The nation’s largest fuel pipeline restarted operations Wednesday, days after it was forced to shut down by a gang of hackers.
The disruption of Colonial Pipeline caused long lines at gas stations in the Southeast due to distribution problems and panic-buying, draining supplies at thousands of gas stations.
Colonial initiated the restart of pipeline operations late Wednesday, saying in a statement that “all lines, including those lateral lines that have been running manually, will return to normal operations.”
But it will take several days for deliveries to return to normal, the company said.
The pipeline, which delivers about 45% of what is consumed on the East Coast, was hit on Friday with a cyberattack by hackers who lock up computer systems and demand a ransom to release them.
In the meantime, drivers have been finding gas stations with little or no gas in some Southeast states.
“What you’re feeling is not a lack of supply or a supply issue. What we have is a transportation issue,” said Jeanette McGee, spokeswoman for the AAA auto club. “There is ample supply to fuel the United States for the summer, but what we’re having an issue with is getting it to those gas stations because the pipeline is down.”
The pipeline runs from the Gulf Coast to the New York metropolitan region, but states in the Southeast are more reliant on it. Other parts of the country have more sources to tap. For example, a substantial amount of fuel is delivered to states in the Northeast by massive tankers.
It’s important to note that in Southeast Georgia and Northeast Florida, there hasn’t been any notable spike in fuel prices, but that hasn’t stopped people from buying and stocking up.
“I went to Fleming Island earlier and waited 45-minutes in line, and then after an hour, I still only had nine dollars worth of gas,” said Kalista Newman, a driver.
News4Jax also spoke with Josh Reece, a DoorDash driver.
“Going into the weekend, that’s when I door dash a lot, like Friday night and Saturday nights. I am a little concerned about that. I don’t know what gas is going to look like in the next few days,” Reece said. “I take the orders I think are going to be worth it because I know it’s not just going into my pocket, it’s going into my gas tank.”
In Northeast Florida, lines of vehicles and trailers plagued gas stations, several of which were down to just fumes for much of Wednesday. According to officials, this problem was created not by the pipeline shutdown but the panic-buying.
We have zero gas supply issues in Jax because of the Colonial Pipeline. Our issue now is panic buying. Our supply chain is fine. Local panic buying is creating long lines and draining local gas stations for no good reason. Relax. Pump gas when you need it.— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) May 12, 2021
In Georgia, much of the state was dealing with gas shortages. On Wednesday afternoon, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp hld a news conference, saying the most effective way to address the shortage is to remain calm and only buy the gas needed for essential activities.
Here’s the news release from Colonial Pipeline:
“Colonial Pipeline initiated the restart of pipeline operations today at approximately 5 p.m. ET.
“Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal. Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period. Colonial will move as much gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel as is safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal.
“As we initiate our return to service, our primary focus remains safety. As part of this startup process, Colonial will conduct a comprehensive series of pipeline safety assessments in compliance with all Federal pipeline safety requirements.
“This is the first step in the restart process and would not have been possible without the around-the-clock support of Colonial Pipeline’s dedicated employees who have worked tirelessly to help us achieve this milestone. We would also like to thank the White House for their leadership and collaboration, as well as the Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, FBI, PHMSA, FERC and other federal, state and local agencies for their ongoing support.”