Pipeline Integrity and Maintenance
Natural Gas Transmission Pipelines Integrity Management Program
Our priorities are safety and reliability, and we want to make sure you are aware of our continuing efforts to keep you safe and secure.
As one of Michigan’s largest natural gas companies, we operate and maintain high-pressure natural gas transmission lines across Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
Our Compliance Program
We are required by the federal Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002 to develop and implement an Integrity Management Program.
To comply with this law, we review the structural integrity of pipelines in “high-consequence areas” (HCAs) where a large number of people live within a certain distance of a pipeline. This also includes “identified sites” near pipelines such as schools, hospitals and playgrounds where people may gather.
The federal law requires natural gas pipeline operators such as us to evaluate pipelines in higher-risk areas by December 2007 and evaluate the remaining pipelines on our system by December 2012. Pipelines will then be re-evaluated every seven years.
Several evaluation methods can be used that include:
- Run a device inside the pipeline to gather data about the condition of the pipe
- Pressure test pipelines usually using water
- Use above-ground test instruments
During the process, we will excavate and examine the pipe where potential problems are indicated. Our examinations often lead to repairs, and repairs may be done immediately.
In some cases, the pressure in the pipeline is reduced, and repairs are scheduled at a later date. Delays may be caused by the time needed to acquire materials to complete the repairs and/or acquire necessary permits from governmental organizations.
Flying Inspection-Each year Consumers Energy pilots fly over every portion of our gas transmission and storage pipelines, performing visual inspections to help ensure their safety and reliability. Portions of our distribution pipelines are checked for leaks annually.
Checking for Leaks-Consumers Energy takes a proactive approach on the ground to finding gas leaks along our distribution and service lines throughout our service areas in Michigan. Specially-equipped trucks that detect natural gas particles in the air are driven on established routes on regular timetables. Walking surveys, using hand-held gas detection equipment, are also conducted. Still, the number one defense against gas leaks is the citizen who smells the odorant we add to natural gas and calls us to report it. Learn how to detect and report a natural gas leak.
Of Pigs and Pipes-Sometimes the inspection of our natural gas transmission pipelines involves the use of technology commonly called a "smart pig." A smart pig is an electronic instrument that can be used to inspect the inside condition of natural gas pipelines as a safety precaution. The instrument travels through the pipeline and transmits images of the pipeline's interior for review.
To learn more about what we're doing to keep the areas safe and secure around natural gas transmission pipelines, please see our brochure Your Link to Pipeline Safety: Neighbors .