failed leading to the catastrophe, because Texas relies so heavily on natural gas, its system has fallen under scrutiny.

“From frozen natural gas wells to frozen wind turbines, all sources of power generation have faced difficulties during the winter storm,” the Texas Tribune reported. “But Texans largely rely on natural gas for power and heat generation, especially during peak usage, experts said.”

On Feb. 16, an estimated 4.5 million people were without power, according to a report in the Tribune, and the death toll may not be known for weeks or months.


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