Local News

Some pumps run dry while refineries try to recover from Ike

Posted September 23, 2008 12:44 p.m. EDT
Updated September 23, 2008 5:46 p.m. EDT

— Gasoline refineries damaged by Hurricane Ike 10 days ago haven't returned to full operation, which is causing some Triangle gas stations to run dry.

Nine refineries were still offline Tuesday, causing the two pipelines that supply gas to North Carolina and other states across the Southeast to operate at a lower capacity than normal, officials said.

"Every pump was out of gas," said Diane Ruddiman, who was thwarted in her effort to find gas Tuesday  afternoon at the BP station on Capital Boulevard at Westinghouse Boulevard. "It kind of scares me a little bit because I'm on empty and I need gas."

Independent stations that don't have supply contracts with major distributors are running short on gas because the distributors serve their contractual customers first and don't have much left over, said Bill Weatherspoon, executive director of the North Carolina Petroleum Council.

"When refineries are down because there is damage from flooding or they are down because of electricity supply, we know that there is going to be impacts on availability," Weatherspoon said. "The people who have gasoline right now are typically those wholesalers and retailers who have a contract."

Stations in Atlanta, Nashville, Tenn., and elsewhere that depend on the regional pipelines for gas also have been running dry. It was unclear Tuesday how many North Carolina stations were out of gas.

AAA Carolinas said western North Carolina and the Charlotte area were experiencing more gas shortages than the Triangle.

It's not a panic situation, however.

"I'm not too concerned," said Dee Sim, who gassed up at a Citgo station on Leesville Road at Norwood Road Tuesday morning. "My husband's car is filled, and I have two kids with cars. So, somebody is going to get me where I want to go."

The station has already run out of premium and mid-grade gas, but the owner said he had enough regular gas to last a couple of days – unless people flocked to the station because other nearby stations had already run dry.

Weatherspoon said the gas shortages should end within the next week as refineries ramp up operations again and fill the pipeline. In the meantime, he cautioned against panic buying, which would only aggravate a shortage.

"There is gasoline in every community. There is plenty of gasoline to go around, even in these circumstances," he said.