Washtenaw Natural Gas Storage Part 1

There is a lot of really random stuff going on in Washtenaw County. Did you know that Consumers Energy stores natural gas in the rock formations beneath the northeast corner of the county? Natural Gas usage peaks during the winter time so this is a way store gas nearby. It’s almost like a battery, rather than have a huge, cyclic, spike in demand, you can draw from your reserves (the storage fields) that you replenish in the summer when demand is much lower.  The first successful recovery of oil in Michigan occurred in 1925 and oil and gas exploration and extraction was a regular part of resource exploitation in the state for the next 50 to 60. The shear number of well holes shown below on Geowebface in just this one corner of Michigan attest to that. With all these empty wells someone said “why don’t we try storing gas in these things?”

And it worked! So now we have all these gas storage fields around us.

If you go under the “Oil and Gas Information” tab (in Geowebface) and turn on “Gas Storage Fields” and “bottom hole locations” you can see how the “Northville” storage fields stretches across Wayne, Washtenaw and Oakland counties.

Gas Storage.png

The State of Michigan provides a summary page of its Natural Gas Storage Fields which gives us details about the Nortville field. Owned by Conusmers Energy, opened in 1965, capable of holding 9.7 billion cubic feet of gas stored in the Niagara Formation (approximately 3,500 feet below the ground) and most interesting – currently being abandoned – a process that may take up to a decade.

If we zoom in a little bit more and turn on the Satellite layer we can actually see this abandonment in action.

This is the corner of Chubb Road and 8 Mile. The blue dots are wells. The strike throughs mean the well is abandoned and the x’s are directional wells. So this is an area with both active and abandoned wells.

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Zooming in a bit more on the big gravel patch we get what appears to be a gas collection point. There are condensate tanks and other signs that this is the collection point for these nearby wells.

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Going to one of the well in the lower right corner, It also looks like there is a well abandonment in process (or at least the site is being cleaned up)

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We have a backhoe picking up soil or removing something. The well at this point might already be sealed.

I haven’t been able to find why the Northville Field is being abandoned but I can only guess that with modern horizontal drilling techniques, it’s no longer necessary to own so many vertical wells. The field is also huge, spread over 3 counties with a 100+ wells – that is a lot to manage if you don’t have to especially considering how urban sprawl is slowly covering the storage.

As an example of where Consumers wants to go with its gas storage strategy, we can look at the adjacent Lyon 29 Storage field in South Lyon where we have 7 directional storage wells leading to one central distribution point.

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The wells are all located approximately 3,000 feet below residential property. In my next posts I would like to talk a bit about the rock formation that is storing this gas and some potential dangers associated with natural gas storage and how they are mitigated.

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