What Charlotte-area residents should know about Colonial Pipeline Co.

·2 min read

Many Charlotte residents are panic buying and waiting in long lines for gas without knowing the Queen City’s history with the 5,500-mile long Colonial Pipeline.

Here’s a brief look at Colonial and its connection to the Charlotte area:

What is Colonial Pipeline Co.?

Colonial Pipeline Co. is an Alpharetta, Georgia-based company responsible for constructing the country’s largest pipeline system for refined oil products.

Its 5,500-mile pipeline carries 45% of fuel to areas in the Southeast, and along the East Coast.

Originally called Suwannee Pipe Line Co. in 1961, it was renamed a year later.

The line runs from Houston to Linden, N.J.

Who owns Colonial Pipeline?

Originally founded by nine oil companies in 1961, Colonial Pipeline is now owned by Koch Industries, Royal Dutch Shell, KKR & Co., IFM Investors and CDPQ Colonial Partners, according to the company’s website.

The Colonial Pipeline facility off Kenstead Road in northwest Charlotte on Wednesday, May 12, 2021.
The Colonial Pipeline facility off Kenstead Road in northwest Charlotte on Wednesday, May 12, 2021.

What is Tank Town?

Tank Town is a cluster of petroleum tank farms in the northwest Charlotte neighborhood of Paw Creek. Two major pipelines run through the area, Colonial and the smaller Plantation.

Colonial’s pipeline also directly connects to Charlotte Douglas and Raleigh-Durham airports. In addition to Charlotte, Greensboro and Selma, the line also delivers to tank farms in Belton and Spartanburg, S.C.

Other companies with terminals in Tank Town include Citgo, Magellan, Marathon and M. Pittman Enterprises.

Tanker trucks pick up fuel at the farms to deliver to local gas stations.

What happened this week?

The Colonial Pipeline temporarily shut down on May 7 after a ransomware attack by a group of Eastern European hackers the FBI called DarkSide , McClatchy News reported.

The group is said to have been paid $5 million in cryptocurrency by Colonial Pipeline, according to Bloomberg News.

The shutdown led to panic buying, long lines and fuel outages at gas stations this past week. Colonial restarted the pipeline on Wednesday, but the company warned that it could take “several days” for supplies to return to normal.

Colonial troubles in Carolinas

Colonial Pipeline Co. is still cleaning up what North Carolina’s top environmental regulators call the largest gasoline spill in state history.

The spill occurred Aug. 14 where Colonial’s pipeline crosses in Mecklenburg County’s 142-acre Oehler Nature Preserve at 14511 Huntersville-Concord Road, east of Huntersville, county officials said.

In 2003, the Environmental Protection Agency and Colonial agreed to a $34 million settlement over spills in the Carolinas and three other states — at the time the largest civil fine for a company in the agency’s history, the Observer reported.

Before those spills, Colonial had had no significant environmental violations in the Carolinas since 1996, state records showed at the time. Colonial also was among about a dozen companies that, since the 1950s, spilled or leaked fuel at the Charlotte tank farm, the Observer reported in 2003.

Observer archives and staff writers Rogelio Aranda and Joe Marusak contributed to this report.

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