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Future Fuel Risk for North Carolina

Energy industry experts told a state Senate committee that North Carolina is especially vulnerable to energy disruptions because gasoline and natural gas supplies are primarily derived from two pipeline networks. In light of this month’s ransomware cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline, representatives from utility giants Duke Energy and Dominion Energy addressed the chamber’s energy panel. North Carolina motorists were hit especially hard: according to GasBuddy, 43 percent of the state’s gas stations were out of gas as of Tuesday afternoon.

According to David McGowan, executive director of the North Carolina Petroleum Council, the Colonial Pipeline transports up to 75% of North Carolina’s daily supply of refined petroleum products. The Transco pipeline is also North Carolina only interstate natural gas transmission route. Both lines transport goods from south to north.

Electricity production is increasingly fueled by natural gas. Widespread outages of electricity and natural gas, whether caused by natural disasters or cyberattacks, are difficult to solve quickly due to a lack of diverse distribution and redundancy in distribution networks, according to Ed Finley, the former chairman of the North Carolina Utilities Commission. Finley said, “When it goes out, people’s lives are disrupted. Inability for consumers and businesses to turn on electricity and natural gas would be crippling to the state’s economy.”

According to Nelson Peeler, a company senior vice president, Duke Energy, which uses natural gas to produce 30% of its electricity during the coldest months, has backup fuels at most of these facilities. However, the diesel fuel that was immediately available would only last a few days, he said. In recent years, efforts to diversify natural gas supplies in North Carolina, especially by moving the fuel from northern deposits, have stalled.

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