The owner of the largest U.S. fuel pipeline said it expects to resume service throughout its entire system Thursday after a cyberattack forced it to shut it down, leading to regional gasoline shortages and higher prices.
Colonial Pipeline Co., operator of the 5,500-mile conduit that moves 100 million gallons of fuel a day from Texas to New Jersey, said it expected fuel to arrive by midday to all the markets it serves. It transports about 45% of the fuel consumed on the East Coast.
The shutdown of the pipeline, which delivers gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other refined products, triggered a run on gas stations along parts of the East Coast this week and helped push gasoline prices to their highest levels in 6 1/2 years.
“Colonial Pipeline has made substantial progress in safely restarting our pipeline system and can report that product delivery has commenced in a majority of the markets we service,” it said in a statement.
The company shut the pipeline late Friday after being hit with a ransomware attack. U.S. officials linked the attack to a criminal gang known as DarkSide. Colonial said Thursday it was delivering fuel to most of its markets as it restarts operations, though it warned it would take several days for the flow of fuel to return to normal.
On Thursday, President Biden said the flow of fuel in the pipeline should return to normal, region by region, beginning this weekend and continuing into next week. Mr. Biden said there may be hiccups in the restart, but he urged drivers not to panic and purchase more fuel than they need over the next few days.
“I know seeing lines at the pumps or gas stations with no gas can be extremely stressful. But this is a temporary situation,” Mr. Biden said in a media briefing. “Gasoline supply is coming back online and panic buying will only slow the process.”
The national average gasoline price edged up Thursday about 2 cents a gallon to $3.03, pushed up in part by a run on gas stations across the Southeast, according to AAA. Prices started the year at around $2.25 and have been rising as fuel demand continues to recover from last year’s pandemic lows.
Thousands of gas stations from Tallahassee, Fla. to Washington, D.C., ran out of fuel this week as nervous motorists waited in long lines. As of Thursday morning, 68% of gas stations in North Carolina had run dry, according to fuel and price tracker GasBuddy, which collects data from drivers that report such outages. In Georgia, 49% had run out of fuel; in South Carolina, 52%; in Virginia, 54%.
With about half a tank left in his six-cylinder sport-utility vehicle, Curtis Martin said he came up empty Wednesday in his search for a station with fuel in Concord, N.C., northeast of Charlotte. The stations that he found had long lines of cars on Tuesday were out of fuel Wednesday, he said.
Mr. Martin, 60, who works in sales at a mattress company, drives about 20 miles a day to and from work, and he said he wasn’t sure he should keep burning the gas he already had in his SUV on field trips to mostly empty gas stations.
“Maybe I should be patient and let the process work itself out,” Mr. Martin said.
Write to Collin Eaton at [email protected]
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