U.S. pipeline outage spurs refiners to book storage tankers

Refiners booked at least five tankers to store gasoline stranded at U.S. Gulf Coast plants following a cyberattack that crippled the biggest fuel pipeline in the country, according to sources and shipping data.

The attack on the Colonial pipeline network, which supplies half of the fuel consumed along the East Coast, has forced Gulf Coast refineries to scale back operations due to lack of storage space. North Carolina suspended restrictions on fuel shipments to combat gasoline shortages.

The tankers, booked by Marathon Petroleum, Valero Energy, Phillips 66 and PBF Energy, can hold around 350,000 tonnes of fuel. Two of them were booked for up to a month, and three were provisional bookings that could be cancelled, according to data and shipbroking sources.

Colonial on Friday shut its 5,500-mile (8,850-km) pipeline network, which moves fuels including gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, to protect its systems. It has restarted some smaller lines.

In the wake of the outage, traders also booked several tankers to ship gasoline and diesel from Europe to the U.S. East Coast.

French oil major Total SE and commodities trading houses Vitol and Trafigura each booked 90,000-tonne tankers to ship diesel on the transatlantic route, shipping data showed, a relatively rare route as Europe consumes more diesel than it produces.

Several Gulf Coast refiners that rely on Colonial for shipments have cut output. Total and Motiva Enterprises cut gasoline production at their Port Arthur, Texas refineries and Citgo Petroleum pared back at its Lake Charles, Louisiana, plant, sources told Reuters. (Reporting by Ron Bousso and Jonathan Saul in London, Laura Sanicola in New York Editing by Louise Heavens, Jason Neely and Paul Simao)

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