Natural gas shortage ends, auto plants to resume production

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Eighteen factories and other facilities run by General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler are affected Thursday.

It is expected that fully normal operations will resume over the weekend.

Employees working in office environments affected by the natural gas issue such as the Global Technical Center in Warren, Pontiac Engineering Center and CCA-Grand Blanc should continue to work from home Friday. Fiat Chrysler canceled first shifts production at its Warren and Sterling Heights plants.

Poppe said the usage cuts by large businesses were not enough, and urged 1.8 million MI customers to turn down thermostats as much as they could to cut natural gas use in order to protect critical facilities like hospitals and nursing homes.

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Officials are warning MI residents that they risk brief interruptions of natural gas service for heat amid bitterly cold weather if they don't help reduce energy use following a fire at a utility's suburban Detroit facility that affected natural gas supplies. The facility provides 64 percent of Consumers' natural gas supply.

Consumers Energy sent an alert to mobile phones in MI asking residents to reduce natural gas use.

Editor's note: Both DTE Energy and Consumers Energy are corporate sponsors of Michigan Radio. Plants powered by the region's other utility, DTE Energy, had no disruptions.

- Consider lowing thermostats to 65 degrees when people are home and 62 degrees when nobody is home.

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"In our 130 years, we've never experienced this kind of demand or these kinds of temperatures", Poppe said.

The Michigan Public Service Commission says all state of Michigan owned facilities in the Lower Peninsula are lowering their thermostats by five degrees to lessen the burden on the natural gas supply.

The economic impact of the shutdowns is likely to be small. Dart Container Corp., switched natural gas boilers to oil and curtailed some operations near Lansing that use natural gas.

Consumers officials say voluntary conservation through Friday, combined with drawing more gas from its storage fields and from out of state, should ensure there is enough natural gas available during the extreme cold snap. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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The request to lower thermostat temperatures came after a fire at a compression plant in Macomb that occurred Wednesday, which knocked out three plants.