Colonial Pipeline, the largest U.S. fuel pipeline company, paid nearly $5 million as ransom to East European hackers on Friday, just hours after the hacker group launched a crippling cyberattack that shut the largest fuel pipeline network in the United States. Although the company has refused to comment on the report of the ransom payment which was made through untraceable cryptocurrency, operations seem to be returning to normal.
After a six-day outage, Colonial Pipeline today moved some of the first millions of gallons of motor fuels. The company, which carries 100 million gallons per day of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, said it had begun supplying some fuel to most regions along its 5,500-mile (8,850 km) route. It will expand to areas including Baltimore by mid-day, cpcyberresponse.com said.
The company resumed computer-controlled pumping late Wednesday after adding safety measures. The shutdown caused gasoline shortages and emergency declarations from Virginia to Florida. The restart should bring supplies to some hard-hit areas as soon as possible, said U.S. Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm. She added that the fuel market should return to normal by the end of the weekend.
“Relief is coming,” added Jeanette McGee, a spokeswoman for motor travel group AAA. Motorists’ panic buying led stations to run out of fuel even in areas where supplies were available. On Thursday about 70% of gas stations in North Carolina were left without fuel, while around 50% of stations in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia had outages, tracking firm GasBuddy said. The average national gasoline price rose above $3.00 a gallon, the highest since October 2014, the American Automobile Association said.
Even as the pipeline resumes pumping, it will take time to replenish stocks. Gasoline inventories in the Northeast likely will fall to five-year lows this week, said Richard Joswick, an analyst with S&P Global Platts.