Consumers Energy is the primary natural gas utility in Michigan, serving all 68 counties in the state’s Lower Peninsula. Before gas can be put into the grid to warm residences and businesses, it has to be compressed. The Ray Compressor Station, with its 41.2 billion cubic feet of storage, is Consumers Energy’s largest underground natural gas storage and compressor facility.
Construction of a new plant (No. 3) required installation of 1.5 miles of large piping, nearly 10 miles of small-bore piping, 2,100 foundations, 500 steel pipe supports, 300 pieces of equipment, eight 6,000-gallon storage tanks, five gas coolers, five water coolers, two contact dehydration towers, two air compressors, one small thermal oxidizer, a hot water boiler and an emergency gas generator. Its five state-of-the-art compressors are the cleanest and most efficient in the industry. Construction of Plant No. 3 started in August 2011; it was handling gas brought into the new facility by October of 2012.
Challenges and Solutions
Walbridge constructed three buildings for the new compressor facilities. The scope of work also included grading, utility excavation and backfill, equipment and pipe support foundations, underground and above ground piping, vast equipment installation, supplying electrical power to equipment and facilities, and commissioning and start up of the new plant.
The main challenge for the team at Ray Compressor was working around live gas lines. Walbridge developed and implemented a federally-mandated Operator Qualification program to educate and safeguard crews from the dangers of working around live gas. All personnel went through the program before beginning work on the site.
Consumers Energy is now able to compress gas at its Ray Compressor facility during the summer storage season. The two-stage compressors can be used either in series or individually. As winter approaches and fields begin depleting, Consumers can reverse flow from the field, compress the gas and inject it into the pipeline to maintain pressure as demand increases.
Ray Compressor is now compressing 117 million cubic feet of gas per day, reaching pressures of 1,800 pounds per square inch.