Colonel’s pipeline … the largest for transporting oil derivatives in America

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  • Colonel’s pipeline transports 100 million liters of fuel per day
  • The Colonel serves consumers from Houston to New York Harbor
  • The American Colonel’s pipeline is approximately 5,500 miles long
  • The largest U.S. pipeline to transport oil derivatives was established in the early 1960s
  • A colonel was attacked a year ago, it closed for 5 days

The Colonel’s Pipeline is of particular interest in the United States; Being the largest for the transportation of petroleum products, and this was evident when it was subjected to a cyber attack one year ago; Which caused major disruptions in the country’s fuel supply.

Pipeline operations were closed for only 5 days, beginning on May 7, 2021, but the disruptions had a ripple effect that lasted longer, with nearly half of the U.S. East Coast fuel supply suddenly becoming unavailable.

The Colonel Pipeline, the largest pipeline in the United States, as described by the operator, transports more than 100 million gallons of fuel per day; To meet the energy needs of consumers from Houston, Texas to the port of New York.

On the one-year anniversary of the cyber-attack, the Energy Research Unit is reviewing everything it wants to know about the pipeline and the cyber-attack, which received unprecedented attention last year and forced US President Joe Biden to declare a state of emergency.

The importance of the colonel pipeline

Colonel’s pipeline transports refined products such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from the U.S. Gulf Coast to the U.S. East Coast consumer market.

The colonel’s pipeline serves approximately 14 U.S. states, in addition to 7 airports directly; It connects refineries to more than 50 million consumers throughout the southern and eastern United States.

Currently, the pipeline carries more than 2.5 million barrels per day (100 million gallons per day), or about 45 percent of the U.S. East Coast’s inventory, from 240,000 barrels per day in its inception.

In addition to supplying the East Coast of the United States, the Colonel pipeline also increases the production competitiveness of U.S. Gulf Coast refineries, which run at least a portion of their products through this pipeline, or sell it to customers who do so.

Given the volume of refined products transported (100 million liters per day); The pipeline, especially in its Houston facility, is a key point for trading in the spot market for oil-derived instruments. It provides the basis for pricing in Gulf Coast pipelines.

Colonel Pipeline – Image from company website

colonel pipe network

The Colonel’s pipeline – the largest for the transportation of petroleum products in America – is approximately 5,500 miles long between Houston, Texas, and Linden, New Jersey.

The colonial pipeline consists of 4 main lines, in addition to a number of guides: –

  • The 40-inch line transports 1.5 million barrels of gasoline a day from Houston to Greensboro, North Carolina.
  • The 36-inch line carries 1.2 million barrels a day of distillates – diesel, heating oil and jet fuel – from Houston to Greensboro.
  • A line with a capacity of 885 000 barrels per day transports all refined products – petrol, diesel, heating oil and jet fuel – from Greensboro to Linden, New Jersey.
  • The 32-inch line transports 700,000 barrels a day from Greensboro to Baltimore, Maryland.

As for the branch lines, this includes the transportation of refined products from two lines in Atlanta to southern Georgia, and also to Tennessee, and another branch line stretches from Greensboro to the cities of Raleigh and Durham in North Carolina.

Sub-line 4 transports petroleum products from Mitchell, in central Virginia, to Richmond, Norfolk and Roanoke.

The Colonel pipeline is also connected to a number of other pipelines transporting refined products through the Northeast, which are: –

  • The Laurel pipeline in Philadelphia, which transports petroleum products west through Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh.
  • The IHT line is in Linden and runs through the surrounding area of ​​New York and New Jersey.
  • Long Island Line in Linden, which transports refined products on Long Island.
  • The Buckeye East Line in Linden, runs westward to eastern Pennsylvania, where it connects with the Laurel pipeline and lines moving northeast to northeastern Pennsylvania and northern New York State.

What about a colonel’s history?

The Colonel Pipeline was originally established in 1961, under the name of the Suwannee Pipe Line Company, which was then owned by 9 oil companies: Sinclair, Texaco, Gulf Oil, American Oil, Pure Oil, Philips Petroleum, Seitz Service, Continental Oil and Mobil .

