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Pipeline Closure Causing Gas Shortage At North Carolina Pumps

Gas prices are up in North Carolina as supply is dwindling.
Jess Clark
A sign at a gas station pump in Chapel Hill on Monday, September 19, 2016.

Gasoline prices are up across North Carolina, and some stations are running out of fuel.

Colonial Pipeline shut down the line that pumps a million barrels of gas a day to North Carolina and five other Southern states. That's because of a leak that was discovered along the Alabama stretch on September 9.

Patrick De Haan of the analytics company says it took a while for fuel reserves to get noticeably low.

"As this problem drags into its ninth and tenth days without gasoline being re-supplied, it's starting to enter a very critical time that inventories across these six states are becoming rapidly depleted," De Haan said. "And that is really starting to have an impact on both availability and pricing, and it could get worse if the pipeline is not very soon reconnected."

The average price at the pump is about $2.17 per gallon, although some stations have no gasoline left. Others are limiting the number of gallons customers can buy.

Now, Colonial Pipeline executives say they're rushing to deliver gas to their six affected customer states by truck and barge.

But De Haan said efforts to truck gasoline into North Carolina cannot keep up with the volume the pipeline provides.

"So, it could become worse at the pump in terms of pricing and availability before it gets better, but there are multiple projects underway to try and mitigate any further harm," he said, pointing to reports of plans to build a bypass for the leak.

It's unclear when the bypass would be finished, or when the pipeline will be repaired, and flow restored.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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