Columbus-area gasoline supplier says trucks running, operating at about 80 percent

The Zelmo Zip In on Veterans Parkway in downtown Columbus took delivery of a load of gasoline on Sunday and was selling it for $1.99 per gallon.
The Zelmo Zip In on Veterans Parkway in downtown Columbus took delivery of a load of gasoline on Sunday and was selling it for $1.99 per gallon. chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.com

As gasoline supplies tighten because of a leak in a primary pipeline, one local oil company executive has put contingency plans in place to deal with the situation.

Whatley Oil Co., based in Cuthbert, Ga., supplies gasoline to between 35-40 stations in Columbus. President Steve Whatley said on Sunday afternoon his company has known about the issue with the Colonial pipeline that supplies gasoline from Texas to the East Coast for about a week.

“We are currently running at about 80 percent,” Whatley said.

Most of the Columbus gasoline comes out of a terminal on Miller Road, Whatley said. That terminal is supplied by a spur of the the Plantation pipeline, not the Colonial. But gas from that Plantation line is being diverted to cover the shortage in other places, Whatley said.

The Zelmo Zip In at the corner of 13th Street and Veterans Parkway in downtown Columbus, which is owned by Whatley Oil, received a normal delivery on Sunday morning, the clerk said.

Whatley said his company had trucks running Saturday and Sunday.

Some stations in Columbus were experiencing shortages and running out of gas on Sunday. There are reasons for that, Whatley said.

Some retailers purchase their gasoline on what is called the open-rack market, which is essentially first come, first served. Others have contracts that call for certain amounts and delivery times.

“It may be a little cheaper on the open rack,” Whatley said, “but you have issues when you run into supply problems.”

Fuel supplies in at least five states – Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas – were threatened by the spill, and the U.S. Department of Transportation ordered the company responsible to take corrective action before the fuel starts flowing again, according to an Associated Press report.

Colonial Pipeline Co. must conduct testing and analysis on the failed section of the pipeline, according to the U.S. Transportation Department, which is investigating the spill in rural Alabama, the AP reported.

The company has acknowledged that between 252,000 gallons and 336,000 gallons of gasoline leaked from a pipeline near Helena, Ala., since the spill was first detected Sept. 9. It’s unclear when the spill actually started, according to the AP.

Whatley Oil also has an Albany, Ga., operation that supplies about 25 station. That operation is on a spur of the Colonial line.

Wholesale gasoline companies like Whatley Oil were informed of the problem a week ago, Whatley said. Gas prices at Whatley Oil stations have risen about 10 cents per gallon during that time.

The Zelmo on Veterans in downtown was selling gas for $1.99 per gallon Sunday afternoon.

Chuck Williams: 706-571-8510, @chuckwilliams