When temps dip below zero, our gas teams turn on
During the weekend of February 13-14, 2016, somewhere in the northeast US, a smart thermostat started a gas heating system in a home. That started a chain reaction from a gas well in the Gulf of Mexico that instantaneously delivered natural gas to a customer’s home, keeping families warm and comfortable as temperatures plummeted to negative double digits.
Over the course of the weekend, more natural gas was flowing through our system (measured as “throughput”) and we distributed more natural gas to our customers (measured as “sendout”) than ever before, with minimal outage and reliability issues. In other words, customer demand was higher than ever before, and we had the system design and the capacity to meet our customers’ growing gas needs due to the increasing investments we’ve made to enhance our system.
While our customers may take that reliability for granted, we certainly do not. Ensuring the heat would come on for our customers that brutally cold weekend started many months ago with the gas asset management team identifying the capital work that was needed to ensure the safety, capacity and reliability of the gas system. Gas engineering, resource management, complex construction, project management, gas operations and construction, instrumentation and regulation (I&R), and customer meter services worked together to execute the workplan. The efforts culminated this weekend with excellent team work and execution from gas control, engineering, LNG, I&R, TransGas, and the customer group’s gas supply team.
“The teamwork and coordination on the gas side of the business during sub-zero temperatures is the equivalent of a major hurricane for electric,” said Ross Turrini, senior vice president, gas process and engineering. Turrini witnessed the performance of the team and the New York gas system from the new gas control room in Melville, NY, where the new mapboard gives them full visibility of the New York system to proactively assess system conditions. The gas control center in Northborough, MA, operating New England’s system also housed a strong team of gas professionals that helped get MA and RI through the weekend.
Noting that the peak throughput and sendouts happened over a weekend, Ross said, “Had this cold weather occurred during the typical work week, the system demand would have been much higher with schools and business demanding heat and we’re confident the system would have performed just as reliably.”
Tom Bennett, VP of Gas Systems Engineering said, “The gas system faced one of the worst days we could have imagined with temperatures around our footprint in the negative single digits, diving as low as -36 degrees in Watertown, NY. We were ready for it, though, because we did imagine, and plan for, the worst day. And our system performed exactly as designed.”
Liquid natural gas (LNG) is crucial to our reliability plans during these periods of extreme cold when demand outpaces the gas supply purchased for the day. All of our LNG sites had the capacity to meet the excess demand over the weekend, and at one point early Sunday morning, all thirteen were running to maintain pressure and volume in our delivery system.
“Our teams work year ‘round to make sure that absolutely nothing goes wrong on the three or four days a year we need to tap into the LNG supply to meet demand,” says Frank Su, director, LNG operations. “All the reliability improvements over the years with the effort and dedication of our people make the difference. We have to keep looking for reliability and process safety opportunities and not get comfortable because nothing went wrong this time. That’s when the problems start.”