Officials: Turn down heat amid natural gas problems

Michigan

RAY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD/AP) — Consumers Energy has called on customers to voluntarily reduce their natural gas usage following a fire at a suburban Detroit gas compressor station amid bitterly cold weather.

“What we’re trying to avoid is a situation where we just simply can’t deliver natural gas to certain communities, neighborhoods, critical facilities,” Consumers CEO Patti Poppe said in a phone interview with 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday night.

During a press conference earlier in the night, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked residents in the Lower Peninsula to set their thermostats to 65 degrees or lower to make sure there was enough energy to go around. The state sent out an emergency alert to smartphones around 10:30 p.m. with the request.

DTE Energy also asked people to turn down their heat, citing the stability of the energy grid.

Poppe said Consumers’ largest business partners, including General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler, had already curtailed use to do their part and make sure residents can stay warm.

“I appreciate all of the Michiganders … and appreciate any steps that they’re willing to take. Everyone can do something,” Poppe said.

>>Online: Ways to reduce energy usage

Jackson-based Consumers says no one was injured in the fire Wednesday at its Ray Natural Gas Compressor Station in Macomb County. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Poppe told 24 Hour News 8 that Consumers has plenty of natural gas, but the fire disabled its ability to deliver that gas to the system.

“It cut our capacity in half today for a peak load,” Poppe said. “Now, that station alone can serve the entire state on a normal winter day … If it were 25 degrees, that station alone would serve the whole state.”

Consumers says all gas flow from the station was shut off, and it activated natural gas peaking storage fields to help meet the demand for gas to heat homes and businesses.

The Michigan Public Service Commission said all state-owned facilities in the Lower Peninsula lowered their thermostats by 5 degrees to reduce the burden on the natural gas supply.

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