The U.S.’s largest oil pipeline scheduling system went down just days after reopening


Colonial Pipeline

Trucks line the Colonial Pipeline facility. Jay Reeves / AP

  • The country’s largest oil pipeline has problems with future shipping scheduling systems.

  • The Colonial Pipeline network went down on Tuesday, a few days after the pipeline resumed from a week-long shutdown.

  • Last week’s cyberattack pushed gasoline prices to their highest level in seven years, causing fuel shortages.

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The Colonial Pipeline has network issues that prevent shippers from planning future shipments of fuel, the company said on Tuesday shortly after the system resumed after a week-long ransomware attack. ..

The closure of the 5,500-mile (8,900 km) system last week was the most devastating cyberattack on record, preventing millions of barrels of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from flowing from the Gulf to the East Coast.

Colonial uses a shipper nomination system to schedule batches of fuel supplies and bring the flow back to normal. Prolonged network outages can prevent shippers from scheduling deliveries. This will prevent fuel delivery on the southeast and east coasts of the United States shortly after the line resumes.

I didn’t immediately know why the system went down or when it would be fixed. The colonial does not say when the problem will be fixed.

Thousands of gas stations in the southeastern United States ran out of fuel after the colonial shut down the entire network in a ransomware attack. Fearing long-term shortages, drivers competed to fill their cars.

Colonial’s shipping nomination system is operated by a third party, a private Transport 4 or T4 that handles similar logistics for other pipeline companies. T4 couldn’t say when the issue would be fixed and didn’t comment on whether other pipeline systems were affected.

As of Tuesday, more than 10,600 gas stations were still out of fuel, down from more than 16,000 at their peak last week, according to tracking firm GasBuddy.

Despite the nomination issue, market sources familiar with the issue said the barrels currently on the line are still flowing.

In one of the most devastated states, North Carolina, gas outages fell below 50% on Tuesday, Gasbuddy said. South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia also all had less than 50% outages.

About 70% of Washington, DC gas stations are still out of fuel, down from about 90% on weekends.

“The number of petrol-free stations is likely to fall below 10,000 today,” Gasbuddy’s Patrick de Khan said on Tuesday.

(Report by Stephanie Kelly, Laura Sanicola, Jessica Resnick-Ault, Devika Krishna Kumar, edited by Franklin Paul, Chizu Nomiyama, Marguerita Choy)

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