Bitter cold, natural gas shortages shutter auto plants

03 February, 2019, 08:58 | Author: Billie Castillo
  • Consumers Energy asks customers to turn down thermostats to avoid gas shortage

Dangerously low temperatures across the US forced several automakers, including General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, to halt production at some of their plants.

Consumers Energy and DTE Energy are asking the public to reduce natural gas consumption after a fire at a gas compressor facility Wednesday morning.

After a state of emergency declared by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and pleas for residents to lower their thermostats to 65 degrees or less on Wednesday, the all-clear is happening sooner than initially expected.

The utility says gas flow from the station was shut off, putting MI residents at risk of brief service interruptions with wind chills below zero. The facility provides 64 percent of Consumers' natural gas supply.

A fire at a gas compressor station in Macomb County Wednesday morning is what is causing the shortage, because they've had to shut down all gas flow to the compressor station until they can figure out if it's safe, according to their press release.

The affected plants are in the Detroit area as well as Lansing, Saginaw and Bay City, Michigan. Warren Tech Center employees are also taking the day off.

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Only factories served by Jackson, Michigan-based Consumers Energy were affected.

Poppe credits residential customers and large industrial users that stopped operations with stepping up to help ensure people have heat.

"Working with Consumers Energy, GM will begin resuming operations at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 1, at all manufacturing facilities and some critical labs, testing and other limited locations". Workers will get paid even though their buildings were closed.

Consumers Energy said in a statement Thursday that it's "cautiously optimistic" its requests to curb natural gas use are "having a positive effect".

Poppe said the usage cuts by large businesses were not enough, and urged 1.8 million MI customers to turn down thermostats as much as they could to cut natural gas use in order to protect critical facilities like hospitals and nursing homes. She told The Detroit News early Thursday that "localized planned curtailments" for some homes and business if demand isn't reduced. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

In a live Facebook video, CMS Energy CEO Patti Poppe thanked companies for the cutbacks but also urged 1.8 million non-corporate MI customers to use as little natural gas as possible so that places like hospitals and nursing homes would not be without power.

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