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Video taken from home in Ray Township shows fire and explosion at Consumer Energy Compressor Station.
     Paul Kacanowski, Special to Free Press

Consumers Energy wants to be thermostats dialed down through Friday.

That late-night text message plea to turn down your thermostat worked, reducing peak demand for gas and preventing possible shut- down. Offs, Consumers Energy President and CEO Patti Poppe said Thursday

"We had a 10% reduction on the system and that was a game changer for us overnight," Poppe said a news conference Thursday. "No residential gas customers lost service as a result of this."

No shutoffs are expected but Poppe reiterated the call for people to keep their thermostats dialed down through Friday as the company works to repair damage to a compression station in Macomb County. .

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The service center for Consumers Energy in Clinton Twp. on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. Consumers send out a text alert asking the public to turn their thermostats to 65 degrees due to their natural gas resources. (Photo: Kimberly P. Mitchell, Detroit Free Press)

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Poppe said that the company had plenty of gas available for supplying roughly 1.8 million customers during the record cold snap, but distributing it became a problem after a fire at the Ray Township facility. Consumers Energy reduced the gas supply to industrial customers throughout the day, but the load was not dropping because of the extreme temperatures, she said.

On a typical winter day in Michigan, the company pumps about 2.5 billion cubic feet of gas, Poppe said. Yesterday's cold temperatures pushed demand to 3.3 billion cubic feet and the company projected to rise to 3.7 billion cubic feet today.

That's when they contacted the governor's office about issuing the emergency alert, which sounded on cellphones and mobile devices across the state last night.

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The plea went about 10:30 pm Wednesday to everyone in the Lower Peninsula with a mobile device, which is not serviced by Consumers Energy, Poppe said. Because the various providers connect their systems, anyone who is dialed down also helped the situation.

Poppe thanked everyone and apologized for the inconvenience.

"On behalf of the entire Consumer Energy, we are sorry that you are in this situation, "she said.

Energy use typically peaks around 7 am and today peak was about 3.3 billion cubic feet, Pope said

Some customers have reported low gas pressure, causing furnaces to not fire properly, but Garrick Rochow, Consumers Energy senior vice president of operations, said those were unrelated to the problems with the Ray facility.

"There was a call that we call two or two or two customers in a certain location where there might be a limitation of natural gas that can impact a furnace," he said. "Those are really rare across the system and we quickly responded with a service worker to address that situation."

There are three plants there and only one of them is currently operating. Crews are working to determine the cause of the fire and rectify it before restarting the other two plants, she said.

Spokesman Brian Wheeler said without the request to reduce usage, the company likely would have faced that decision. But it wasn't imminent when the request went out.

"The appeal provided us with the cushion that we needed," he said.

Wheeler said he didn't know about any time the utility was forced to shut off service because of supply problems but said the company has previously requested voluntary reductions because of an emergency situation

Contact John Wisely: 313-222-6825 or jwisely@freepress.com. On Twitter @jwisely

Contact Christina Hall: chall@freepress.com. Follow on Twitter: @challreporter

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