How gas cushioned the blow and speeded the recovery from the SA blackout

While there is much understandable focus on electricity supply seecurity, the role of gas in providing an additional layer of energy security is often forgotten. In the latest SA power blackout, gas cushioned the blow for mant people and made a major contribution to a speedy recovery in turning the lights back on:

  • The Bethune’s, together with over 400,000 customers of Australian Gas Networks, were still able to cook dinner on our gas stove and enjoy hot water from our gas hot water service last night. This was thanks to the two major gas transmission pipelines serving Adelaide and 8,000 km of gas mains, all buried underground and unaffected by weather events. Neither the SEAGas nor the Moomba Adelaide Pipeline gas flows were adversely affected by the blackout.
  • Local gas generators played a critical role in the system start-up last night, together with the Interconnect. Quarantine was up first soon before 8 pm, followed by Torrens A, Pelican Point and Torrens B. By midnight they were operating at 50% of their previous level.
  • There was no contribution to the start-up from wind farms on the AEMO data base because they are mostly in the mid-north which was hit by the collapse of the electricity transmission towers. Without the gas-fired generators any start-up would have been far more difficult, if not impossible.
  • Some back-up power is supplied by on-site gas-fired generators, including Adelaide Airport, which appears not to have had sufficient back-up power but clearly had sufficient for some critical functions like planes landing.
  • While the electricity spot market was suspended, the Adelaide gas Short Term Trading Market appears to have continued to operate. The ex-post price for yesterday was a modest $3.44/GJ.
  • The weather conditions that produced the blackout have been described as a one-in-50 year event. Most oil and gas infrastructure is built to withstand less frequent events than this. Politicians often complain about gold plating infrastructure. We may need more gold plating not less.

In short, gas and the associated infrastructure provided a critical layer of security for the energy system in this situation.  The same was apparent in the case of the Bass Link failure.