Colonial Pipeline Resumes Operations

Company Expects to Have Supply Chains Serviced Sometime on Thursday

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The Colonial Pipeline Company announced Wednesday it had restarted operations after a cyberattack took down the major pipeline on the East Coast. (Graphic from the Energy Information Administration)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- The Colonial Pipeline has restarted, announcing in a news release late Wednesday it hopes to return to full production in a few days.

The pipeline closed last Friday following a cyberattack with ransomware.

Fuel shortages experienced on the Eastern Seaboard this week had not yet affected farmers who continue planting operations across the country.

The Colonial Pipeline Company announced the restart at around 5 p.m. EDT Wednesday.

"Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal," the company said in a news release.

"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."

On Thursday morning, the company announced it 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.

"By midday today, we project that each market we service will be receiving product from our system."

The company said on Wednesday it would conduct a series of pipeline safety assessments.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation determined the attack was from a criminal network known as DarkSide. The Colonial Pipeline supplies about 45% of the fuel consumed along the East Coast and carries 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd), originating in Houston and ending in Linden, New Jersey.

Late Monday, Colonial Pipeline Company officials said they were manually operating a portion of the pipeline from North Carolina to Maryland with existing inventory.

The EPA on Tuesday granted waivers to allow E15 to be made available at fuel terminals in states on the Eastern Seaboard in response to the attack on the Colonial Pipeline. EPA expanded the waiver on Tuesday night to more areas of the District of Columbia and Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, specific counties in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The agency's actions came on the same day two major ethanol interest groups asked EPA Administrator Michael Regan to take actions to make E15 more widely available.

EPA waived the federal Reid vapor pressure requirements for fuel sold in reformulated gasoline areas of the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia to relieve any gasoline supply issue through May 18. Reformulated gasoline is sold in areas with ozone pollution concerns.

The temporary closure of the 5,500-mile pipeline has created a fuel pinch on the East Coast.

DTN Product Manager Brian Milne said on Tuesday there had been no supply shortages across the Corn Belt as spring planting continues, but suppliers are being cautious.

"There are shortages in the Southeast reaching north to the mid-Atlantic states, Tennessee too," he said.

"Haven't heard of shortages in Illinois, but we do know suppliers are limiting gasoline and diesel sales to their branded customers. So, if Casey's was shopping the rack for lower prices to pull product, they could find themselves with no supply at some terminals."

Motorists on the East Coast have been stepping up their gasoline purchases in recent days.

"We're seeing panic buying and are aware of retail outlets that have run out of fuel in North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia and Florida," he said.

"We're not sure of the extent of the station outages; could be a small handful. But the longer the outage drags on, the more you will see stations running out of fuel. So, outages at retail stations are real, but so is panic buying."

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Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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Todd Neeley