Colonial Pipeline Restarts Fuel Transport

 - May 13, 2021, 1:16 PM
While the five-day shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, a major artery that supplies petroleum fuels to the U.S. East Coast, caused panic among motorists in the Southeastern part of the country, FBOs have thus far seen relatively minor effects, if any, in their scheduled fuel deliveries.

The transport of fuel through the Colonial Pipeline resumed on Wednesday evening after a five-day interruption due to a cyberattack on its operator. According to reports in Bloomberg, a $5 million ransom was paid to restore control of the pipeline.

Shutdown of the conduit—which carries more than two million barrels of product a day and supplies nearly half of the U.S. East Coast’s petroleum fuels, including jet-A—caused some areas to experience fuel disruptions, as distributors scrambled to arrange logistics at alternate terminals, resulting in many cases in the trucking of fuel for longer distances. With the available outflow reduced, some Gulf Coast oil refineries decided to temporarily curtail production.

This morning, the privately-owned pipeline operator issued a statement saying it made substantial progress in safely restarting its pipeline system and reported that product delivery had commenced in a majority of the markets it serves. “By midday today, we project that each market we service will be receiving product from our system,” it added, while cautioning it could take several days for operations to normalize.

The shutdown spurred a run on gasoline stations in the southern U.S. by panicked drivers, leaving many stations to run dry, and led the airlines to modify some flight schedules, factoring refueling stops in unaffected cities. However, FBOs seem to have come through the crisis relatively unscathed.          

“While we continue to hear that the general aviation market is not experiencing widespread jet fuel outages, we advise operators to remain vigilant in planning and preparing for operations until normal pipeline operations return,” said Steve Berry, NATA’s manager of fuel quality and safety. “In the interim, some FBOs in potentially affected areas have enacted minimum uplift policies. As a result, aircraft operators traveling to these areas should continue to plan accordingly, such as tankering fuel when traveling from unaffected regions and communicating with their destination FBO prior to arrival to determine its anticipated supply.” Berry cautioned that gasoline shortages could also affect ground transportation.