Texas gas lines disappear as fears of shortage ebb


Long lines for gasoline in Austin and elsewhere in the state have dissipated for the most part along with the short-lived, social media-fueled frenzy over fears of a severe shortage.

Motorists remain more likely than before Hurricane Harvey hit to encounter the occasional empty filling stations, and gas prices remain elevated, but “the run (on gas) has stopped,” said Cary Rabb, owner of the Round Rock-based Wag-A-Bag convenience store chain.

“It’s the panic buying that has stopped — at some point, everybody has topped off,” Rabb said.

In addition, gasoline supplies are becoming more accessible as Gulf Coast refineries and pipelines slowly come back on line after being closed since Harvey made landfall.

Flint Hills Resources — which operates a Corpus Christi refinery that provides the bulk of gasoline dispensed at Austin area gas stations — “has resumed normal operations,” company spokesman Andy Saenz said Wednesday. The Flint Hills refinery had been shut down since the storm hit, leaving area fuel distributors to tap reserves.

Flint Hills pumps gasoline to an Austin terminal east of Interstate 35 through a pipeline, where it’s picked up by distributors with tanker trucks and transported to local gas stations. Rabb said he expected new supplies from Flint Hills to reach the Austin terminal sometime Wednesday via the pipeline.

Still, it could be two weeks or more before output from the Gulf Coast’s huge energy complex returns to pre-Harvey levels, according to industry experts.

AUSTIN ANSWERED: Your gas pump queries as Harvey gouging complaints near 3,000

“We are starting to see things normalize, but there is still a slight disruption in fuel supply distribution,” said Jesus Azanza, a spokesman for the Texas Food and Fuel Association, which represents about 12,000 convenience stores, grocery stores and truck stops that sell gasoline. “That is going to continue to exist until floodwaters recede” and all of the refineries can operate at pre-hurricane capacity again.

The situation is manageable with only minor inconveniences, he and others said, provided motorists buy only the gas they need.

Many consumers appeared to panic beginning around noon last Thursday, when lengthy lines began forming at gas stations in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and elsewhere in the state. The buying spree lasted through much of the long Labor Day weekend before tapering off.

“It was crazy,” said Rabb, who has 18 Wag-A-Bag stores. “Our supply just can’t handle everyone filling up on the same day.”

He said he opted to let about five of his lower-volume stores run out of fuel in order to keep the others supplied. “We’re hopeful we’ll be back to normal tomorrow,” he said on Wednesday.

Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton, one of a number of state officials who attempted to calm consumers last week and quash the panic-driven buying, said Wednesday that the state’s fuel distribution issue “continues to improve and will likely be resolved within the next day or two.”

In a written statement, Sitton urged Texans “to fill up if you need to, but not to hoard fuel which is dangerous and hurts everyone else.” The situation “will be resolved this week if people purchase gas in a thoughtful and responsible manner,” he said. The Texas Railroad Commission regulates the state’s oil and gas industry.

Sitton said the state did not suffer a true gas shortage, but “some areas have experienced outages at gas pumps due to exponentially higher demand than normal as people stockpile fuel.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

Up the Ladder

Banking Wells Fargo Business Banking has named Mark Metcalfe division manager for its Central Texas region. E-Commerce Timicoin has named Joyce Lignell to lead its advisory board. Energy Jones Energy has named John Lovoi, Paul Loyd Jr. and Scott McCarty to its board of directors. Industry associations The Texas Association of Community Health Plans...
Legislature expected to weigh in on Austin sick leave rules
Legislature expected to weigh in on Austin sick leave rules

Debate over a requirement that businesses in Austin provide employees with up to eight days of paid sick leave annually might be just getting started, despite the City Council’s approval of the measure early Friday. But the setting for the next fight is likely to be the Texas Capitol, not City Hall, according to representatives of a number of...
Amazon backlash? In Austin, many are ‘meh’ over HQ2 pursuit
Amazon backlash? In Austin, many are ‘meh’ over HQ2 pursuit

Amazon’s second headquarters coming to Austin could be the best thing to ever happen to our city. Or it could be the worst. Depends who you ask. While residents of many of the 200-plus cities that initially submitted proposals – since whittled down to 20 finalists, including Austin – are loud and proud in their rallying for the retail...
Austin Oaks office complex goes on the market
Austin Oaks office complex goes on the market

Creating a major redevelopment opportunity in Central Austin, Austin Oaks, a 12-building office complex in Northwest Austin that sparked that sparked a lengthy zoning fight, has been put on the market. Marketing materials tout the sprawling, 31.4-acre complex as a “one-of-a-kind opportunity” to acquire and redevelop Austin’s largest...
State’s top business group boosts political activity ahead of primaries
State’s top business group boosts political activity ahead of primaries

The Texas Association of Business — the state’s most powerful business lobbying group has been beefing up its political donations, in keeping with a vow to be more proactive after spending much of 2017 on the defensive as social conservatives in the Legislature pushed measures that it viewed as bad for the Texas economy. That explains the...
More Stories