Frigid temps cause natural gas prices to soar, local residents asked to limit usage to help save money

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — Natural gas prices hit historic heights this week.

Experts said the deep freeze has crippled much of the nation’s natural gas infrastructure as demand soars to unprecedented levels. The price hike causing Central Illinois providers to ask customers to limit usage.

Craig Loudermilk, Morton’s director of public works, said the uptick in natural gas prices is a combination of factors affecting those in the South and trickling off to the Midwest.

“They’re going through rolling electricity blackouts in Texas,” Loudermilk said. “The storms, the temperatures, all that that’s hitting Texas and Oklahoma, that’s where our natural gas comes from — a majority of it.”

He said the electrical systems and grids where they purchase their natural gas have been shutting down from the cold, which limits the supply and causes prices to skyrocket.

He said the current situation is unprecedented.

“We don’t plan for 10,000% increases in the price of gas,” Loudermilk said. “From February 12th to February 16th, we had our normal load covered for approximately $3.00 a dekatherm. I paid for gas for five days, through today, for that incremental season load (the load above the normal level) I paid $224.56 a deckatherm.”

Loudermilk said this is where the village is feeling the raw effects and Morton Gas customers could end up with a gas bill 5 times higher than normal.

“I budget $4.3 million in purchasing gas every year for the village of Morton,” Loudermilk said. “We’ve spent about $4 million in the last five days so that’s where the real number. It’s obscene, it’s not right but at the end of the day we’re at the mercy of that.”

He said the village has a storage contract, similar to Ameren, but it can only help so much and they can only pull so much out of that per day. Now the village is reaching out to Morton Gas customers to turn down the heat to 68 degrees to help save costs.

Morton resident Tom Linderman said he’s fine with doing his part.

“I’m happy to do that,” Linderman said. “I think that we’re a great community and our nation has come together in this and tried to save energy and be wise with the resources that we have.”

Tucker Kennedy, director of communications for Ameren Illinois, said their system is performing well. He said they buy natural gas at lower prices in the summer and store it to use in the winter.

But he said there are still things customers can do to help out.

“Lower your water heater temperature, you know little things that you can do,” Tucker said. “Don’t run your dryer or your appliances if you don’t need to.”

Tucker said the entire ordeal is weather dependent and could change any day.

Loudermilk said so far Morton Gas customers have been willing to make the sacrifice to help out and he hopes lawmakers can also step in during these times.

“We hope legislators and senators are listening, we need their help on these sort of situations,” Loudermilk said.

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