The status of the PVF and oil and gas industries is changing drastically before our eyes as we bundle up for the current power crisis. Though outages have been reported from several states, Texas has reported 3.9 million households and businesses without power in unprecedented frigid temperatures as the grid has failed.
Energy suppliers are currently forcing rolling power cuts for an hour at a time (although Houstonians are experiencing much longer outages) to prevent complete collapse of the network grids.
“These are not rolling blackouts; we are dealing with system-wide power outages across the state,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said on Twitter. Turner instructed those with power to lower their thermostats and conserve as much as they can to help ease the energy overload.
Schools are closed, flights are grounded and major highways are shut down. While many Northerners would just need their “big coat” in these temperatures, our Texas infrastructure — especially Houston — is just not equipped to handle it.
PVF Roundtable President Sara Alford of Newmans Valve has been without power for almost 20 hours, and the temperatures were in the teens last night. Most PVF Roundtable members in the Houston area are working from home on their phones, charging them in the car when they can.
Mayor Turner has asked for everyone to stay off of the roads as we are not properly equipped to de-ice or salt any roadways.
Several members have reported that they are also without water, while hotels are all full. Those of us fortunate enough to have a gas fireplace remain huddled around it with the family playing card games and counting the hours until power and Internet are be restored.
The George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston reached maximum capacity at 700 people on cots to stay warm. Gallery Furniture has opened two Houston locations offering warmth, beds and meals.
So, how is this cold affecting the PVF industry? Oil production has dropped by more than a million barrels a day, increasing U.S. crude prices by 2.5 percent, above $60 a barrel for the first time in more than a year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Oil production has plunged, liquid natural gas exports from the United States have halted, and wind turbine farms have frozen over, leaving the blades incapable of spinning. Energy simply cannot meet demand.
The PVF industry has been dealing with steel supply not meeting demand for more than a month as we’ve seen a 40 percent increase in steel pricing since the new year. Stainless plate is difficult to find, with common stock sizes of carbon steel becoming increasingly out of stock.
Master distributors are re-stocking to help meet the current increased demand for fittings, while fabricators are experiencing an increase in project quoting and sales — an increase from the three-month sluggish PVF environment since the November 2020 election.
Another winter storm is making its way across the southern states, bringing more ice and snow. Inevitably, this will create even more power outages and ruptured water lines.
While the release of COVID-19 vaccinations was creating a somewhat stable comeback for the industry, this arctic storm and Texas energy crisis brings a rollercoaster of uncertainties.
Although I do believe that once the power is restored and we are all warm, our gratitude for the PVF and oil and gas industries will be stronger than ever. It’s hoped that when the wind turbines thaw out, they can offer some additional assistance, too.