US fuel prices jump as shortages worsen after pipeline cyberattack

US fuel prices jump as shortages worsen after pipeline cyberattack

2021-05-12 11:40:00 PM

US fuel prices jump as shortages worsen after pipeline cyberattack

US average petrol prices top $3 a gallon for the first time in more than six years

12 May 2021 - 20:43Stephanie KellyA bagged nozzle at a petrol pump notifies motorists that it no longer has fuel after a cyberattack crippled the biggest fuel pipeline in the country, run by Colonial Pipeline, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the US, May 12 2021. Picture: JONATHAN DRAKE/REUTERS

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Fuel prices rose and shortages worsened in the southeastern US  on Wednesday, as the shutdown of the largest US fuel pipeline network entered its sixth day and Washington officials pledged to help alleviate supply issues.The average national petrol price rose to above $3 per gallon on Wednesday, the highest since October 2014, the American Automobile Association said.

A ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline last week halted 2.5-million barrels per day of fuel shipments. The pipeline stretches 8,850km from US Gulf Coast oil refineries to consumers in southeast states.US transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg said the Biden administration is working around the clock to help deal with fuel shortages and restore Colonial operations, including moving fuel to places that need it.

The White House also said top officials were considering new ways to alleviate the shortages, following a raft of waivers easing quality standards for petrol and extending working hours for fuel truckers to boost shipments.“Our top priority right now is getting the fuel the communities that need it, and we will continue doing everything that we can to meet that goal in the coming days,” Buttigieg said at the White House.

Congressional committee members have asked for a formal briefing from a White House inter-agency task force about the federal response to the most disruptive cyberattack on US energy infrastructure.On Tuesday, energy secretary Jennifer Granholm said Colonial's CEO indicated that the company would decide Wednesday whether it can make a full restart, which could take days to complete.

Privately owned Colonial Pipeline opened portions of the line manually in Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey and the Carolinas. It also accepted 2-million barrels of fuel to begin a restart that would “substantially” restore operations by week’s end, the company said.

The supply crunch has sparked panic buying in the US southeast, bringing long lines and high prices at petrol stations ahead of the Memorial Day holiday weekend at the end of May, the traditional start of the peak summer driving season.Nearly 60% of garages in metro Atlanta were without petrol on Wednesday, tracking firm GasBuddy said. More than 70% of stations were out in metro Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina, and Pensacola, Florida. Virginia and South Carolina also saw relatively high outages.

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Long linesStevenson Rosslow was filling up his Lexus with regular fuel at a BP station in south Atlanta on Wednesday morning.“This takes premium, but they're out,” said Rosslow, the owner of the Wrecking Bar Brewpub in Atlanta's Reynoldstown neighbourhood. “Even at that, the price jumped to what, $3.39?”

The station Rosslow stopped at was the fourth he had tried. “I think we're having a problem here because of hoarding,” he said.Four southeastern states — Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia — joined federal regulators in relaxing driver and fuel restrictions to speed up deliveries of supplies. Georgia suspended sales tax on petrol until Saturday.

The FBI has accused a shadowy criminal gang called DarkSide of the ransomware attack. DarkSide is believed to be based in Russia or Eastern Europe.Russia's embassy in the US rejected speculation that Moscow was behind the attack. President Joe Biden on Monday said there was no evidence so far that Russia was responsible.

It is unknown how much money the hackers are seeking, and Colonial has not commented on whether it would pay.Gulf Coast refiners that move fuel to market on the Colonial Pipeline have cut processing. Total trimmed petrol production at its Port Arthur, Texas, refinery, and Citgo Petroleum pared back at its Lake Charles, Louisiana, plant.

Citgo said it was moving products from Lake Charles and “exploring alternate supply methods into other impacted markets”. Marathon Petroleum said it was “making adjustments”.Colonial also serves US airports including Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, the world’s busiest by passenger traffic.

Several airlines have been transporting fuel by truck or fuelling aeroplanes at destinations rather than at East Coast origins. American Airlines has made changes to two long-haul flights out of Charlotte, North Carolina — one of its hub airports — through to Friday.

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I think that this is made up. They would experience negative prices again as we enter the third wave. In other words, they will pay their suppliers to take their products as the price of not paying them will be higher due to environmental effects of lacking storage capacity.

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Oil prices slide as US refiners cut outputShut main east coast pipeline weighs on production after cyberattack