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Alabama pipeline catches fire, could impact S.C.

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A fire has forced the shutdown of two major petroleum pipelines in Alabama and the impact may be felt in North Carolina and South Carolina.

Tiffany Wright, spokeswoman for AAA Carolinas, said the Colonial Pipeline shutdown of its two mainlines in Alabama will adversely impact gas prices at the pump.

“The last pipeline leak that happened, we felt the effects for weeks and, unfortunately, this came at a really bad time,” Wright said. “Supplies were back at a normal level and this happens and this is going to impact distribution.”

The fire, located in Shelby County, Ala., was started after crews working on the gasoline pipeline hit the line with a backhoe, causing gasoline to catch fire, according to Colonial Pipeline. The company said one worker died and five were transported to the hospital. Colonial said it shut down its main lines after the incident occurred and those lines remain offline.

The company said the location of the fire is “several miles” from where part of the pipeline ruptured, spilling gasoline in September. Wright said during that shutdown, gas prices went up 20-30 cents per gallon in the Carolinas. One reason gasoline supply was impacted was motorists changing their consumption habits in response to the distribution shortages, Wright said.

Colonial Pipeline has two lines – one delivering gasoline and the other delivering other petroleum products – which carry products to Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and up into the northeastern United States. According to the company’s map, it uses terminals in Belton and Spartanburg.

Gas prices are traditionally lower in the winter months as refineries switch to winter fuel blends. Wright said that switchover happened in September, but this latest pipeline shutdown occurs as the holiday travel season gets ready to hit full swing.

“Now that we are about to hit the holiday driving season, it could play a big role as more and more people take to the road,” Wright said. “We could be in a really crazy time at the pumps depending on how fast Colonial can get this fixed.”

Reach Matthew Clark at 864-720-1222.

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