Are Airports In The Southeastern U.S. Going To Run Out Of Jet Fuel This Week?

A major oil pipeline from Houston, Texas to Linden, New Jersey was hacked Friday evening and that’s wreaking havoc. The pipeline network supplies nearly 45% of East Coast fuel consumption, totaling over 2.5 million barrels per day gas and jet fuel from the Gulf Coast to the southeast especially but also northeastern United States.

The operator of the largest petroleum pipeline between Texas and New York, which was shut down after a ransomware attack, declined on Sunday to say when it would reopen, raising concerns about a critical piece of infrastructure that carries nearly half of the East Coast’s fuel supplies.

We don’t yet know the disruption we’ll see to air travel, but jet fuel is one of the major issues flagged by the pipeline shutdown. Airports carry just a few days’ supply, so could be affected later this week, especially at major southeastern locations like Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh, and Nashville. While “fuel suppliers will need to seek to transport stopgap supplies through other pipelines, but none of them have the capacity to compensate for Colonial’s shutdown.”

There are things an airline can do to to manage fuel shortages. Each has downsides,

  • They can load up extra fuel for return trips on short hops with some aircraft, though that itself weighs more and burns more fuel.

  • Some flights make a technical stop to refuel, but that adds at least an hour to a journey – delaying flights, causing missed connections, and having knock-on effects throughout the schedule.

  • Fuel could be rationed, so planes carry less extra fuel and have a smaller margin before being forced to divert.

Large airports may be better able prepare for shortages, while smaller airports serviced in some cases by smaller providers or with lower priority, might be caught out.

This appears to be another case where the corporate cronyist Jones Act gets in the way since we can’t bring in foreign ship capacity to help move fuel supplies. The U.S. is allowing more fuel to be transported by road instead of waiving (or pushing for the elimination of!) the Jones Act, which helps impoverish Puerto Rico and Hawaii.

We’ve certainly learned over the past 14 months that just-in-time and just-enough supply chains are more vulnerable than they thought. From Ever Given in the Suez Canal, to Texas gas producers being ordered by the state’s electric grid regulator to stop using electricity during February’s meltdown (so they couldn’t produce and deliver gas to power plants), to shortages of toilet paper and bacon, it begs the question about investment in redundancy. Perhaps we should err on the side of allowing more pipelines, not fewer.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “Perhaps we should err on the side of allowing more pipelines, not fewer.”

    Yeah, good luck with that until at least January 20, 2025.

  2. THe pandemic reveals supply shortages everywhere. For some sectors the shortage is made worse by politicians. If the lights go out in NYC this summer during a blistering heatwave because the illustrious Govenor shutdown Con Edison’s last nuclear reactor, the s— will hit the fan for more Democrats than just the Governor of NY.

  3. If the Biden regime thought they could get away with it, they would fire the pipeline workers and shut it down.

  4. No, the pipeline will not stay closed long enough to cripple the economy. Airports have way more reserves than gasoline depots do. A shutdown of transportation for even a small part of the country would be more than enough to have enormous political consequences.
    And Delta’s refinery strategy looks better and better not just as fuel prices soar but as supply tightens which would have happened even w/o the pipeline shutdown. Diesel and jet fuel are similar enough in refining and diesel demand is not slowing.

  5. Damn, if only there was like another pipeline. You know, that was under construction already. That had “union jobs.”

  6. Why is a for-profit company doing almost $1Billion in revenue, too cheap to protect its own network from cyber attacks?

  7. @Rick You mean like every other company and Government in the last 8 years? I say that tongue in cheek because it not a simple answer. I don’t say that to defend them, but there is no way to make a network 100% safe unless entirely air gapped. Secondly, there is no punishment for being hacked. Hundreds of companies have been hacked with millions of account information stolen yet those companies have not had fleeing customers not Govt fines. Why? It’s just the cost of doing business, and like a bad airline policy, customers might complain but most won’t leave.

  8. All of you numb nuts find a way to politicize everything. How is a private corporation getting hacked related to any political party? Can you please stay on topic for one effing story?

    Based on articles I’ve read elsewhere, there was nothing special or revolutionary about the hack. As such, the corporation should have had better security in place.

  9. Waiting for the airlines to increase ticket prices by adding a modest 1000% fuel surcharge.

  10. There are people who take security seriously. Most do not.

    Real security costs real money. Real IT security involves current software/patched, security products and monitoring.

    Most things that are secure, have redundancies. Redundancies in anything are more expensive.

    People do not want to pay for serious security. Why? It’s expensive. They’d rather be insecure, as it’s cheaper. When it fails, they like to blame others.

  11. Jimmy says is a moron…..Before Biden this Country was the Number 1 producer of Energy / Oil and Fuel. 100 Days in your Precocious Dementia Joe turned that around with closing off fracking, pipe line projects cancelled and not permitting industry to get back to work. You sir are part of the problem, Why ? Because you cant fix stupid and democrats never learn from mistakes or history. They just keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Welcome to Bizzaro World !

  12. @Dave Look up the definition of the word blather so you understand how you come across.

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