Gas pipeline fix to start working today, Colonial says

Colonial Pipeline said it expects to start pumping fuel through a bypass around an Alabama leak today, but that it will take "several days" for a return to normal gas supplies in the South.

Colonial said it has finished construction of the 500-foot bypass outside of Birmingham and was testing the system Tuesday.

The leak has bedeviled motorists in metro Atlanta and other areas of the South for days.

Sporadic outages have meant longer than usual lines at some stores and drivers hunting for gas when the pumps were dry at their usual fill-up spot.

Prices have flattened in the past two days, however. The average price of a gallon of unleaded in metro Atlanta was $2.51 early today, compared to $2.16 a week ago and $2.21 nationwide, according to AAA.

Some stations have had supplies of regular, but not higher-octane fuels.

“When Line 1 restarts, it will take several days for the fuel delivery supply chain to return to normal,” Alpharetta-based Colonial said in a statement. “As such, some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions. Colonial continues to move as much gasoline, diesel and jet fuel as possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal.”

Garrett Townsend, director of public affairs for AAA in Georgia, said prices should return to last week’s levels “fairly soon” after the restoration of normal deliveries.

The outages have annoyed motorists but don't appear to have affected broader commerce.

Operations at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport have remained normal throughout the fuel crunch as the airport’s supply chain for jet fuel has not been affected by the situation.

FedEx and UPS said Tuesday they had not seen serious disruptions.

“FedEx has contingencies in place to mitigate effects on operations and service caused by the pipeline leak in Alabama,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “While we do not anticipate serious disruptions, some service delays are possible because of local gasoline shortages. Customers with questions about their shipments can check fedex.com or call 1-800-GO-FEDEX for more information.”

RaceTrac, the metro-based gas station and convenience store operator, said Tuesday motorists can get updated information on locations with fuel on their website, racetrac.com/locations-with-gas/.

“RaceTrac has been working 24/7 to leverage our integrated fuel supply chain to address the fuel inventory challenges caused by the Colonial Pipeline incident,” a company spokeswoman said in a statement. “We have a 24-hour centralized fuel dispatch team who constantly monitors fuel inventory levels and supply constraints to address unforeseen challenges, allowing us to stay ahead of these issues as much as possible.”

Spokespeople for the city of Atlanta, Atlanta police and DeKalb County said their operations have not been affected.

“When DeKalb County learned of the possible fuel shortages, our fleet maintenance department began taking the proactive step of ordering fuel when the fuel sites are half-full, instead of the normal practice of ordering when the sites are one-fourth full,” DeKalb spokesman Andrew Cauthen III said. “So far the county’s vendor has been able to meet the county’s demand and each of the county’s 29 fuel sites are up and running.”

DeKalb also has in its fleet 150 compressed natural gas vehicles, 140 propane-powered vehicles and two electric vehicles.

Staff writers Kelly Yamanouchi and Michael E. Kanell contributed to this story.

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