Colonial Pipeline issued a statement on Monday saying that while they have started to flow gasoline, things aren’t going to get better overnight for drivers in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama that have been dealing with gasoline shortages.
Under normal circumstances, the Colonial Pipeline system transports approximately 2.6 million barrels of refined products each day, with Line 1 accounting for half of this volume. Colonial is currently shipping significant volumes of gasoline on Line 2, the distillate mainline, to help mitigate the impact of the service interruption to Line 1. These changes have allowed all origins and delivery markets to be served along the entire system, albeit in a reduced capacity.
The line that normally carries jet fuel, heating oil or other petroleum distillates is now carrying a “significant” volume of gasoline. While that is a measure of good news for motorists, it could cause issues with aircraft, train or truck fuel. More likely, the amount of gasoline being delivered is not as “significant” as consumers may prefer. Gasoline is competing with many other products for 50% of the capacity that Colonial was previously providing. Even if Colonial gave 100% of line 2’s capacity to gasoline, it would only be half of what the east coast requires to operate as normal.
To understand how the outage and now reduced flow impacts the Southeast, a basic understanding of gasoline and other distillate logistics is in order.
Gasoline is pumped through pipelines from refineries to “terminals” which house tanks to separate like products. Trucks, trains, barges or ships then arrive at the terminal to fill-up and head to other terminals or final delivery at gas stations, airports or other final need destinations.
So while Colonial has managed to get partial flow restored, it could take awhile to get fuel from terminals to gas stations.
The first terminals that are receiving product are:
- Boligee, Oxford and Birmingham, Alabama
- Opelousas, Louisiana
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Meridian, Mississippi
- Belton and Spartanburg, South Carolina
- Greensboro and Charlotte, North Carolina
Fuel will then be trucked or re-routed to the following markets by lateral or sub-lines:
- Griffin, Macon, Albany, and Bainbridge, Georgia
- Raleigh and Selma, North Carolina
- Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, Tennessee
- North Augusta, South Carolina
Colonial has announced that the bypass line has been completed, is undergoing testing and if all goes well, line 1 will resume flow tomorrow with full flow by the end of the week.
The larger problem remains. Fuel is arriving in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia – it just isn’t enough to meet demand and likely won’t be until full flow is restored late this week.
*Post updated to reflect Colonial’s statement that the bypass is undergoing testing and could resume tomorrow.