Alabama pipeline leak filters to the area

A fuel pipeline spill in Alabama produced effects all the way in Havelock, as some gas stations experienced shortages Monday and Tuesday.

A fuel pipeline spill from the Colonial Pipeline in Helena, Alabama, threw North Carolina and five other states into a state of emergency Friday night as fuel supplies begin to dwindle. The state of emergency relaxes limits on fuel transportation.

A bypass around the leak was completed Tuesday, and supplies should begin to return to normal, but Gov. Pat McCrory said a couple of days may be needed before supplies return to normal.

Most stations in Havelock reported available gas, though the Murphy USA in front of Wal-Mart ran out of regular and mid-grade gas by Monday afternoon. Supreme was available.

A number of gas stations in New Bern ran dry, while those that did have gas saw prices increase 10 to 15 cents per gallon.

Colonial Pipeline Co. has acknowledged that between 252,000 gallons and 336,000 gallons of gasoline leaked from the pipeline, which runs from Houston to New York.

Homer Ray, director of marketing for Fisher Oil Co. that supplies fuel to retail and commercial outlets in Eastern North Carolina, said the fuel shortage affects more than just Eastern North Carolina. Fuel supplies in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas were threatened by the spill, according to the Associated Press.

“Officials are working on contingency plans to come up with a viable alternative solution, but it will take time to work through it,” Ray said. “We can expect gas and other petroleum products will be in limited supply in the short term.”

Ray said he had one station run out of fuel over the weekend and he believed it was because of the publicity and panic surrounding the announcement of the temporary shortage. That station was resupplied Monday morning, he said.

Most of the gasoline sold in Eastern North Carolina comes from a pipeline out of Selma, and Selma gets its fuel supply from the Colonial pipeline.

Ray said there is plenty of fuel. The problem now is getting it here.

“Plan your trips and be conservative when you can,” Ray said. “Have some patience.”

AAA Carolinas says temporarily higher prices at the gas pumps are because of the pipeline disruption. North Carolina’s average price for a gallon of gasoline is currently $2.16 compared to last week’s average of $2.05, according to AAA.

“Once the supply issue is fixed, motorists will enjoy lower gas prices as we move into the winter-blend of fuel,” according to a statement by AAA Carolinas. “Pump prices typically decline during this time of year due to lower driving demand after the busy summer driving season has concluded and the changeover from summer-blend to a cheaper-to-produce winter-blend gasoline.”

The N.C. Attorney General’s Office on Monday put into effect the state’s law against price gouging because of the limited supplies of gasoline.

As of 11 a.m. Monday, 400 consumers had filed complaints with the Attorney General’s Office to report potential gas price gouging, according to a press released from the Attorney General’s Office.