Office of Energy Programs Monitors Gasoline Supply Disruption in Tennessee

October is National Energy Awareness Month, which serves to underscore how critical energy is to our prosperity, security, and environmental well-being. Throughout the month of October, TDEC’s Office of Energy Programs will highlight a variety of case studies and tips to promote energy conservation, resiliency, and smart energy management. Through these efforts, we rededicate ourselves to a more conscious use of energy, so that we can continue to strive for a cleaner, stronger, and more secure future.

The Colonial Pipeline system connects Gulf Coast refineries with markets across the Southeast U.S., terminating in the New York Harbor. As the largest fuel-shipping pipeline in the nation by volume, it supplies more than 70% of transportation fuels for the Southeast (GA, SC, NC, TN, and VA). A spur from Atlanta provides gasoline and distillate (diesel and jet fuel) for Middle and East Tennessee (EIA, 2012). Knoxville and Chattanooga also receive supply from the Plantation Pipeline, owned by Kinder-Morgan (map).


Image Source: EIA, This Week in Petroleum, 21 September 2016.

On September 9, at 4:15 PM CDT, Colonial Pipeline announced that it had shut down its gasoline (Line 1) and distillate (Line 2) pipelines to investigate a system integrity issue. That morning, an Alabama Department of Environmental Management mining inspector reported the smell of gasoline south of Birmingham, Alabama, in the Cahaba River Wildlife Management Area.  A leak, which is currently estimated to have released 250,000 to 330,000 gallons of gasoline, was identified in Line 1.  Line 2 was restored to full service within 24 hours.  Colonial began to construct a bypass of Line 1 and ultimately restored service 12 days later.  In the interim, gas supplies in Middle and East Tennessee tightened.  This remained the case until September 30, 2016.

In response to the resulting gasoline supply disruption, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) activated the Office of Energy Programs’ (OEP) Emergency Service Coordinators (ESCs), Ben Bolton and Jason Carney, to monitor the situation. (OEP is responsible for the  Emergency Support Function 12 / Energy (ESF-12) mission related to transportation and heating fuels as defined under the Tennessee Emergency Management Plan.) Throughout the disruption, OEP’s ESCs communicated frequently with petroleum industry stakeholders and engaged with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Emergency Assurance Coordinator network. These activities allowed OEP to keep public sector partners such as TEMA, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, various TDEC divisions (Office of General Counsel, Air Pollution Control, Emergency Services) apprised of the market supply across Middle and East Tennessee and resolve any first responder shortages.

OEP worked with the abovementioned stakeholders and partners to structure a request to the Governor’s Office to provide increased flexibility for sourcing gasoline. On September 17, Governor Haslam signed Executive Order 56, declaring a State of Emergency in order to waive the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours of service limits for truck drivers providing fuel. The Greater Nashville area experienced a “run on the pumps,” which resulted in weekend gasoline sales increasing 50% above normal. As a result, even after the bypass on Line 1 was put into service, the hours of service waiver was extended through September 30 to allow inventories to return to normal and shipments to arrive from the Colonial Pipeline.

For more information, and to view the Colonial Pipeline response site, see

Pond 2 (left) showing gasoline compared to Pond 3 (right) which was unaffected by the gasoline spill. Image Source: U.S. EPA, September 11, 2016.

Pond 2 (left) showing gasoline compared to Pond 3 (right) which was unaffected by the gasoline spill. Image Source: U.S. EPA, September 11, 2016.


Emergency Support Functions are mechanisms developed under the National Response Framework to provide federal, state, and local governments a common language and organization structure for responding to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and other catastrophic events. Each of the 15 ESFs has a corresponding organization or agency tasked with overseeing the preparedness, response, and recovery phases of incident management. Tennessee was one of the first to integrate the ESF concept and TEMA was tasked to manage the activities of the ESCs.

The purpose of ESF-12 Energy is to facilitate energy assurance in areas of the State affected by an emergency. While TVA is responsible for electricity generation and the electric grid, OEP has primary responsibility for monitoring the status of the transportation and heating fuel distribution network, and, if necessary, coordinating the State response to fuel disruptions. Working with our public sector partners, such as TEMA, the Governor’s Office, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce and Insurance, and the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, the State is able to convene the necessary government agencies and private sector stakeholders to ensure a continuous supply of transportation and heating fuels to citizens throughout the State.

If you would like to learn more about ESF-12, please contact (Primary ESC for ESF 12).