SHELBY COUNTY, Ala. — A crucial pipeline that carries gasoline and other fuel to the U.S. East Coast has been shut down for the second time in two months after an explosion killed one worker and injured five others Monday, and now brings a new threat of price hikes at the pump.
“You have basically ruptured the aorta of East Coast gasoline supplies,” said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst with the Oil Price Information Service, which tracks prices for AAA.
Spot gasoline futures spiked 13 cents a gallon in early trading Tuesday. “Increases at the pump will happen fairly quickly,” said Kloza.
The Colonial Pipeline, which runs from refineries in Houston all the way to terminals in New Jersey, ruptured Monday when an Alabama construction crew in Shelby County, Alabama hit it with a trackhoe. That caused an explosion that that killed one worker, injured five others and sent a massive plume of flames and smoke into the sky. It’s the second time the pipeline has been shut down in the last two months.
In the massive underground interstate system that is the nation’s pipeline network, the Colonial Pipeline is I-95, providing an irreplaceable pathway for more than 100 million gallons of gasoline and other refined products a day.
The pipeline’s previous shutdown in September, after workers discovered an underground leak, only stopped the flow in one of the two pipelines that carry the gasoline. This accident has closed both pipelines, meaning the problem will be more widespread.
“From where we sit right now, with both lines down, it could be worse than September,” said Tamra Johnson, spokesperson for AAA. At the time, prices in the Southeast spiked as much as 28 cents a gallon.
The explosion comes at a particularly bad time for proponents of fossil fuel pipelines, as potential environmental hazards are among the reasons protesters continue to fight the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.