The Texas oil and gas regulator on Feb. 18 alerted state natural gas producers of a directive to reserve their supplies for in-state electric generation even as one member questioned whether the directive could be enforced.
Governor Greg Abbott on Feb. 17 issued an executive order restricting gas exports and asked the state regulator to “take all reasonable steps” to keep fuel in Texas until Feb. 21, a decision challenged by gas importer Mexico.
Days of freezing temperatures shut in about one-fifth of the region’s refining capacity, shuttered oil and natural gas wells and affected power generation in Mexico, which imports Texas natural gas.
The Texas Railroad Commission (RRC), the state’s oil and gas regulator, likely does not have the authority to interfere with contracts between companies to sell gas out of state, Commissioner Jim Wright said in an interview on Feb. 18.
Producers “are certainly focused on selling everything they can into Texas, but they’re obligated under contract,” said Wright, one of three elected commissioners. “I’m not sure we have authority to mess with that, nor do I really want to.”
Wright said he had spoken with Enterprise Product Partners and other pipeline companies, and those with extra supplies of natural gas are selling into the local market whenever possible.
The power crisis in Texas is likely to be resolved by the weekend, Wright said, echoing comments by utility executives.
U.S. spot gas prices eased on Feb. 18, falling 5% to $3.058 per MMBtu. The price rose 19% this month amid rising demand due to cold weather.
Kinder Morgan Inc., operator of gas pipelines that deliver to Arizona, California and New England, did not reply to a request for comment. Enterprise Products, whose gas pipelines reach into Louisiana and New Mexico from Texas, did not reply to a request for comment.
Texas producers export gas by pipelines that stretch from California to New England and ship LNG from Freeport and Corpus Christi. LNG producers declined to comment on the governor’s executive order.
This story was updated at 1:22 p.m. CT Feb. 18.
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