| 18 May 2024, Saturday |

Colonial Pipeline slowly restarts as Southeast U.S. scrambles for fuel

Colonial Pipeline began to slowly recover the nation’s largest fuel pipeline network on Wednesday after a ransomware attack closed the line, causing fuel shortages and panic buying in the southeastern United States.

It will take several days for the 5,500 mile (8,850 km) pipeline to return to normal operations, Colonial said, even as motorists in southeastern states jammed stations seeking fuel. A return to ample supplies could take two weeks, analysts said.

The cyberattack halted 2.5 million barrels per day of shipments of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel last Friday after the most disruptive cyberattack ever on U.S. energy infrastructure.

Sources familiar with Colonial’s response said the company does not plan to pay the ransom demanded by hackers who encrypted data on the pipeline.

Colonial said it was working with cybersecurity experts to investigate the attack and had taken additional security measures before beginning the restart. The company said its control center is handling the restart of the pipeline, which stretches from refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast to consumers in Mid-Atlantic and Southeast states.

The supply crunch sparked panic buying in the U.S. Southeast, bringing queues and high prices at gas stations ahead of the peak summer driving season.

Nearly 60% of gas stations in metro Atlanta were without gasoline, tracking firm GasBuddy said. Its survey showed 65% of stations in North Carolina and 43% in Georgia and South Carolina without fuel. Virginia also reported high outages.

“Our top priority right now is getting the fuel to the communities that need it,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told reporters.

Fuel stocks in the U.S. Northeast will likely hit five-year lows this week as the restart slowly progresses, said S&P Global Platts analyst Richard Joswick. Full recovery “will take a couple of weeks at least,” he added.

  • Reuters