Restart is not resumption: Fuel has ways to go before reaching Northern Virginia

It will be a few days before things get back to normal in Virginia, even after Colonial Pipeline has restarted its operations following a cyberattack that forced its systems offline last week.

Virginia has felt the effects of the attack in the form of gas shortages compounded by a fueling frenzy across the commonwealth.

The Colonial Pipeline delivers about 45% of the fuel used along the Eastern Seaboard. But even when it was shut down, Virginia officials said that there were other lines serving the state — three interstate lines and one intrastate pipeline — and those were unaffected by the hack, Stacie Neal, director of planning with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, said Thursday during a news briefing.

Neal gave a brief summary of the actions that have been taken since the attack on Friday, including declarations of emergency, issuance of federal and state waivers and the recent restart of the pipeline.

Colonial Pipeline restarted the line Wednesday and was at 50% capacity by 7 a.m. Thursday. It expected that a majority of the markets it serves will receive product from the system by midday, a Colonial Pipeline operational update said.

But restart doesn’t mean resumption, officials said.

Scott Marshall, pipeline safety program manager with the Virginia State Corporation Commission, said that several things have to be monitored and after that, it takes several hours for the product to reach Northern Virginia destinations.

Marshall said that after the restart, the product reached Richmond faster than expected from the Gulf states, but 48 hours from the restart needs to be allotted before normal flow rates resume and additional monitoring is relaxed. That means that 100% capacity may happen 48 hours from Wednesday.

“Moving from Richmond to Northern Virginia is a 29-hour journey,” Marshall said, and to reach the endpoint in New Jersey is a 14-day journey.

During the pipeline shutdown, the Virginia Department of Transportation limited nonessential travel for its 4,000 employees.

Stephen Brich, commissioner of highways, said that the agency has sufficient supplies of gas and diesel to provide services, but as a conservation method, they have repositioned safety service patrollers in key high-crash locations.

State coordinator of emergency management Curtis Brown said he is hopeful that there will be some sense of normalcy this weekend or the early part of next week.


More on the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She has a master’s degree in interactive journalism from American University and a master’s degree in English Literature from The George Washington University.

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