Consumers Energy debuts new gas leak detection vehicles

JACKSON–Two new vehicles are helping Consumers Energy track down methane leaks to protect the planet and keep customers and communities safe.

This month, the company is debuting two Ford Edge SUVs equipped with mobile natural gas leak detection systems from Santa Clara, Calif.-based Picarro Inc. The rolling labs can gather and instantly analyze methane, wind, atmospheric and GPS data to find natural gas leaks and calculate their risks.

The new vehicles will help the utility prioritize leaks in natural gas pipes faster and more accurately and improve response to storms and natural disasters. The $4 million, five-year investment is part of a plan to achieve net zero methane emissions by 2030.

“This pilot project is another way we’re innovating to protect the planet and lead Michigan’s clean energy transformation,” said Greg Salisbury, vice president of gas engineering and supply. “We’re investing to make infrastructure and processes safer while reducing our environmental footprint.”

The rolling labs are outfitted with Picarro technology, a combination of hardware, software and data analytics that’s one thousand times more sensitive than the process currently used to survey Consumers Energy’s nearly 28,000-mile distribution network.

The vehicles will collect and analyze methane data as they roll down the road. They can patrol geographic areas quickly, scanning for potential trouble spots and providing real-time information to identify leaks and target areas for further investigation.

The system on each vehicle includes:

* A parts-per-billion sensitivity gas analyzer measuring atmospheric gas composition and other tracers such as ethane.

* An anemometer mounted on a mast for detecting wind speed, direction and wind variability.

* Two antennas on the vehicle roof, one for the 4G wireless connectivity and one for sub-meter GPS vehicle positioning.

* A 4G wireless router enabling the internet connection and data transmission to and from the Picarro Cloud and Wi-Fi connection to the in-vehicle tablet.

Consumers Energy is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), providing natural gas and/or electricity to 6.8 million of the state’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.

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