Thursday Kinder-Morgan found a gasoline leak in their pipeline that transports refined products from Watson Station near Long Beach to fuel racks in Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada (more and see map below). To fix the leak, pipeline operations were suspended. Before sundown on Saturday the leak was isolated, fixed, and flow was restored.
Friday night and Saturday morning the pipeline pinch prompted so-called “panic buying” in parts of the Las Vegas region. According to the local CBS affiliate, “The panic started when Clark County officials announced they were aware of a leak, affecting a Kinder Morgan gas pipeline in California. That pipeline feeds gas storage facilities with unleaded and diesel fuel here in southern Nevada. It’s one of two major pipelines that feed our area, the other comes from Utah.” (More and more)
As far as I can determine — and according to local contacts — a similar buying surge did not emerge in the Phoenix metro area, despite gasoline flows also being suspended to Arizona and the extra pull of Super Bowl visitors. Worth considering: In Nevada both the Governor and Clark County declared related emergencies. Each statement discouraged panic buying. But neither statement offered any estimate of duration for the pipeline shutdown (more).
I don’t know what Kinder-Morgan was telling government officials — in my experience there can be a reluctance to say much and to avoid restoration estimates in particular. If I was a public official, however, I would have pushed hard for a duration estimate before saying anything — and I would have been very reluctant to declare an emergency. Given the storage capacity of fuel racks in the Las Vegas region, I would have been much more inclined to advise the public that there had been a temporary shut-down of the pipeline, but there was plenty of local buffer stock and no significant disruption in retail supply was likely — unless unnecessary nervous buying began to drain the system (which is what started happening).
Given public attitudes in Las Vegas this more optimistic tone might have caused the same dysfunctional consumer behavior. But in 2021 I was impressed to hear Governor Edwards of Louisiana explain gasoline supplies to his citizens after Hurricane Ida shut down several refineries. I was even more impressed that the citizens evidently listened and panic buying was not a problem. Crucially, in my judgment, Governor Edwards often emphasized local buffer stocks, cycle time distribution realities, and a credible duration calendar.
I have been absent without leave again — and I expect this to continue into March. Real-time demand for face-to-face communication is constraining my time for research and writing. I apologize.