Temperatures are forecast to plummet across the oil and natural gas producing areas of Texas later this week, threatening to impact production and the power grid.
In Midland — business center of the Permian Basin — temperatures will drop to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 degrees Celsius) Wednesday, before plunging further Thursday night, according to the National Weather Service. Similar conditions are expected in neighboring Odessa and Big Springs. The chill will also reach across the eastern half of Texas with temperatures falling to 18 degrees in Dallas, 24 in San Antonio and 27 in Houston.
In addition to the biting cold, freezing rain, sleet and snow are possible across west Texas late Wednesday into Thursday.
“There is going to be a pretty solid push of Arctic air into the southern high plains,” said Rich Otto, a forecaster at the U.S. Weather Prediction Center.
Natural gas production has dipped twice already in January because of freezing temperatures. On Jan. 20, output fell 6.2%, according to preliminary BloombergNEF data based on pipeline flows. A cold blast also disrupted supplies to start the year. Production shut-ins can happen across Texas in cold weather. The occurrences have raised questions about the state’s ability to avoid a repeat of the energy crisis that crippled the gas sector a year ago, leading to the deaths of more than 200 people and plunging millions in the dark.
“This doesn’t look like it will be as extreme as the last event in February 2021,” Otto said. “It does look like it will be below average down there for the foreseeable future.”
High temperatures across northwest Texas that are usually about 55 degrees at this time of year will dip 30 to 40 degrees below normal, Otto said.
Average temperatures throughout the state will linger 5 to 8 degrees below normal through Feb. 9, and start to moderate only slightly through Feb. 14, according to the Commodity Weather Group LLC.
“We continue to monitor the Texas story later this week with the potential for natural gas freeze-offs and winter precipitation, as well as a major winter storm with heavy snow and icing potential for the Midwest,” Matt Rogers, president of the Commodity Weather Group, wrote in a note to clients.