The Colonial Pipeline Co. hopes to bring a significant gasoline supply line back online by Saturday, less than a week after a blast that could reduce gasoline supply to the Southeast and Northeast, Reuters has reported.
The impact of the blast on fuel prices should be felt hardest in the Southeast region, said Bernie Kavanagh, senior vice president and general manager for North American large fleet for WEX, Inc.
The region was also impacted in September when a nearby gasoline spill caused a 12-day interruption in the flow of about 1.3 million barrels per day from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast.
"The brunt of any fallout from the accident at the pipeline will likely be felt in the Southeastern region of the country, but again, we're still assessing how this will impact fuel prices and demand nationwide," Kavanagh said. "Southeast suppliers will be closely monitoring progress of a Line 1 restart, and potentially will have to scramble to get supplies, much like in mid-September."
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration took control of the site, while the fire continues to burn. Once the company gains access to the site, it can assess how long repairs will take to complete.
The fire highlights the dangers of aging pipeline infrastructure in the U.S. More than 60% of fuel pipelines were built before 1970, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The blast shouldn't cause a longer-term impact on gasoline prices that fleet drivers pay at the pump, and diesel prices shouldn't be affected because Colonial's diesel line was restarted quickly, Kavanagh said.
"It's our hope that this accident will have little effect on fuel supply, but if it does we are optimistic that it will not be a long-term concern for consumers," he said. "It very much depends on how long it takes to get the pipeline back to working condition, as that section of pipeline services areas from the Gulf to New York."
On Nov. 1, Alabama suspended hours-of-service regulations for truck drivers who are engaged in pipeline repair work and fuel hauling for 30 days, Gov. Robert Bentley announced.