What’s behind all that construction underway near Interlochen and Grawn, or around the Central High School neighborhoods in Traverse City? In the midst of a heavy road construction summer in northern Michigan, DTE Energy has also been busy with two major gas line projects – one intended to add redundancy to DTE’s local gas line system, the other a $3.5 billion effort to replace aging lines.
The first project, the Traverse City Alpena Reinforcement Project (TCARP), will “increase the reliability of the DTE natural gas system serving Grand Traverse, Benzie, and Leelanau counties,” per a statement from the company. DTE currently serves some 91,000 customers across northern Michigan, including 51,000 in the Traverse City region. All those customers are reliant on a single natural gas supply source. TCARP is a multi-year expansion project that will bring redundancy to the region’s natural gas supply infrastructure, to prevent a potentially catastrophic outage.
“We're going to add a separate natural gas supply source to the area, to help ensure minimal customer disruptions during routine maintenance or in the unlikely event of emergency,” says Kelly Fedele, director of asset management and engineering for DTE Engineering Gas Operations. “We have one pipeline right now [in northern Michigan], and if somebody was to damage that pipeline, the whole area would be without gas.”
The TCARP project is in its second year, with recent work happening near the Interlochen Golf Course and along the US-31 right-of-way near Interlochen and Grawn. Phase 1 started last year and included pipeline installation from Paradise Township to Garfield Township. That piece was completed and placed into service as of January. Phase 2, currently underway, will stretch from Blair Township to Inland Township in Benzie County and is expected to be completed by January. Ultimately, the TCARP project will span 22 miles of new pipeline in six local townships.
“There’s different factors that go into [deciding where to add redundancy],” Fedele explains. “That could be the age of the system. It could be the diameter of the pipeline. A lot of it has to do with the potential outage that we could have if there was an issue. We reviewed [DTE’s northern Michigan distribution system] back in 2019, along with a lot of the counties and local municipal officials, and also with the Michigan Public Service Commission. And looking at the fact that this was a single feed [of gas service], we just wanted to be very proactive and make sure that we mitigated that potential risk.”
The TCARP work dovetails with another series of projects DTE has going on in the region this summer called the Gas Renewal Program (GRP). Unlike TCARP, which is specific to the northern Michigan, GRP is a massive statewide gas infrastructure improvement effort that will upgrade gas mains, service lines, and gas meters. According to DTE, the GRP program is an 18-year project that will cost $3.5 billion when all is said and done. The company has so far replaced more than 1,000 miles of gas main throughout Michigan as part of the program.
GRP came to Traverse City earlier this year, with work starting on gas lines near the Hagerty Center in the spring and moving east toward Peninsula Drive, Bryant Park, Eastern Avenue, and several neighborhoods around Central High School. Those projects – including post-installation restoration of affected driveways, sidewalks, lawns, and landscaping – should be completed in the next 4-6 weeks, according to Fedele.
The key purpose of the GRP program is to trade out outdated gas lines with more reliable and environmentally friendly alternatives. Fedele says the affected gas lines in and around the Central High School area had been installed in the 1950s and 1960s and were mostly cast iron and steel. The replacement pipes are made from durable plastic and will “help reduce methane emissions,” representing “a key component of the DTE Energy commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions across its electric and gas operations by 2050.”
Fedele says the GRP projects in Traverse City will also allow DTE to upgrade homes in the area that still have gas meters located inside the house. Pulling those meters outside, she explains, will improve customer experience – by eliminating situations where property owners have to let DTE technicians into their homes.
Locals can expect more GRP work in the area next year. In April and May of 2022, DTE is planning to execute similar gas line improvements along Barlow and Woodmere, from South Airport to Carver. “This project will also impact the area between Carver Street and Boon Street, from Woodmere all the way east toward the airport,” Fedele says.
More information about all GRP projects is available via an interactive map on DTE’s website.
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