Consumers Energy Pays Fine for 2019 Gas Fire During Polar Vortex

The Michigan Public Service Commission concluded its investigation into the January 31, 2019 fire at the Consumers Energy Ray Natural Gas Compressor Station in Macomb County.

The fire led to a statewide natural gas emergency during a polar vortex cold snap. The MPSC’s Gas Safety Staff investigation found the root cause of the fire was grounding interference on the electrical system of the facility, which led to automated “blowdown” procedures in which natural gas is released to the atmosphere to protect worker and public safety.

Combined with record-low temperatures and high winds blanketing the state, the natural gas did not disperse as it typically would and came into contact with nearby plant equipment that operates at a high temperature, thereby igniting the airborne gas and causing the fire.

Based on its investigation, MPSC Staff identified a violation of federal safety standards during emergency shut down of a compressor station because the discharged gas created a hazard. Consumers has agreed to pay a $10,000 fine which the commission says is the maximum amount allowed by law.