Shutdown of fuel pipeline impacts Tulsa gas prices

Friday, September 23rd 2005, 10:24 am
By: News On 6

The threat of higher prices at the gasoline pump. Hurricane Rita could be even worse than Hurricane Katrina when it comes to gas prices. That's because there are even more refineries in Rita's path.

As News on 6 reporter Steve Berg tells us, the biggest pipeline that serves the Midwest has already shut down. Explorer Pipeline is based in Tulsa, but it's right in the path of Hurricane Rita. "Some of our key origination points at the beginning of the pipeline are right in the middle of the Houston, Port Arthur area." President of Explorer Pipeline, Tim Felt says the pipeline runs underground from the Gulf to Chicago though 70 population centers, providing 10 percent of all the gasoline to the Midwest. But right now, it's providing zero.

Felt says they wanted to move their employees down there to safety. Besides, he says there wasn't much reason for them to be there. "We receive the product from the refineries, so if they're not pumping product to us, we couldn't operate anyway."

Tulsa drivers like Kim Blasingame wonder how they will continue to operate. "I can't afford it, I just can't. I'm spending a ton of money on gas. Last month, my gas bill was $600. It was finally coming back down a little bit, but now it sounds like it's fixing to go back up."

It all depends on where it hits. Right now, oil prices are actually dropping, because it looks like Rita might stay east of Houston and the bulk of the oil operations. But if it doesn't. Tim Felt: "We can't protect them from a ten or twenty foot storm surge. If we get ten or twenty feet of water, we'll be replacing a lot of that equipment."

Felt says they have plenty of incentive to get the pipeline going again. Because for every second, it's stopped, it's costing them money too. How much the gas prices go up, depends on how long the refineries and pipelines are shut down.

Felt says they're sending 3 crews down to Houston in motor homes, so they'll be self-sufficient and so they can start repairs the minute the storm is gone.