Consumers Energy upgrades compressor station critical for winter heat

JACKSON–With winter heating season fast approaching, officials at Consumers Energy said the utility has upgraded a critical piece of the system safely supplying affordable, reliable natural gas to Michigan homes and businesses.

The company finished installing five new units this fall to safely transport natural gas to customers and storage fields as part of a $260 million overhaul to the Freedom Compressor Station in Washtenaw County. The project is part of Consumers Energy’s Natural Gas Delivery Plan, a 10-year, $11 billion road map to make its gas system even more safe, reliable, affordable and clean.

The new, high-tech compressor units―which replaced equipment dating to the 1940s―will help Consumers Energy monitor and adjust gas flow more easily and run more efficiently to reduce air emissions.

“The upgrades at Freedom Compressor Station are a win for our customers, the communities we serve and the planet,” said Dennis Dobbs, Consumers Energy’s vice president of gas engineering and supply. “Since 2018, we’ve invested about $1 billion annually to modernize our system—a commitment we plan to continue in the coming decade. We are committed to creating a cleaner and more resilient natural gas future for Michigan.”

Each of Freedom’s five compressors are enormous V-12 engines, capable of generating more than 3,750 horsepower. They’ve replaced 13 aging units the company has retired and plans to remove in 2023.

Consumers Energy operates approximately 30,000 miles of natural gas pipeline, as well as one of the nation’s largest underground storage systems, comprised of 15 fields and nearly 1,000 wells, totaling 309 billion cubic feet of gas storage capacity.

Freedom Compressor Station, a key piece of the system, takes in natural gas purchased for customers at lower prices, then boosts pressure to push supplies to the transmission network as well as underground storage fields, which provide up to 80 percent of the natural gas needed on the coldest winter days.

“We provide natural gas to more than 4 million people in 45 counties and we’re working to shield those customers from price volatility,” Dobbs said. “Our vast storage system allows us to buy large amounts of natural gas when it’s cheapest and pass those savings along to customers during the winter when demand is highest. Freedom Compressor Station and our compression fleet are an invaluable component of that equation.”

Consumers Energy, Michigan’s largest energy provider, 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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