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As of: 1:39 PM, 11/15/19

News Release

Consumers Energy Gives “All Clear” to Customers at Midnight to End Emergency Natural Gas Reductions

Jackson, Mich. Thursday, January 31, 2019

Company Expresses Gratitude for Unprecedented Assistance

Latest Update: 4:15 PM - January 31, 2019

Consumers Energy announced that its emergency public appeal to conserve natural gas is ending at midnight tonight for all customers – commercial, industrial and residential.

“There is no doubt the gas reduction efforts by residents and businesses across the Lower Peninsula played a key role in helping maintain natural gas flow in our distribution system at a time when it was critically needed,” said Patti Poppe, Consumers Energy’s president and chief executive officer. “Because of the swift action of all, we were able to continue critical services – from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of the men and women of Consumers Energy, we thank you,” she said.

Consumers Energy made its public appeal to conserve Wednesday, following a morning fire that damaged equipment at its Ray Natural Gas Compressor Station in Macomb County. There were no injuries and the cause of the fire remains under investigation. The fire reduced the amount of natural gas that could be delivered to customers from underground storage located at the compressor station. The site is a combination compression and storage field where Consumers Energy stores natural gas until it is needed by customers.

The damage to compressor equipment at Consumers Energy’s largest storage and delivery system, coupled with continued historically cold temperatures, prompted the company to ask customers to dial back their thermostats and conserve natural gas use in their homes.

Repairs at the Ray Compressor Station are ongoing, and one of the station’s three compressors is partially in service. A root cause analysis to try and determine why the fire occurred has also been initiated.

Update: 12:00 PM - January 31, 2019

Consumers Energy greatly appreciates conservation efforts by all natural gas customers across Lower Michigan to assist with a supply issue on the company’s gas distribution network. Conservation, even by gas customers served by other utilities than Consumers Energy, is making a difference.

This morning, we are cautiously optimistic that our public requests to reduce gas use are having a positive effect.

However, with Thursday’s continued historically cold weather, we ask that conservation measures continue through the end of the day Friday, Feb. 1.

Repairs at our Ray Compressor Station are ongoing and the station is partially in service, providing natural gas to our distribution system. However, we are asking that all customers continue to conserve until the end of the day Friday, Feb. 1, to allow for temperatures to moderate and additional repairs to the Ray Station.

“As a result of an unexpected incident at a Gas Compressor station on Wednesday January 30 in Southeast Michigan, we are asking customers to temporarily reduce gas usage at this time while we continue to contain the incident and help keep Michigan residents warm during this cold spell,” said Garrick Rochow, Senior Vice President of Operations for Consumers Energy.

Update: 2:00 PM - January 30, 2019

Consumers Energy today called for all customers to voluntarily reduce their gas usage as a result of an unexpected gas incident in Southeast Michigan. 

A fire involving equipment at Consumers Energy’s Ray Natural Gas Compressor Station occurred in Macomb County at 10:33 a.m. Wednesday, January 30. The fire is being contained and there were no injuries. The cause of the fire is under investigation. All gas flow from the compressor station has been shut in until safety and damage assessments can be completed. Consumers Energy is activating natural gas peaking storage fields in Northville and St. Clair to help deliver natural gas to our customers. Natural gas is stored underground and reserved in these fields, which are activated when energy demand requires it. In addition, the company has reached out to its largest business customers to reduce gas usage while we continue to investigate the incident.

Residents and businesses can reduce gas usage by doing the following:

  • LOOK AT THERMOSTAT SETTINGS: Save energy while staying warm by setting your heat to a lower temperature. Use your programmable thermostat to set your heat at 65 degrees when you are home and 62 degrees when you are away for more than 5 hours.

  • BUSINESS REDUCTION OF PROCESSES: The company is also encouraging industrial and business customers to temporarily reduce processes.

  • SEAL & SHUT WINDOWS AND DOORS: Check for leaks in your windows and doors by feeling around for cool air. Also, please ensure all windows and doors are closed tightly.

For more information or tips, visit: www.consumersenergy.com/coldweather.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have any estimate for how long it will take you to get back? How long will we ask people to keep heat down? How many customers are being affected?

  • We expect to partially restore the Ray station by Wednesday evening.  We anticipate no curtailment beyond the extreme cold spell we are experiencing as a state through Friday. We are not sure how many customers are being affected since we are at a voluntary stage right now. However, we service 1.8 million natural gas customers in total. 

What does the process look like? What was our reaction time?

  • The station was fully manned at the time of the incident as we were anticipating a peak in demand given today’s cold temperatures. It was about 10:30 a.m. that fire was observed within plant 2 out of three plants at Ray. The station immediately began emergency fire procedures with the fire gate system.  Additionally, we began to set up an emergency response organization to respond to the incident. 

Will it affect prices? How long can we sustain on reserves like this?

  • Our gas prices are set by the MPSC, Michigan’s regulatory body. At the start of each heating season we fill 15 large storage fields around the state and should be able to utilize those reserves for the duration of this event. Additionally, the company has 7 of these compressor stations throughout Michigan located in fairly remote locations to service our entire gas territory. 

How did the company assess risk to the public when it first happened?

  • Our company worked quickly with outside emergency officials and fire departments to respond to the fire. The public was never in danger. 

Is the fire out now?

  • Yes. The fire began at 10:33 a.m. on January 30 and was out at roughly 3:00 p.m on January 30. 

Could it happen again soon?

  • We will do a thorough root cause investigation to determine what caused this event. It is too soon to determine the cause but our employees are currently walking the perimeter and beginning the in-depth investigation. 

What is the rationale for letting it continue to burn? What damage took place?

  • A controlled burn ensures we have the ability to use up all of the gas in that plant. Our systems are designed to vent the majority of the gas but some residual gas remains in the system. However, with no additional supply into station a controlled burn is the best way to ensure gas is used up. 

What happens if people don’t want to volunteer and reduce gas usage?

  • We are all in this together. As Michiganders, we want to ensure we are doing the right thing for the greater good. Just since our initial call we have already seen the reduction on our system – customers are making the right choice for the overall good. We really appreciate our Michigan neighbors’ voluntary efforts so we can continue to keep everyone safe and warm by maintaining gas delivery to all our 1.8 million customers. 

Why is Consumers Energy asking people to consume less energy?

  • We are doing this as a result of an unexpected incident at a Gas Compressor station this morning while we continue to contain the incident. 

How can people reduce gas usage on the coldest day of the year?

  • Residents and businesses can reduce gas usage by doing the following:

    • LOOK AT THERMOSTAT SETTINGS: Save energy while staying warm by setting your heat to a lower temperature. Use your programmable thermostat to set your heat at 65 degrees when you are home and 62 degrees when you are away for more than 5 hours.

    • BUSINESS REDUCTION OF PROCESSES: The company is also encouraging industrial and business customers to temporarily reduce processes.

    • SEAL & SHUT WINDOWS AND DOORS: Check for leaks in your windows and doors by feeling around for cool air. Also, please ensure all windows and doors are closed tightly. 

What else is Consumers Energy doing to get more gas for its customers?

  • We understand the timing of this situation and our request to customers is not ideal given today’s extremely cold temperatures. We request their patience as we work to investigate the incident. We are activating natural gas peaking storage fields in Northville and St. Clair to help deliver natural gas to our customers. Natural gas is stored underground and reserved in these fields, which are activated when energy demand requires it.

When do you expect repairs to be made? Is DTE helping your utility out?

  • The event is still under investigation and working with suppliers to bring other gas on through other means.