Blackouts occurred in 29 states on Tuesday night, far more than had been anticipated, as Mexico continues to experience the fallout from an interruption to the natural gas supply caused by a cold snap in the United States.
The National Energy Control Center warned there would be rolling, random cuts to power supply in 12 states in order to reduce pressure on the electricity system but the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) announced that the blackouts had extended to 26 states, affecting 3.2 million people.
However, authorities and citizens in 29 states reported that power went off for varying lengths of time on Tuesday night.
The only states where there were no reports of blackouts were Baja California, Baja California Sur and Sonora.
In Mexico City, which wasn’t one of the 12 states where outages were scheduled, there were blackouts in parts of the boroughs of Tlalpan, Miguel Hidalgo and Iztapalapa, the newspaper Reforma reported. Some México state municipalities that are part of the greater Mexico City metropolitan area, such as Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, were also left without power.
Authorities in Celaya, Guanajuato, said the city’s water and sewerage systems were affected by power cuts while water service was suspended in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas.
Authorities in several states expressed concern about the possibility that hospitals would be left without power supply. In Nayarit, Governor Antonio Echevarría said patients connected to ventilators in hospitals in Ixtlán and Rosamorada had to be transferred to state capital Tepic.
In Yucatán, blackouts were reported in several municipalities including Progreso and Motul. Some neighborhoods in state capital Mérida also experienced outages.
In the neighboring state of Quintana Roo, parts of the tourist destinations of Cancún and Playa del Carmen were shrouded in darkness for up to two hours from about 7:30 p.m. More than 55,000 people in five municipalities in the Caribbean coast state lost power, according to the CFE.
Businesses affected by blackouts over the past two days – 4.7 million people in Mexico’s north were left without power on Monday – have incurred losses of some 54 billion pesos (US $2.66 billion), estimated Luis Manuel Hernández, president of the industry group Index Nacional.
He said that some factories in the north of the country were left without power for more than 24 hours, forcing their complete shutdown.
Enoch Castellanos, president of the National Chamber for Industrial Transformation, said that he expected losses of 18 billion pesos (about US $890 million) between Tuesday and Friday due to the interruption in the natural gas supply from the United States, where sub-zero temperatures froze gas pipes.
The National Gas Control Center (Cenagas) issued a “critical alert” on Tuesday for the national gas system (Sistrangas) due to the limited amount of gas being sent to Mexico from the U.S.
The alert will remain in effect until further notice. The Ministry of Energy (Sener) said that injections of gas into the national system from the United States remain below scheduled levels.
“While Cenagas has the authority to carry out intervention actions through the purchase of natural gas … to remedy the situation, the market conditions currently reflect a low supply of that fuel,” the ministry said.
“As a control measure, the extractions from the entire gas system will be adjusted according to the availability of natural gas,” Sener said.
Cenagas published a list Tuesday afternoon of more than 80 companies that will have their gas volumes cut, among which were steel company Arcelomittal México, steelmaker Altos Hornos de México, glass producer Vitro, paper and cardboard company Bio Pappel and automaker Volkswagen. Some companies were to see cuts in excess of 99%.
President López Obrador acknowledged Wednesday morning that the situation is serious and warned that full electricity service might not be restored until Thursday or Friday.
“We hope that service is reestablished as soon as possible, they’re working on that,” he said.
The president said that three shipments of gas to be brought to Mexico by sea have been purchased in order to allow gas-fueled power plants to increase their capacity.
“[The situation] is fundamentally due to the freezing weather … in the north, mainly in Texas,” López Obrador said, ruling out any suggestion that the United States had withheld gas due to any problems in the bilateral relationship.
“To clarify, there is not any reprisal – that they’re not delivering gas is not because they don’t see us in a favorable light,” he said.