What’s behind all the construction near Interlochen and Grawn or in the Central High School neighborhoods in Traverse City? In the middle of a heavy road construction summer in northern Michigan, DTE Energy was also busy on two major gas pipeline projects – one designed to make DTE’s local gas pipeline system more redundant, the other a $ 3.5 billion expense to replace aging pipelines.

The first project, the Traverse City Alpena Reinforcement Project (TCARP), will “increase the reliability of the DTE natural gas system for the counties of Grand Traverse, Benzie and Leelanau”, according to a company statement. DTE currently serves around 91,000 customers in Northern Michigan, including 51,000 in the Traverse City area. All of these customers rely on a single source of natural gas supply. 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 will be adding a separate natural gas supply source to the area to ensure minimal disruption to customers during routine maintenance or in the unlikely event of an emergency,” said Kelly Fedele, director of asset management and engineering for DTE Engineering Gas Operations. “We currently have a pipeline [in northern Michigan]and if someone were to damage this pipeline, the whole area would be without gas. “

The TCARP project is in its second year with the most recent work being carried out near the Interlochen golf course and along the US-31 priority road near Interlochen and Grawn. Phase 1 began last year and included the installation of a pipeline from Paradise Township to Garfield Township. This piece has been completed and put into service from January. Phase 2, which is currently underway, will extend from Blair Township to Inland Township in Benzie County and is expected to be completed in January. Ultimately, the TCARP project will include 22 miles of new pipeline in six local communities.

“There are several factors that go into that [deciding where to add redundancy]“, Explains Fedele. “That could be the age of the system. It could be the diameter of the pipeline. Much of this has to do with the possible failure we could have if there was a problem. We checked [DTE’s northern Michigan distribution system] in 2019 along with many county and local community officials, and also with the Michigan Public Service Commission. And if you look at the fact that this was a single feed [of gas service]”We just wanted to be very proactive and make sure we minimize this potential risk.”

The TCARP work is interlinked with another series of projects that DTE carried out in the region this summer, the Gas Renewal Program (GRP). Unlike TCARP, which is specific to northern Michigan, GRP is a massive nationwide upgrade to gas infrastructure that will upgrade gas lines, utility lines, and gas meters. According to DTE, the GRP program is an 18-year project that will cost a total of $ 3.5 billion. To date, the company has replaced more than 1,000 miles of gas pipeline across Michigan as part of the program.

GRP came to Traverse City earlier this year, with gas pipeline work beginning near Hagerty Center in the spring and moving east towards Peninsula Drive, Bryant Park, Eastern Avenue, and several neighborhoods around Central High School. These projects – including restoring the affected driveways, sidewalks, lawns, and landscaping after installation – should be completed in the next 4-6 weeks, according to Fedele.

The main purpose of the GRP program is to replace obsolete gas pipelines with more reliable and environmentally friendly alternatives. Fedele says the affected gas lines in and around the Central High School area were laid in the 1950s and 1960s and were mostly made of cast iron and steel. The replacement pipes are made of durable plastic and will “help reduce methane emissions” and are “a key component of DTE Energy’s commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions across all electricity 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 in-house. Moving those meters outside, she explains, will improve the customer experience – by avoiding 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 2022, DTE plans to make similar gas pipeline improvements along Barlow and Woodmere from South Airport to Carver. “This project will also affect the area between Carver Street and Boon Street, from Woodmere all the way east to the airport,” says Fedele.

Further information on all GRP projects can be found on an interactive map on the DTE website.