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Source To Pump: Gasoline Travels Many Miles To Reach Atlanta Stations

Atlanta's gasoline starts on the Gulf Coast, then travels here by pipeline.
Atlanta's gasoline starts on the Gulf Coast, then travels here by pipeline.
Credit Rori-Tai Williams / WABE
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While waiting for your tank to fill up, have you ever wondered how your gasoline got to the station? Here’s how Atlanta’s gasoline gets to the pump.

Atlanta’s fuel comes from the Colonial Pipeline and the Plantation Pipeline. Both pipelines start on the Gulf Coast. (If you remember Atlanta’s run on gas in 2005, that happened because hurricanes shut the pipelines down temporarily.) 

The refineries connected to the pipelines get their crude oil either from domestic sources — drilled in Texas, for instance, or offshore in the Gulf — or from overseas.

The Colonial Pipeline goes from Houston, through Atlanta, then up the East Coast to the New York harbor.

“We sometimes describe ourselves as kind of like the UPS of the energy market,” Steve Baker, the spokesman for Colonial — which is based in Alpharetta — said.

When a company in Atlanta orders fuel, whether it’s unleaded, diesel or jet fuel, the refiner puts it in the pipeline, and pumps keep it moving “about the speed of a brisk walk,” Baker explained.

Once it gets to Atlanta, the fuel is stored in oil terminals around the metro area that are connected to the pipeline.

Extra chemicals in the gas, like Techron, are added at the terminal, Hunter Hopkins, executive director of the Georgia Petroleum Council, said. 

“Trucks show up and pick up the gasoline at the terminal, and then they take it out and deliver it to the convenience store,” he said.