Two U.S. pipelines have big problems. What does it mean for Canada? | CBC News
May 12, 2021 2 mins, 1 sec

The 8,880-kilometre-long Colonial Pipeline taking gasoline from refineries in the Gulf of Mexico up the Eastern Seaboard was hit by a cyberattack this week, taking tens of millions of litres of gasoline offline.

Under normal circumstances, the pipeline carries 2.5 million barrels of gasoline a day to the area up to Greensboro, N.C., with nearly a million more barrels winding up as far north as New Jersey.

The impact that local pipeline issues can have on the broader grid speaks to how interconnected and tenuous the system is, said Warren Mabee, director of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont.

According to government data, The average retail price of gasoline across Canada on Tuesday was a little over $1.33 a litre, a slight decline from $1.35 before the cyberattack.

"Refineries are sitting on product and storage tanks are filling up, but the demand for gasoline is still the same, if not higher," he said.

While the prospect of Canadian gasoline being siphoned off to be used in the U.S.

is remote, a far greater concern for Canadian drivers is another pipeline deadlock elsewhere in the United States.

Michigan has given Enbridge an ultimatum to shut down its Line 5 pipeline between Ontario and the state by Wednesday.

Gretchen Witmer has railed against the 68-year-old pipeline on environmental grounds, arguing that the portion that passes underneath the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan is a "ticking time bomb" in danger of breaching.

Roughly half of the oil that comes into Ontario destined to be refined into gasoline passes through the pipeline, so the impact would be significant and almost immediate, according to Laura Lau, chief investment officer with the Brompton Group in Toronto who closely follows the energy market.

"A short-term solution would be to rail it in, but that's a lot of oil," she said of the pipeline that carries more than 500,000 barrels of oil every day.

Mabee says that while reducing oil demand and pipeline capacity "might be a good long term goal in the short term, we do need to think about the impact on the economies on both sides of the border.".

Gasoline prices and supply have already been thrown up in the air from the cyberattack "and taking more pipeline capacity offline is just going to exacerbate that," he said.

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