Pipeline workers June 6 weld the Consumers Energy pipes that will be used for the new 7.5 miles of natural gas pipeline that is being installed in Shelby Township in the ITC corridor. Each mile takes about a month to install, and each pipe contains zinc ribbon to prevent interaction with the power lines.

Pipeline workers June 6 weld the Consumers Energy pipes that will be used for the new 7.5 miles of natural gas pipeline that is being installed in Shelby Township in the ITC corridor. Each mile takes about a month to install, and each pipe contains zinc ribbon to prevent interaction with the power lines.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Installation of natural gas pipeline progresses in Shelby Township

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published June 10, 2019


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Progress is being made on the 7.5 miles of natural gas pipeline that is being installed along the ITC corridor, where power lines run through Shelby Township.

Consumers Energy’s pipeline is projected to cost a total of $200 million and is proposed to be 14 miles long. It will run along the east side of the ITC corridor with piping up to 24 inches in diameter. In some areas, it will back up to the property lines of homes — some as close as 40 feet.

Overall, the 14 miles of pipeline will go through Shelby Township, Utica and Sterling Heights.

The gas pipeline project will replace 29 miles of high-pressure pipeline near Farmington Hills that has been around since the 1940s.

The old pipeline now runs directly through several residential subdivisions that have been built since the 1940s.

Consumers Energy officials said the project is being done to help Consumers Energy move more natural gas quickly, safely and efficiently.

Officials felt the ITC corridor offered a safer route for the pipeline.

Demand for natural gas has grown drastically, and the new pipeline will supply it. The new pipe is made from stronger material, and more inspections have been performed.

The pipeline’s life is expected to be more than 50 years. Consumers Energy says about 60,000 customers will benefit from the new pipeline.

Currently, Consumers Energy is working on 21 Mile to 22 Mile roads and 24 Mile to 26 Mile roads, and later it will be working on other stretches of the corridor.

Many residents were concerned with the safety of the pipeline near their homes and the likelihood of a disaster. Measures are being take taken to be prepared should any emergency occur.

Should over-pressurization occur, relief valves are designed to automatically activate and vent excess natural gas to the atmosphere. A network of pneumatic valves is also strategically located on gas lines throughout the system that can be opened and closed as needed.

“Employees also continuously monitor a computer system that alerts us to any abnormal pressures or flows in the gas system, and we can do this from the office,” said Rich Pulley, the project manager.

In preparation for the project, trees were removed while school was on spring break so that it would not interfere with students in school.

Construction near the schools in Utica will not happen until the end of October.

“We’re trying not to have any activity going on in this area while the kids are in school, so when we had to fell the trees, we did it while they were on spring break,” Pulley said.

“As soon as they are out of school, we will go back there and clean up the trees. Again, we didn’t want to do it while they’re in school. It would serve as a distraction, and they couldn’t cut across the corridor to get to the other school because a lot of the landowners, a lot of the kids, they live on either side of the corridor. ... They just walk across and go to school,” said Pulley.

A lot of the plant life they removed was phragmites, which are harmful to wetlands.

Adam Fisher, an environmental inspector for 12 years who is working on the project, said the planting of shrubs along the corridor will occur after construction and testing of the pipeline are complete. Pollinator seeds will be planted to create new habitats for butterflies, bees and other pollinators, which cost $1,000 per 40-pound bag.

Residents also were concerned about the new pipeline’s distance from the power lines and the possibility of them interacting.

According to Pulley, the pipelines have cathodic protection to prevent corrosion and are a safe distance away from the power lines. They are lined with zinc ribbons on each side to ground them and prevent arcing.

Comprehensive visual inspections are done to each pipe, and each one has a label that can be scanned to see all certifications and the history of that exact pipe. The pipes are from Pittsburgh.

Pulley said they will be tested at 14 pounds per square inch with water and will see a max of 300 psi.

“If hydro testing fails, the section of pipeline that fails will be cut out and redone. There will be two tests done in two different sections in October, and 10,000 gallons will go through per day.”

Another concern residents had was that trees and wildlife were going to be disturbed.

Fisher said he was part of the Saginaw Trail pipeline project last year, and he said the entire right of way was purple after the project and is now a good bee and butterfly habitat.

“The reason I’m here, in my mind, is because Consumers, as a gas company, is going above and beyond,” he said.

The project does not require an environmental inspector, but Consumers Energy has one anyway.

“We are seeking to not only lessen our impacts to not only wetlands, water body resources, whether it’s wildlife or habitats, but we are also very much looking to lessen our impact on the public and to provide them as good of service in our thinking as we do to the completion of the project,” he said.

They are using tools like swamp mats to protect the soil so that they do not disturb the soil or damage the wildlife while working.

Steel fencing will help to keep pedestrians away from the work area during construction.

An environmentalist will be on-site daily as this project is constructed, and for any animals that are found during the construction, equipment will be shut down and the animals will be removed and relocated to a safer area, or a fence will be put around them.

If there are eggs that are found, they will be incubated until they are hatched and either placed back after the construction or in a safe area.

“During construction (on the Saginaw Trail), our contracted herpetologist went out and rescued turtles during construction. He hibernated them during winter and hatched the eggs into little baby turtles,” said Fisher.

If an archeological site is found, all work must also be stopped.     

During the project, they will be crossing 10 streams and will build bridges to go over them while working, and make steel plate dams to pump clean water. They must also keep a 45-foot buffer zone from any vegetation.

Consumers Energy will have to follow the local, state and federal regulations throughout the whole project.

“Although other people do not follow rules, we have to follow rules,” said Fisher.

“A herpetologist walks the line where work is planned to be done and points out the areas of concern that might have a specific habitat, so that when they are going through there, he can be there to help remove them if we find them, or they can block off the area they are located,” Fisher said.

A big task that Consumers Energy officials are focusing on is keeping the area where they are working clean and as they found it.

“I find that when the job site is kept clean, that tells me that those workers care,” said Fisher.     

“When I come to a dirty work site, I get out my notebook because I know I’m probably going to find a few things wrong with that work site,” Fisher said.

Debra Dodd, a media relations representative for Consumers Energy, said, “My view is that we leave it how we found it.”

Consumers Energy says people will not experience service interruptions as a result of the installation of the pipeline, which is planned to be in service around December.

The planned date that the pipeline will be finished has been changed slightly due to rain. A new schedule is being made and will be available next week, according to the project manager.

For more information on the pipeline, call Consumers Energy at (989) 723-9755, visit www.consumersenergy.com/pipelineproject or email SOMN@cmsenergy.com.