Colonial works to bypass shut gasoline segment: Update
Crews continued work today to install a 500-700ft bypass around a break in Colonial's gasoline-bearing Line 1 outside of Pelham, Alabama. The bypass will have the same, 36-inch diameter as the segment Colonial shut after discovering a leak on 9 September, allowing a return to full service to a critical section of the company's 5,500-mile (8,851km) pipeline network.
A company spokesman said the plan had the approval of the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and that other regulators have approved the plan. The agency on 16 September issued a corrective order requiring a written restart plan, line testing, and a slow, phased increase in rates before resuming full operations.
Once started, it should take a matter of hours to restore full throughputs through the new bypass, the company said. Colonial has not said how long it would take to restore full rates or to fully repair Line 1, half of a 2.6mn b/d pair of pipelines connecting terminals in the Houston, Texas, area to facilities throughout the southeast and a terminal in Greensboro, North Carolina. The temporary line can run indefinitely, though will be replaced, the company said.
Colonial continued to use its twin, distillates-bearing Line 2 to move gasoline around the remote mining site where an estimated 8,000 bl of gasoline have been recovered. Gasoline enters the distillates pipeline at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and other origins for delivery to terminals in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina.
The strategy has preserved some gasoline deliveries while cutting distillates throughputs, helping to push up pump prices in many markets across the southeast.
Unlike hurricane-related refining and pipeline outages, which can be anticipated days in advance, the abrupt loss of Line 1 didn't allow fuel distributors to prepare by filling storage tanks. Stored volumes of both products across the Atlantic coast are historically high, but the reductions have pressured terminals in northern Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee that are further from supplies. The outage led distributors to turn to long-haul trucking or waterborne deliveries from Jones Act vessels to replace supplies.
Alabama and other states waived trucking requirements to ease the resupply of terminals. Virginia Petroleum, Convenience and Grocery Association chief executive Michael O'Conner said one of his members had gone as far as 280 miles to retrieve fuel in the worst outage he had seen in 17 years.
Marathon Petroleum, a significant shipper on the Colonial network, said it was using barges, trucking and tankers to augment supplies.
"Our actions have allowed us to manage supply in the impacted areas," Marathon Petroleum said.
Colonial shifted focus to constructing the bypass after gasoline vapors forced crews digging to reach the stricken line to repeatedly stop work. Building a bypass would restore gasoline flows while allowing for the slower progress on the pipeline repair, the company said.