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Why Natural Gas and the Electric Grid Must Work Together During Extreme Weather

by Scott Smith, President, Spire Midstream

Recent extreme weather events prove there is a consistent higher demand for electricity and natural gas. Those experiences show the need for operators of the electric grid and the gas system to have a coordinated approach to avoid blackouts and curtailment of gas service for home heating. 


Take 2021’s Winter Storm Uri. Freezing winter temperatures throughout the Central U.S., as far south as Texas, affected both natural gas and renewable energy production. Electric utilities needed more natural gas for power generation at the same time gas utilities needed more gas for home heating. Electric power outages were widespread, affecting more than 10 million customers in the U.S. and Mexico.  Or the next year’s Winter Storm Elliot, which impacted utilities and customers from coast-to-coast, with the Pacific Northwest experiencing extremely cold temperatures and a surge in demand for natural gas.


There is growing effort to ensure these two linked, complex systems can operate compatibly.


joint report recently released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) offers some guidance, with several recommendations for improving the ability of natural gas infrastructure and the electric grid to work together to maintain reliability during severe weather. Among their suggestions: 

  • Improving communication between natural gas infrastructure operators and electric grid operators for better situational awareness during extreme conditions, including real-time visibility of natural gas pipeline utilization and capacity data.

  • Formation of a gas industry equivalent to NERC, to consider improving reliability standards. 

  • Research to determine whether additional natural gas infrastructure is needed to ensure reliability. 


Natural gas plays a vital role in power generation. Not only with more intermittent resources added to the grid, but also with power producers calling for high volumes of natural gas. It’s important for grid operators, gas storage facilities, and pipelines to ensure an interoperable energy system that can stand up to extremes.


Natural gas storage facilities, like those operated by Spire Midstream, function as a kind of “shock absorber” for the gas system, helping pipelines meet customer commitments, maintain pressure over hundreds or thousands of miles of pipeline, and balance gas supply and demand.


Keeping homes and businesses safe and warm during extreme weather events, and adequate gas supply to power generation facilities,  requires cooperation, collaboration and communication between operators of the nation’s electric grid and essential natural gas assets like gas storage facilities and pipelines. The joint report provides a framework for discussion for how utilities can work together to address this issue. 

Scott Smith is president of Spire Midstream, a business unit of Spire Inc. (NYSE: SR). Spire Midstream includes Spire Storage West; Spire Storage Salt Plains, in Oklahoma; Spire MoGas Pipeline; and Spire STL Pipeline. He serves as an associate member on the board of the Northwest Gas Association.

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