Accepting Responsibility: Consumers Energy Redoubles Already Stringent Safety Program After Explosion

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | May 2013, Vol. 68 No. 5
Garrick Rochow, Consumers Energy vice president of energy delivery

• Taking a proactive approach to detect gas leaks along pipeline systems throughout company service areas;
• Encouraging citizens who smell a “rotten egg” odor to immediately contact the company from a safe location by calling (800) 477-5050 to report the odor, a primary step in identifying gas leaks;
• Use of specially-equipped trucks to detect natural gas particles, driving routes on established routines and regular timetables;
• Conducting walking surveys using hand-held gas-detection equipment; and
• Assigning company pilots to fly regularly over the gas pipeline system to perform visual inspections for safety and reliability.

Rochow said the company has a comprehensive Integrity Management Plan in place to maintain and evaluate its pipelines, as part of the federal Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002.

“We review the structural integrity of our pipelines using methods that include running an electronic device inside pipes to transmit images and gather data about the condition of the pipes and pressure testing pipelines using water and above-ground test instruments,” he said. “If potential problems are indicated during these processes, we will excavate and examine the pipe and make repairs.”

As part of its Integrity Management Plan, Consumers Energy is replacing much of its steel and cast iron pipe and is projected to spend an additional $67 million in 2013 on upgrading and safety improvements to its gas delivery system, an increase of $11 million over 2012.

Consumers Energy, the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy, provides natural gas and electricity to 6.8 million of Michigan’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.