Critical fuel pipelines from the Texas coast could be pumping again by Sunday, Colonial Pipeline said on Thursday morning.
The two conduits are currently pumping intermittently, and carrying fuel only from Lake Charles, La. And east, cut off from half of the refineries the lines usually connect to, the Alpharetta-based company said.
On Wednesday, Colonial said its two pipelines would be shut down because of the damage done by Hurricane Harvey and the massive flooding that followed in Houston and the surrounding area.
The company said it hopes to avoid a long suspension, which worries energy analysts and raised the possibility of soaring gas prices and shortages to metro Atlanta.
“We currently estimate that we will be able to return to service from Houston Sunday, following an evaluation of our infrastructure and successful execution of our start-up plan,” Colonial said in a statement.
The longer the outage, the higher the chances that metro Atlanta will see a sharp rise in gas prices and shortages like those that followed Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. There were price hikes last year when a fire forced closure of one Colonial line for several weeks.
Meanwhile, wholesale prices for gasoline have been rising nationally.
The average price of regular in metro Atlanta was $2.51 a gallon in late morning, according to AtlantaGasPrices.com, a unit of Gas Buddy. That is up about 27 cents a gallon during the past nine days.
Colonial is not the only pipeline company serving metro Atlanta and points north.
But it is the biggest. Colonial’s pipelines can carry more than 3 million barrels of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel a day. That is more than four times the capacity of Plantation Pipeline, which is also based in Alpharetta.
The start of the Plantation pipeline, however, is in Louisiana, which was not badly hit by Hurricane Harvey and the massive rain and flooding that followed.
Colonial lines are much more dependent on refineries along the Texas coast.
The company said it draws fuel from 26 refineries and half are located between Houston and Lake Charles.
Gov. Nathan Deal said Thursday that the Environmental Protection Agency has signed off on his request to allow “winter blend” fuels in metro Atlanta earlier than is usually permitted.
He said that decision allows the state “not to have a break in terms of fuel.”
The announcement by Colonial Pipeline that it could be pumping fuel again by Sunday was another positive sign.
“At the present time,” Deal said, “it appears we’re not going to have a shortage.”
Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this story.
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AJC Business reporter Michael E. Kanell keeps you updated on the latest news about jobs, housing and consumer issues in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:
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