Gas shortage: Wilmington feeling the effects of Colonial Pipeline leak

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A pump at the BP gas station in the Landfall Center displays an out sign on their gas pump. (Photo by Mike Kane.)
A pump at the BP gas station in the Landfall Center displays an out sign on their gas pump. (Photo by Mike Kane.)

WILMINGTON — North Carolina is one of six states in the country facing gas shortages due to a leak of the Colonial Pipeline in Alabama, which supplies fuel from the Gulf to the east coast.

The Wilmington area is starting to feel the effects of the Colonial Pipeline leak discovered earlier this month. According to AAA North Carolina, the average price of regular gas in Wilmington on Monday afternoon was at $2.166, up from an average price of $2.052 last Monday.

But one local supplier is advising people not to panic during what could be several days of gas shortages.

The city of Wilmington announced Monday that due to fuel shortages, a large volume of fuel trucks were on Front Street, south of Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. The city’s police department announced just before 1 p.m. Monday, the southbound lane on Front Street will be closed from Castle Street to Greenfield Street for tankers to unload.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory temporarily waived hours of service restrictions for fuel vehicles on Sept. 15. The following day, the governor issued a second executive order that waives additional trucking restrictions and protects consumers from price gouging at the pumps.

“Based on our ongoing updates from Colonial, the construction of a bypass pipeline is moving forward which will soon allow fuel supply operations to return to normal,” McCrory said in his release.

The governor issued the statement Monday stating he and other state officials are continuing to work with fuel suppliers to minor and quickly replenish fuel supplies in the state. Colonial expects to have a bypass of the leak in place by mid-to-late week, McCrory said. Upon completion of the bypass, it will take a day to test and get the line back in operation. The company has also been able to use another line to offset the shortage due to the line with the leak.

Colonial gave no time table Saturday as to when the bypass line would be competed or what path it would take, Go Energies General Manager Kevin Keen said. Like many fuel and gas entities in the state, Wilmington based company Go Energies, which specializes in fuel management software, hardware and consulting for commercial, government and emergency management agencies, is monitoring the situation of the spill.

Keen said the Colonial Pipeline gasoline spill was detected on Sept. 9. Since then, the company has acknowledged that between 252,000 and 336,000 gallons of gasoline leaked from the pipeline near Helena, Alabama. Fuel supplies in at least five states – Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas – were threatened by the spill.

Go Energies is servicing its customers as best it can, Keen said. The company is expecting a better than normal availability of diesel fuel, but anticipates that will be an issue in the next 2 to 3 days.

“What you’ve got to do is figure for seven to ten days even after the pipeline is fixed because the project only moves maybe about 7 or 8 miles an hour at the most up the pipelines, so then you’re talking delays. So, it’s not only going to price spike due to the supply and demand, but there are also going to be supply issues.

“The water-borne terminals, like Wilmington, we’ve been having pretty good luck with because they’re not affected by the pipeline. All their project comes on a ship or a barge. The pipeline locations are the ones we’re trying to stay clear of. And see it’s not just gasoline, it’s going to affect diesel as well because they’re running gasoline up the main diesel line periodically and so it’s cutting product as well on that,” Keen said.

With the spike in gas prices and reports of dry gas station pumps, drivers could see the situation get worse before it gets better, Keen said. But the key he said, is for the public not to panic during this time.

“It will only make things worse,” Keen said.