Key gasoline pipeline aims to carry more fuel by Sunday
Atlanta — The operator of a major gasoline pipeline estimates it can resume carrying fuel in the Houston area by Sunday, potentially avoiding a lengthy shutdown that would intensify gasoline shortages.
The Colonial Pipeline provides nearly 40 percent of the South’s gasoline. It runs underground and is now under water in many parts of Texas, where inspections are needed before it can be fully operational again, Colonial spokesman Steve Baker said Thursday.
The Georgia-based company remains able to operate its pipeline from Louisiana to states east and northeast of there, though deliveries will be “intermittent,” the company said.
Huge challenges remain for the nation’s system of getting gasoline to the pumps of service stations, since Hurricane Harvey forced the shutdown of at least eight Texas refineries, according to AAA.
Pump prices have surged — the average for a gallon of regular gasoline rose from about $2.35 a week ago to $2.45 now, AAA reported. The price spike is more dramatic in some states such as Georgia, where the average cost per gallon of regular gas has climbed from $2.22 a week ago to $2.39 now.
Nearly one-third of the nation’s refining capacity is along the Gulf Coast from Corpus Christi, Texas, to the Lake Charles, Louisiana area, and about one-quarter of the Gulf Coast’s oil refining capacity was taken offline, according to the Oil Price Information Service.
The supply crunch is already being felt in Dallas-Fort Worth, where QuikTrip, one of the nation’s largest convenience store chains, is temporarily halting gasoline sales at about half of its 135 stores in the area.
The company is instead directing gasoline deliveries to designated stores across all parts of the metro area, QuikTrip spokesman Mike Thornbrugh said. And while only half the Dallas-Forth Worth area stores will have gasoline, all will remain open, he said.
“Supply is way, way off,” Thornbrugh said Thursday.
Patrick DeHaan, an analyst with GasBuddy.com, said he’s heard reports that drivers in the Dallas area were jamming gas stations Thursday, filling up not only their cars and trucks but also gas cans and containers.
“That’s going to make the problem worse, and prices shoot higher and the event will last longer, with more disruption and shortages,” DeHaan said.
His advice: “Try to have a sense of calm.”
Oklahoma-based QuikTrip diverted gasoline deliveries to its store in a similar way last year in metro Atlanta, where it has about 133 stores, after the Alabama pipeline spill.
The Colonial Pipeline, a crucial artery in the nation’s fuel supply network, runs from the Houston area to New York harbor and includes more than 5,500 miles of pipeline, most of it underground. It closed in September 2016 after a leak and gas spill in Alabama, leading to days of empty gas station pumps and higher prices in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.