Skip to comments.Texas City power outages not a grid issue; salt may be to blame
Posted on 04/26/2011 7:41:23 AM PDT by thackney
The power outages that hit several Texas City oil refineries and chemical plants overnight and Tuesday morning appear to be related to equipment on site at those facilities and are not related to power generation or transmission issues.
Cathy Garber, a spokeswoman for Texas New Mexico Power the company that owns the power lines in the Texas City area said there appear to have been four events starting at 9:30 p.m. Monday in which 138-kilovolt lines went offline.
Garber said shes not permitted to discuss specific customers. She said the sections that failed were on the customer-owned distribution lines, not on the lines TNMP owns and operates. That means it was most likely equipment owned and operated by the refineries that was at fault.
With redundant wiring, TNMP was able to quickly isolate the problem areas and avoid a cascading problem that would have knocked out power to others in the area.
A spokeswoman for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the high voltages distribution system for much of Texas, confirmed the issues seem to be localized. Four more lines went out of service at about 4:30 a.m., she said.
The exact cause of the outages on the customer sites isnt clear, Garber said, but the lack of rain in the area could have allowed salt from the sea air to accumulate on equipment and cause equipment to short out.
TNMP will begin spraying its Texas City-area equipment to remove possible salt accumulation this week as a precautionary measure, Garber said.
When we went a long time without rain the salt buildup on the insulators of the power lines made for a dawn light show with dew.
Some mornings you just have to give Lucifer his dew...
There is some indication because of drought and windy conditions in the county that a build up of salt on power line insulators may be to blame for the power outages. Area refineries and chemical plants experienced power "blips" last week several times, officials said.
The outage at the BP refinery and chemical plant required emergency shut downs at all units, said Daren Beaudo, a BP spokesman. Flaring occurred at the plant while the shut took place.
A small fire broke out on pipestill 3B shortly after the outage. BPs Fire Department responded and quickly extinguished it.
Crews are monitoring the area around the refinery for possible emissions, Beaudo said. He did not release details of the results.