Gasoline pipeline resumes pumping to parched Phoenix

Monday, August 25, 2003

PHOENIX -- Relief is on the way for this gasoline-parched city.

A pipeline that broke, creating gas shortages and fueling frustrations at the pumps for days, was up and running again Sunday.

Officials at Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, the company that owns the pipeline, said they began pumping gas through their east pipeline Sunday morning, using a seven-mile bypass to circumvent the rupture point. However, they cautioned it would take a few days before the gas from Tucson reaches Phoenix.

While trucked-in fuel, relaxed gas restrictions and less panic pumping have eased or eliminated gas station lines, Phoenicians can expect the increased flow of fuel to further help.

The trouble started when the east line, which normally supplies about a third of the Phoenix area's gas, ruptured due to corrosion on July 30. The pipeline, which brings gas in from El Paso, Texas, was opened Aug. 1 but shut down on Aug. 8 after safety concerns surfaced.

The shortage came to a head last weekend when gas stations began running dry and drivers' patience started running short.

At its worst, two-thirds of metro gas stations were empty and some that remained open were selling a gallon of gas for $3.99 and higher.

Some relief was found when requirements that Phoenix use cleaner-burning fuel were temporarily eased, as were restrictions on the number of hours gas truckers could work.

Eighty-five percent of the Phoenix area's 700 or so stations had gas on Sunday, according to state officials. But prices remained high.

Highest pumps

The Lundberg Survey of gasoline stations across the country showed Phoenix had the highest gasoline prices in the nation Friday, with self-serve regular in the city averaging $2.14 a gallon. That was a jump of just over 60 cents in two weeks.

The east line into Phoenix will not operate at full capacity immediately. But when coupled with increased deliveries from the company's west line, Phoenix will temporarily receive more gas than normal to build up the local supply, said Kinder Morgan spokes-man Rick Rainey. The company's west line will continue shipping extra gas from California.

The bypass set up to get the east line operating again reroutes the flow along a segment of adjacent pipeline that normally carries jet fuel from Phoenix to Tucson.

It's only a temporary solution, said Rainey, who added that he didn't know when the line would be permanently repaired.


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