Monday, 22 April, 2019

Cold Weather and Gas Shortages Close Auto Plants in MI

Automakers stop work at dozens of Michigan sites to conserve energy Automakers stop work at dozens of Michigan sites to conserve energy
Russell Knight | 03 February, 2019, 09:00

GM said it halted production at 13 manufacturing plants served by Consumers Energy Corp.in MI because of a fire at one of its facilities and strains on the natural gas supply.

The fire hit a Consumers Energy natural gas compressor station north of Detroit on Wednesday as record-cold temperatures swept over the region.

Consumers Energy's CEO Patti Poppe made an appeal Wednesday night for customers to reduce their natural gas usage.

General Motors, which had shuttered more than a dozen plants in the Detroit, Lansing, Flint and Saginaw areas, already was restarting factories. In addition, the company has reached out to its largest business customers to reduce gas usage while we continue to investigate the incident.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV also said it had canceled a shift on Thursday at both its Warren Truck and Sterling Heights Assembly plants and was considering whether it would need to cancel additional shifts. Ranger production was unaffected.

Officials are warning MI residents that they risk brief interruptions of natural gas service for heat amid bitterly cold weather if they don't help reduce energy use following a fire at a utility's suburban Detroit facility that affected natural gas supplies.

Workers at its Warren Tech Center were also told to stay home on Thursday.

About 30,000 employees were affected by the closures at GM, according to the Associated Press.

On Wednesday night, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked everyone in the state's lower peninsula to turn their thermostats down to 65 degrees.

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

"But it is not enough", Poppe said.

The economic impact of the shutdowns is likely to be small.

Automakers usually can make up for lost production days by increasing assembly line speeds, but if the plants are closed or limited for a long time, that gets harder. It plans to resume work on Sunday evening.

Other businesses also have been affected. Dart Container Corp., switched natural gas boilers to oil and curtailed some operations near Lansing that use natural gas.

In a Facebook post, the energy provider says it's "cautiously optimistic" that its calls for conservation are helping the cause and the Macomb County compressor station is now partially in service.

The cause of the fire is not known yet.

Consumers has activated its underground storage fields in Northville and St. Clair to supply more natural gas to Southeast Michigan.

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