(NEXSTAR) – Colonial Pipeline is set to resume full operations Wednesday, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm confirmed in a tweet.
The Biden administration did warn fuel will not immediately return to normal levels.
“Following this restart, it will take several days for the product delivery supply chain to return to normal. Some markets served by Colonial Pipeline may experience, or continue to experience, intermittent service interruptions during the start-up period. Colonial will move as much gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel as is safely possible and will continue to do so until markets return to normal,” said Colonial Pipeline in a statement.
Granholm said that the company’s CEO, Tim Felt, said that normal operations would restart around 5 p.m., adding that more details would follow.
The announcement comes after President Biden expressed optimism that a close to the nightmare for drivers in the Southeast was close to resolution following a cyberattack that froze the pipeline.
“We have been in very, very close contact with Colonial Pipeline,” Biden said Wednesday. “I think you’re going to hear some good news in the next 24 hours and I think we’ll be getting that under control.”
State and federal officials have been scrambling to find alternate routes to deliver gasoline in the Southeast U.S. after panic-buying contributed to more than 1,000 gas stations running out of fuel.
There is no gasoline shortage, according to government officials and energy analysts, but if the pipeline shutdown continues past the weekend, it could create broader fuel disruptions.
The Colonial Pipeline, which delivers about 45% of what is consumed on the East Coast, was hit on Friday with a cyberattack by hackers who lock up computer systems and demand a ransom to release them. The attack raised concerns, once again, about the vulnerability of the nation’s critical infrastructure.
The pipeline runs from the Gulf Coast to the New York metropolitan region, but states in the Southeast are more reliant on the pipeline for fuel. Other parts of the country have more sources to tap. For example, a substantial amount of fuel is delivered to states in the Northeast by massive tankers.
“What you’re feeling is not a lack of supply or a supply issue. What we have is a transportation issue,” said Jeanette McGee, spokeswoman for the AAA auto club. “There is ample supply to fuel the United States for the summer, but what we’re having an issue with is getting it to those gas stations because the pipeline is down.”
However, the disruption is taking place at the time of year when Americans begin to become more mobile, especially as the nation emerges from the pandemic.
The national average price for a gallon of gasoline ticked above $3 for the first time since 2016 Wednesday, according to the AAA auto club. Prices begin to rise around this time every year and the AAA auto club said Wednesday that the average price hit $3.08 nationally.
The AAA expects more than 37 million people to travel at least 50 miles from home during the Memorial Day weekend, up 60% from last year, which was the lowest since AAA began keeping records in 2000.
This is a developing story; the Associated Press contributed to this report.