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With Supplies Choked, Oklahoma Regulators Lift Production Caps On Natural Gas Wells

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With natural gas in short supply for power plants amid a severe winter storm, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission lifted production limits on certain wells in an emergency meeting on Monday.

Limits on top-producing gas wells will be increased from 50% to 100% of open flow for the next 14 days. Public Utility Division Director Brandy Wreath said it won’t entirely alleviate strain on the electric grid, but it will help.

"It was just one arrow in the quiver, so to speak, that if we could get this limitation lifted, even if that helps one small system or one customer it is worth it to get this done because the conversation with everybody has been one of without being dramatic, we’re talking about actual lives at stake here," Wreath said.

Prolonged temperatures below freezing across a swath of the central U.S. put a strain on the electric grid managed by the Southwest Power Pool across 14 states. The organization briefly told utilities early Monday afternoon to turn to rolling blackouts.

Wreath said it may also be appropriate for the corporation commission to direct companies that store, transport and distribute natural gas to focus their operations on life, health and welfare. 

"Prioritizing human life and safety, which would, of course, be end users for heating, generation of electricity to maintain electric service for heat, and that is something that has come up in discussions with numerous industry personnel," Wreath said.

Wreath said similar orders have been issued in other states. 

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