By Cory Engle
Drivers should expect to see a small jump in gas prices over the next few days after an accident at the Colonial Pipeline in Georgia Monday forced the closure of one of South Carolina’s main arteries for petroleum products.
According to a press release from Colonial Pipeline, a crew working on Line 1 of the pipeline in Shelby County, Ga. struck a portion of the line with a trackhoe, causing a fire. Colonial reported that one worker died in the fire and four were injured.
As a result, Colonial shut down Line 1, which carries gasoline across the Southeast, which industry officials say could cause a slight shortage over the next few weeks.
“We expect it to be about the same as it was the last time the pipeline was shut down in September,” said S.C. Petroleum Council Executive Director Bonnie Loomis. “That was down for about 12 days, then we always expect another week to ten days for supply to get back to normal levels.”
Loomis said bringing in fuel through ports and by truck will mean higher logistical costs, but that ultimately the price of gasoline shouldn’t go much higher than they did following the pipeline rupture in September.
“We don’t anticipate prices going higher than the national average; about $2.50 per gallon,” she said.
Loomis said she spoke with officials at the Department of Energy on Tuesday afternoon, who said gasoline supplies in the Southeast “look good”.
“It’s been building for four consecutive weeks,” she said. “It’s about 8 or 9 percent above normal at this time.”
With no real danger of a shortage, Loomis said most drivers should continue to fill up as they usually do, about half a tank per fill-up.
“We encourage everyone to try to be mindful of others who may have an absolute need for gasoline,” she said. “If you have the ability to cut back any yourself, it would help the overall situation.”
That advice came too late for some businesses. Ingles in Laurens had shut down pumps early Tuesday afternoon, after a run on the station emptied tanks there. Loomis said the best bet is to look for larger retailers, where prices tend to be more stable.
According to GasBuddy.com, the average price of gasoline in South Carolina was $2.01 per gallon as of Tuesday afternoon, with a low price of $1.83 per gallon. Most stations in Laurens County, most stations were between $1.89 and $2.01 per gallon of regular unleaded, while some stations in Clinton off of Interstate 26 were as high as $2.18 per gallon.