Fuel costs are projected to fluctuate as a result.
Last Friday, the Colonial Pipeline, the largest fuel pipeline in the United States, was forced to severely limit its operations after its electronic systems fell victim to a ransomware attack. Cybersecurity experts believe the attack to have been perpetrated by a hacking group known as DarkSide, but at the moment, the pipeline’s more pressing concern is how quickly it can resume its normal operations.
“While our mainlines (Lines 1, 2, 3 and 4) remain offline, some smaller lateral lines between terminals and delivery points are now operational,” the company said in a statement. “We are in the process of restoring service to other laterals and will bring our full system back online only when we believe it is safe to do so, and in full compliance with the approval of all federal regulations.”
According to financial analysts, how quickly the Colonial Pipeline is able to reopen to full capacity will play a large role in global financial impact of the attack. If the pipeline is able to reopen fully by Wednesday, then there shouldn’t be any significant upheaval. Longer than that, though, and refineries may have to cut back on the amount of oil they produce, which could cause a rise in national fuel inventory and, by extension, a drop in price in the western United States. The Eastern states, on the other hand, would likely see an increase in price as fuel imports would be necessitated.
Neither investors nor the pipeline managers are 100% certain as to when things will be fully operational. “There’s really been no news,” Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy told CNBC.
“Even well-placed sources I’ve talked to really have nothing to say, and so the market really has no idea if this could be online tomorrow, if it’s going to be three days.”