After a ransomware attack closed the line, causing fuel shortages and panic buying in the southeastern United States, the Colony Pipeline began to slowly restart the largest fuel pipeline network in the United States on Wednesday.
Colonial said that even if the 5,500-mile (8,850-kilometer) pipeline returns to normal operation, it will take several days, even if motorists in the southeastern state block the gas station. Analysts said it may take two weeks to restore sufficient supply.
Last Friday, a cyber attack terminated the daily transportation of 2.5 million barrels of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, after the US energy infrastructure suffered the most destructive cyber attack.
A source familiar with Colonial’s response said the company does not intend to pay the ransom required by hackers who encrypt the data in the pipeline.
Colonial said it is cooperating with cybersecurity experts to investigate the attack and has taken additional security measures before starting the restart. The company said its control center is dealing with the restart of the pipeline that extends from refineries on the Gulf Coast of the United States to consumers in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern states.
Supply shortages have triggered panic buying in the southeastern United States, with long queues and high gas prices at gas stations before the summer driving season.
Tracking company GasBuddy said that nearly 60% of gas stations in the Atlanta metro area do not have gasoline. Its survey showed that 65% of gas stations in North Carolina and 43% of gas stations in Georgia and South Carolina had no fuel. Virginia also reported a high interruption rate.
US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg told reporters: “Our top priority at the moment is to provide fuel to the communities that need it.”
S&P Global Platts (S&P Global Platts) analyst Richard Joswick (Richard Joswick) said that with the slow restart process, fuel inventories in the northeastern United States this week may hit a five-year low. He added that a full recovery “will take at least a few weeks.”
At the Citgo train station in East Atlanta, the 66-year-old local musician Charles Williams (Charles Williams) saw his wife full of oil drums and filled his wife’s Mini Cooper.
He said: “I won’t say that I know they are hoarding, but I don’t know if they are helping.”
The privately-owned Colonial Pipeline manually opened parts of the pipeline in Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Carolina. The company said it also accepted 2 million barrels of fuel to begin efforts to resume production “substantially” before the end of the week.
The American Automobile Association said that the national average gasoline price rose to more than US$3 (approximately 220 rupees) per gallon, the highest price since October 2014.
Fuel industry representatives urge consumers to stop panic buying. They pointed out that the country has a large supply of gasoline and said that the accumulation of pipelines in areas where the pipeline cannot provide services is causing shortages.
Rob Underwood, president of American energy marketers, said: “Retailers have now sold a few days of inventory within a few hours.”
The four southeastern states—Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia—joined federal regulators to ease driver and fuel restrictions to speed up the delivery of supplies. Georgia suspends gasoline sales tax until Saturday.
The FBI accused a dark criminal gang named DarkSide of ransomware attacks. The organization is believed to be headquartered in Russia or Eastern Europe and has no direct access to credit, but on Wednesday it claimed to have violated the systems of three other companies, including a technology company in Illinois.
The Russian Embassy in the United States refused to speculate that Moscow was behind the attack. Biden said on Monday that so far, there is no evidence that Russia is responsible.
Refinery, airline reaction
I don’t know how much money the hackers are seeking.
The Gulf Coast refineries that brought fuel to market on colonial pipelines have already cut processing. In total, SE reduced gasoline production at the Port Arthur refinery in Texas, and Citgo Petroleum reduced gasoline production at its Lake Charles plant in Louisiana.
Citgo said it is moving products from Lake Charles and “exploring alternative supply methods to other affected markets.” Marathon Petroleum said it was “making adjustments.”
Several airlines have been refueling with trucks or planes instead of starting from the east coast. American Airlines said it will resume uninterrupted services on two long-haul flights from its Charlotte, North Carolina hub on Thursday.
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian (Ed Bastian) said that the airline has been told, “hope to provide fuel this weekend, as long as these expectations come true, we can.”
Thomson Reuters 2021 ©