With gas prices already on the rise, a major pipeline cyberattack has sparked concerns they could spike well above $3 a gallon.
Colonial Pipeline was forced to take four lines offline due to a cyberattack that was reported on Friday, May 7, leaving less fuel for the Eastern seaboard, and causing prices to rise in some places.
As of Tuesday, May 11, the average price per gallon is $2.98, up six cents over a week and marking the most expensive national average since November 2014, according to AAA, the last time the average price was at $2.99 or higher per gallon.
AAA further predicted that gas prices will continue to climb due to the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, which is responsible for delivering nearly half of all fuel for the East Coast.
The longer the pipeline is offline, the larger the impact on the east coast. However, foreign gasoline imports and other pipelines can supplement Northeastern supply, AAA noted.
“This shutdown will have implications on both gasoline supply and prices, but the impact will vary regionally,” AAA spokesperson Jeanette McGee said. “These states may see prices increase three to seven cents this week.”
Analysts at GasBuddy, which tracks over 150,000 gas stations throughout North America, said that it could take days for normal conditions to return and stabilize even once the pipeline is back online.
"It's very difficult to pin the exact amount prices may rise, but for now, it appears to be a few cents per gallon, they wrote, adding, "possibly growing more significant if the pipeline remains shut down for more than to or three more days."
The production disruption is expected to extend the recent jump in gasoline prices as the country approaches the busiest driving season of the year between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
“Colonial Pipeline is continuing to work in partnership with third-party cybersecurity experts, law enforcement, and other federal agencies to restore pipeline operations quickly and safely,” the company posted in an update late on Monday, May 10.
“While this situation remains fluid and continues to evolve, the Colonial operations team is executing a plan that involves an incremental process that will facilitate a return to service in a phased approach.”
According to the company, Line 4 is now operating under manual control, though the main lines continue to be offline. Other, smaller, lateral lines between terminals and delivery points are now operational as well.
“We continue to evaluate product inventory in storage tanks at our facilities and others along our system and are working with our shippers to move this product to terminals for local delivery.”
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