It’s 3 a.m. on a crisp fall morning. While most Michiganders are sleeping, DTE Energy employees are monitoring the company’s 41,500-mile natural gas pipeline system to ensure customers are receiving the energy needed to keep their homes and businesses warm. From a modern control room, gas controllers analyze a constant flow of data 24/7/365 from more than 4,500 points along the system. Changes in pressure and other information are transmitted from pipeline sensors to computers and telemetry equipment in the control room that display the information to the controllers.
Should an emergency arise, controllers can close more than 140 remote-control valves to shut the flow of gas at key locations in the pipeline system. DTE plans to install additional remote-control valves next year, upping the number to more than 180.
Above its pipeline system, DTE conducts aerial surveys twice a month of its 1,900-hundred miles of transmission lines. These are natural gas pipes that can be as large as 36” in diameter. If you think of gas lines as your circulatory system, transmission lines would be the equivalent of arteries.
The aerial surveyor’s primary role is to fly over the buried pipeline, looking for activity along the right of way. They note signs of vegetation degradation or erosion, which may indicate a natural gas leak. The surveyor is also looking for any visible damage as well as encroachments along the pipeline, such as new construction, equipment working in the right of way and farming activity.
You may have seen a DTE above-ground aerial marker. These are usually yellow sections of vertical pipe that appear to have a small roof over the top. The roof is numbered, so the surveyor has a visual point of reference to better communicate the location of a concern.
DTE takes great pride in serving 1.3 million natural gas customers in Michigan. We go to great lengths – and heights – to make good on our commitment to deliver energy safely and reliably to all our customers every day, no matter what time of year or what time of day.