Consumers Energy on Jan. 30 called for all customers to voluntarily reduce their gas usage as a result of an unexpected gas incident in southeast Michigan – namely, a fire involving equipment at the company’s Ray Natural Gas Compressor Station occurred in Macomb County at 10:33 a.m., on Jan. 30.
Consumers Energy said that there were no injuries and that the cause of the fire is under investigation.
The station was fully manned at the time of the incident as the company was anticipating a peak in demand given the cold temperatures, Consumers Energy said. The fire was observed within plant 2 out of three plants at Ray, the company said, noting that the station immediately began emergency fire procedures with the fire gate system. Consumers Energy said that it also began to set up an emergency response organization to respond to the incident.
The company noted that it worked quickly with outside emergency officials and fire departments to respond to the fire, adding that the public was never in danger.
Consumers Energy also said on Jan. 30 that it is activating natural gas peaking storage fields in Northville and St. Clair to help deliver natural gas to its customers. The company said that it has also reached out to its largest business customers to reduce gas usage while it continues to investigate the incident.
On Jan. 31, Consumers Energy said that repairs at its Ray Compressor Station are ongoing and that the station is partially in service, providing natural gas to its 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,” the company said.
Separately on Jan. 31, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office posted an alert that stated, “Due to extremely high demand for natural gas with record-low temperatures, and an incident at a facility, [C]onsumers [E]nergy has asked everyone who is able to please turn down their thermostats to 65° or less until Friday at noon.”
Whitmer on Jan. 28 signed an order declaring a state of emergency in Michigan to help address threats to public health and safety related to forecast sub-zero temperatures over the next few days, according to a Jan. 28 statement.
“With a winter storm impacting much of the Lower Peninsula and statewide temperatures forecast to hover around 0 degrees with wind chills at 50 below or colder in some areas, the state is actively working with local communities and emergency management partners to ensure they have all the resources they need to respond,” the statement noted.
Whitmer also activated the State Emergency Operations Center, which is overseen by the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management, and Homeland Security Division. The center coordinates response and recovery efforts by state agencies and local government, the statement added.
Utilities offer tips in light of cold temperatures
Other utilities during the week of Jan. 28 offered tips for extreme cold temperatures, with American Electric Power’s (NYSE:AEP) AEP Ohio, for instance, on Jan. 29 noting that the polar vortex is bearing down on a large swath of the United States and bringing extreme weather to Ohio. Some key things to remember during the extreme cold include setting thermostats as low as appropriate for staying healthy and comfortable; taking extreme care when using a space heater; and preventing pipes from freezing by running a constant trickle of water, the company said.
Ameren’s (NYSE:AEE) Ameren Illinois, in a separate Jan. 29 statement, said that it had activated its Emergency Operations Center as of 4 p.m., on Jan. 28, to help coordinate response efforts associated with the week’s winter weather threat. The company also offered such tips as preparing an emergency kit with supplies – flashlights, radios, batteries, non-perishable foods, water, medicines, blankets, and warm clothes, for instance – to use in the event of a storm.
NiSource’s (NYSE:NI) Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), in its Jan. 29 statement, said that crews across the region would work to ensure safe, reliable natural gas and electric service, and that the company is prepared to respond to emergencies and calls throughout the event. The company said that customers should, among other things, keep fresh air and exhaust vents for natural gas appliances clear.
AVANGRID’s (NYSE:AVA) New York State Gas and Electric on Jan. 30 said, for instance, that if customers are unable to keep their homes safely and comfortably heated, they should call 211 for resources that can help them.
National Grid on Jan. 30 said that its crews are ready to respond to damage that may be caused to its system as a result of the winter storm. The company provided safety tips, including to never touch downed power lines and to always assume that they are carrying live electricity.
PJM Interconnection on Jan. 31 said that as of 8:50 a.m., it continued to report no reliability issues.
“PJM has already passed its Thursday morning peak electricity usage,” PJM said. “The peak forecast was revised to under 140,000 MW. The Thursday evening peak is expected to reach to about 136,000 MW. Cold weather alerts remain in effect for the PJM footprint through 6 p.m. Friday. PJM continues to have robust reserves and does not expect to have any capacity issues at this time.”