UPDATE: Pipelines operating again, so local gas shortage unlikely post-Ida

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Hurricane Ida disrupted flow from major East Coast pipeline

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with news that the pipeline resumed pumping late Monday night.

With the main pipelines pumping again, neither gas shortages nor price spikes are likely in metro Atlanta and the Southeast as a result of Hurricane Ida’s rampage through much of the Gulf Coast.

While the damage assessments continued, a three-day shutdown of the massive Colonial Pipeline — which provides fuel to tens of millions of motorists on the U.S. East Coast — ended just before midnight Monday, the company said Tuesday.

As Hurricane Ida approached, the company shut down the pipelines. After the storm passed, Colonial crews were able to safely reach facilities, assess the damage and perform various safety checks. Then, late Monday night, the pipelines resumed operation.

Impact from the temporary shutdown was minimal because the company stores fuel in a number of terminals along the route of the pipeline.

Late-morning Tuesday, the average price of gas in metro Atlanta was $2.97 a gallon. That was virtually unchanged from Sunday and was two pennies less than a week ago, according to GasBuddy, a gas-finding app which tracks gas prices.

On Monday, metro Atlanta prices ranged from $2.65 a gallon a Costco and Sam’s Club in Buford to $3.97 at a Shell in Acworth.

Average price, a gallon of regular, metro Atlanta

Monday morning: $2.97

Sunday: $2.97

A week ago: $2.99

A year ago: $2.01

Ten-year high: $4.00 (2011)

All-time high: $4.11 (2005)

Source: GasBuddy

There were no reports of stations being out of fuel.

“I wouldn’t worry about shortages,” said Patrick De Haan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis.

The most likely reason for stations to run out of fuel now would be a panicked reaction from drivers queuing up for unneeded refills, not a true shortage, De Haan said. “If there’s anything to worry about, it’s the human response.”

The destruction of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused shortages of gasoline supplies and soaring prices. Afterwards, companies like Colonial rebuilt their equipment to withstand the more powerful storms, he said.

Credit: U.S. IEA

Credit: U.S. IEA

When Colonial’s pipeline was shut down in May, the cause was a software hack, not a storm.

That cyberattack caused a spike in local gas prices and fuel shortages at metro Atlanta gas stations that lasted several days.

Colonial’s 5,500-mile-long pipeline starts in Texas on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and supplies about 45% of the East Coast’s gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. The Southeast is even more reliant. Colonial delivers more than 70% of transportation fuels to Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, according to the federal Energy Information Administration, including to crucial arteries such as Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

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