Fuel Shortages Ease as Colonial Pipeline Resumes ‘Normal Operations’

May 15, 2021 Updated: May 16, 2021

A major fuel pipeline in the Eastern United States has resumed “normal operations,” its operator announced on May 15.

“We have returned the system to normal operations, delivering millions of gallons per hour to the markets we serve,” Colonial Pipeline said in a statement.

The Georgia-based firm initiated the restart of the approximately 5,500-mile pipeline, which stretches from Houston, Texas, to Linden, New Jersey, on May 12, but indicated at the time that it would take several days for operations to fully resume.

Markets served by the pipeline include Louisiana, Georgia, and Maryland.

About 13,450 stations were out of fuel on May 15, a drop from the 16,315 stations that were unable to serve customers two days prior, according to GasBuddy.

Shortages eased in some of the hardest-hit states, including North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia. Some 4 out of 5 stations remained out of fuel in Washington, with about half remaining without gas in Georgia and North Carolina, as of May 15.

Data from GasBuddy showed U.S. gas demand dropping by 12.6 percent from May 7 to May 14, Patrick DeHaan, an analyst with the company, said on Twitter.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm predicted normal service would resume at gas pumps by late into May 16.

Colonial suffered a so-called ransomware attack. A cybercriminal group infiltrated Colonial’s network and stole data, which it then held hostage in return for payment.

Colonial reportedly paid $5 million to the group. According to Tom Robinson of Elliptic, Colonial paid 75 bitcoina cryptocurrency currently worth over $48,000 eachon May 8.

A representative for the company declined to comment on whether the company paid a ransom.

Colonial took portions of its network offline when dealing with the attack, which led to the pipeline shutting down.

Americans rushed to stations to fill tanks after the company disclosed the attack and its response, leading to gas shortages and a spike in gas prices.

The average price per gallon was up to $3.04 on May 15, breaching $3 for the first time since 2014, according to the American Automobile Association. That was up from $2.96 a week ago and $2.86 a month ago.

“Since this incident began, we have been clear that our focus was on the safe and efficient restoration of service to our pipeline system. That is what we have achieved through the commitment and dedication of the many Colonial team members,” Colonial said on Saturday.

The firm said it has invested in IT and cybersecurity and “will continue to put safety and system integrity first and will invest the required resources to maintain safe and reliable operations of our pipeline.”

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