Colonial Pipeline incident draws attention to aging system

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — Nestled in among fence posts for a cow pasture along Huntersville-Concord Road are bright, orange posts that warn of dangers below the ground. It's part of the scenery on Bob Ranson's walks.

"I walk this, so I walk that 'right-of-way,' so I probably think about it more than most," Ranson said.


It's accompanied by a phone number to reach Colonial Pipeline in case of an emergency. The pipeline sits feet below the ground.

"I hope they're investing and maintaining their lines," Ranson said.

The pipeline runs right under his sister's Huntersville property.

Ranson, and others who lives nearly Colonial Pipeline's network, are paying close attention after another incident involving a company line in Alabama. An explosion in Helena, Alabama Monday killed one worker and injured several others.

Colonial also had a leak in September which resulted in a rise in gas prices in North Carolina.

Energy experts told Channel 9 that we may see more pipeline incidents in years to come.

About 50 percent of the 135,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines nationwide were installed before 1970. There were a record 132 "significant" spills last year. There were 80 in the first eight months of 2016.

Pipelines are still the safest way to transfer these liquids. Colonial tells CNN its age is not a problem. However, 90 percent of its system was installed before 1979.

Pipeline explosion impacting gas prices

Experts said the Colonial Pipeline explosion could have an impact on drivers in the Carolinas, saying about 2.3 million barrels of refined product are normally transported through the pipeline. It's one of two pipelines that services the Charlotte area and is a major supplier to the east coast.

Some analysts said that there could be a spike in gas prices as soon as Thursday. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory also said the impact could be tremendous and potentially worse than the shortage in September.

McCrory signed an executive order Tuesday waiving some requirements to allow trucks to deliver gasoline and to protect consumers from price gouging.

McCrory's latest executive order is an extension of an order issued for Hurricane Matthew. The order waives maximum hours of service for drivers and temporarily suspends vehicle size and weight restrictions to allow transport of gasoline. Extending the state of emergency also extends price gouging laws to help protect North Carolinians from excessive gas prices at the pump. The governor took similar action during an earlier disruption to the pipeline in September.