The pipeline, operated by Colonel Pipeline, is currently owned by 6 companies: Coach Industries 28.09%, Kitz Pipeline Investors 23.44%, CDBQ 16.55%, Shell Pipelines 16.12% and Management Fund Industry 15, 80%.

colonel pipeline
The first construction phase of the Colonel pipeline – Image from the company’s website

In 1962, when the line was renamed to its current name, construction began after more than 50 contractors were available to work for two and a half years, and the initial construction cost was $ 370 million.

The first 1,000 miles of pipeline were completed in 1963 and went into full capacity the following year, after the construction of the main line was completed, with a refined product transfer rate of 240,000 barrels per day.

The company, which owns the Colonel pipeline, worked on a major expansion in 1967 to increase capacity to one million barrels per day, before increasing it to 1.6 million barrels per day in 1972, which is currently at 2, 5 million barrels per day stand.

Colonel’s pipeline then passed by many important stations; The operator worked to develop the pipeline through modern technologies, such as flexible wave technology to detect ultrafine cracks in the pipe wall, and the reliance on computer-based software for operators and technicians, to manipulate and improve pipeline efficiency.

In 2006, Colonel Babeline and Shell Pipeline Company teamed up to build a new 75-mile refined product pipeline from Garriville to East Velikna County, Louisiana.

Another important milestone is the announcement by a colonel to buy a stake in Shell Pipelines in 2015 at the Port Arthur Products Terminal, which will add 3.2 million barrels of tankers to the colonel’s system, while providing new services to refineries and shipping companies are provided.

Nevertheless, 2021 was one of the most remarkable years in the history of the Colonel’s Pipeline; Because he was subjected to an electronic attack, he stopped for 5 days.

cyber attack

On May 7, 2021, Colonel’s pipeline experienced major disruptions, before the operator announced its complete shutdown without explanation.

Fuel supplies to the eastern United States were halted, leading to long queues at gas stations, rising prices and several states being forced to declare a state of emergency as the federal government stockpiled millions of gallons of crude oil and refined products for supply disruptions.

In the following video, an expert on energy economics and politics, editorial adviser of the Specialized Energy Platform, Dr. Anas Al-Hajji, what was the impact of the colonel’s pipeline shutdown in the United States?

Although the process of closing a pipeline took only 5 days, the consequences continued for a longer period, for example, 87% of gas stations in Washington ran out of fuel and prices rose to the highest level since 2014 on 14 May 2021 jumped. , two days after announcement of the resumption of operation of the line.

Reports at the time indicated that a colonel’s pipeline was subject to a cyber attack, coming from a global gang called DarkSide, which had managed to hold nearly 100 gigabytes of data hostage.

The company did not wait long to admit that its computer networks had been subjected to a “ransomware attack”, after facing pressure from the FBI, the US Department of Energy and the White House.

A “ransom attack” is the holding of data hostage by criminal gangs until the victim pays a ransom, with the threat that this data will be leaked online if payment is not made.

The pipeline breach is the largest cyber attack publicly exposed against critical infrastructure in the United States, and the attack involved several stages against the pipeline’s IT systems, but the pipeline’s OT systems transporting oil were not directly affected. during the cyber attack.

Shortly after the attack, a colonel began a thorough investigation of the pipeline, looking for any damage, but eventually made it clear that the pipeline was not damaged.

Attack timeline

The following timeline shows how the colonel’s pipeline attack unfolded at a rapid pace, and the pipeline was operational again days later:

6 May 2021:

  • The attackers penetrated the colonel’s pipeline network.

7 May 2021:

  • The ransom attack began and the company learned of the hack.
  • Mandiant Security Corporation summoned to investigate and respond to attack
  • Notify law enforcement and the federal government of the attack.
  • Cut the pipeline to reduce the risk of exposure to the operational network.
  • Colonel Pipeline paid 75 bitcoins (then $ 4.4 million) to the attackers.

9 May 2021:

12 May 2021:

  • Start over Pipeline normally, and start delivering products to all markets.

7 June 2021:

  • The U.S. Department of Justice recovered 63.7 Bitcoin – about $ 2.3 million – from the attackers.

8 June 2021:

  • Congress hearing on the attack.

The closure of refined products through the colonel’s pipeline was not the first of its kind. The operator suspended shipments to the northeast for about two weeks, when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in 2017 and damaged refineries.

However, the cyber-attack crisis was different because it poses a major threat to the country’s vital infrastructure, and has a negative impact on national security.

colonel pipeline

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