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January 31, 2019

Gas shortage prompts Michigan automaker closures

General Motors said last night (30 January) it would temporarily suspend operations at 11 Michigan plants and its Warren Tech Center after a utility made an emergency appeal to users to conserve natural gas during the extreme 'polar vortex' winter cold.

By Olly Wehring

General Motors said last night (30 January) it would temporarily suspend operations at 11 Michigan plants and its Warren Tech Center after a utility made an emergency appeal to users to conserve natural gas during the extreme 'polar vortex' winter cold.

A Reuters report said Fiat Chrysler Automobiles had cancelled a shift on Thursday at both its Warren Truck and Sterling Heights Assembly plants and was considering whether it would need to cancel additional shifts.

GM told the news agency it had been asked by Consumers Energy, a unit of CMS Energy, to suspend operations to allow the utility to manage supply issues after extreme cold temperatures and a fire at a compressor station.

It said workers were told not to report for the shifts at its Orion Assembly, Flint Assembly, Lansing Delta Township Assembly and Lansing Grand River Assembly plants, as well as other stamping and transmission plants on Wednesday evening and early Thursday. GM said it was still assessing when employees could return to work.

Workers at its Warren Tech Center were also told to stay home on Thursday.

In a video message posted on Facebook, cited by Reuters, CMS Energy chief executive Patricia Poppe said large companies, including Fiat Chrysler, Ford Motor Co and GM, had agreed to "interrupt" production schedules to the end of Friday to tackle the issue prompted by a fire at a Michigan facility and the record breaking cold.

Ford told Reuters it had also taken steps to reduce energy use at its four Michigan plants supplied by Consumers Energy but added the situation remained fluid.

A spokeswoman told the news agency it had reduced heating levels at Livonia Transmission and Van Dyke Transmission, stopped heat treatment processes at Sterling Axle and shut down the paint process at Michigan Assembly.

Consumers Energy told Reuters a fire at a gas compressor station in Michigan's Macomb County Wednesday forced it to halt gas flow from the compressor station until safety and damage assessments could be completed.

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