Pipeline release is a significant uncontrolled release of petroleum or natural gas from a transmission line capable of posing a risk to life, health, safety, property, or the environment; or a gas leak that damages several properties through fire or explosion.
All of the transmission pipelines in the City are natural gas pipelines owned and maintained by Consumers Energy.
Natural gas and petroleum products travel through a system of pipelines that is divided into transmission lines, which carry large amounts of product from processing plants to communities, and distribution lines, which carry the product to homes or businesses.
A potential pipeline release might require evacuation of a large area. If the threat were in the downtown area, it would be difficult to evacuate the area quickly. Most people working downtown park in ramps or in lots with limited access. At this time no plan has been developed for the evacuation of the entire downtown area.
Petroleum and natural gas pipelines, like any physical infrastructure, may deteriorate over time if not properly maintained. However, the majority of pipeline breaks are caused by human carelessness. Third party damage is the leading cause of all pipeline incidents.
Pipelines are also vulnerable to failure due to natural hazards, such as extreme cold (frost heave in soil, contraction, or ice on rivers) or flooding. Gas lines in this area are buried deeply enough that damage due to frost upheaval is unlikely, although it would be possible in cases of unusually deep frost.
There has never been a significant release from a pipeline in the City. Lansing averages about one pipeline incident a year, but they have been small events, usually gas distribution lines damaged during construction. There have been five buildings destroyed by natural gas leaks. While none of these events in itself constituted a significant event, problems with gas distribution lines can cause damage over large areas. Two of the buildings damaged were apartment buildings.