Main Fuel Pipeline Temporarily Closes, What’s Going To Happen To Gas Prices?

Image courtesy of Freaktography

Hurricane Harvey’s impact on fuel prices nationally might be more costly than first anticipated: The country’s largest fuel system, the Colonial Pipeline, shut down its main fuel lines.

Colonial Pipeline announced Wednesday evening that it would temporarily close two of its fuel lines that send an estimated 100 million gallons of gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel from Houston to the East Coast.

According to Colonial Pipeline, Line 2 — which transports diesel and aviation fuel — closed Wednesday, while Line 1 — which transports gasoline between Houston and the East Coast — stopped operations today.

The company noted that the shutdowns were made “due to supply constraints caused by storm-related refinery shutdowns.”

Once Colonial is able to ensure that its facilities are safe to operate and refiners have the ability to move product, the systems will resume operation.

What’s It Mean For Your Wallet?

While many drivers have seen an increase in gas prices in the days following Harvey’s landfall, the latest pipeline closure could drive up costs even more.

The shutdowns have led to an increase in gasoline futures — the wholesale prices charged to gas stations — that are eventually passed down to customers.

As of Wednesday evening, gasoline futures jumped 7% to more than $2/gallon, CNN reports.

Although it might take time for the latest jump in futures to reach customers — likely in days or weeks — prices have already seen a slight increase since Harvey struck.

GasBuddy, a fuel tracking system, notes that fuel prices are up nearly $0.02 from yesterday, while the average price has increased $0.11 since last week.

Compared to this time last year, however, the price is up $0.24.

GasBuddy executives warned of the impending price increases shortly before the hurricane hit Texas, noting that the storm could lead to long-term issues in terms of gasoline supply for large portions of the country.

The company estimates that gas price increases could linger for one or two weeks after the storm.

Past Trouble

Hurricane Harvey isn’t the first event to wreak havoc on nation’s pipelines.

In Sept. 2016, a spill of gasoline from the Colonial Pipeline in Alabama resulted in higher gas prices. Repairs of the issue, which was declared a state of emergency in Alabama and Georgia, were delayed, causing shortages and further price increases.

Three months later in Dec. 2016, the Colonial Pipeline shutdown again after an explosion and fire killed a worker.

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