Colonial Pipeline leads to record swings in regional gasoline inventories

The shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline last month, which cut supplies to the East Coast, led to record draw down of gasoline stockpiles in the Southeast, the Energy Department said Friday.

The flow of gasoline from Gulf Coast refineries was halted by a leak in the pipeline near Birmingham, Ala.,  which stopped service  between Sept. 9 and Sept. 21, when the Colonial completed a temporary bypass.  Stockpiles in the Southeast, where prices jumped, fell by a record 6 million barrels during the shutdown, more than double the previous record of 2.9 million barrels, the Energy Department said. Conversely, gasoline inventories in Gulf Coast states rose by nearly 5 million barrels, a record build.

The Gulf Coast, which accounts for most of the nation’s refining capacity, has the largest stockpiles of gasoline, about 80 million barrels. Refineries either exported or stored gasoline that could not be moved during the pipeline outage.

The effects of the shutdown were still being felt in some states this week. Average gas prices in Tennessee ($2.16 a gallon) and Virginia ($2.10 a gallon) were both about two cents higher than Sept. 20, the day before service was restored, according to GasBuddy.com, a website that tracks gas prices and refining activity.

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