As Ike nears, chain asks for limit on gas buys

Published 11:26 am Friday, September 12, 2008

SANFORD, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina-based convenience store chain is asking customers in 11 states — mostly across the Southeast — to limit gasoline purchases to 10 gallons as Hurricane Ike shuts down some refineries on the Gulf coast.

Meanwhile, some communities in North and South Carolina reported people lining up at gas stations Thursday night to top off their tanks, fearful that fuel could run out.

Melissa Anderson of The Pantry said Thursday her company didn’t have supply problems but was being proactive.

“It is voluntary, just to make sure that during this period of time that people are acting responsibly. We did the same thing during Hurricane Katrina,” Anderson said.

“We found that our customers were receptive, appreciative and acted quite responsibly to the suggestion.”

The Pantry has stores in Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana as well as the Carolinas.

Supply to North Carolina isn’t a problem yet, said Colonial Pipeline spokesman Steve Baker. The pipeline, which brings most gasoline into the state, is filling all of its orders, he said.

After Katrina, prices spiked to $3 a gallon, then a high price, and some stations ran out of gasoline.

Gasoline prices spiked in many areas Thursday, with prices at $4 a gallon not far from Pantry headquarters but prices to the north in the Raleigh area averaged $3.68, according to the AAA auto club.

Exxon Mobil Corp., Valero Energy Corp., ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil Co. were among the companies that stopped refinery operations on the Texas coast, primarily in the Houston area.

Pantry CEO Pete Sodini said the company’s request was designed “to head off any panic buying. What you’re going to do if you go out and fill up every car in the household, you’re going to run this market out of supply temporarily.”

Sodini said the limit may be dropped Friday at some stations, depending on the supply of gasoline.

The Pantry owns about 1,600 stores, including Kangaroo and Petro Express.

Emergency management officials in three western North Carolina counties said lines formed and some stations ran out of fuel Thursday after rumors of supply problems. The officials said there was no shortage.

Warren Cabe, Macon County emergency management director, said prices at one station jumped from $3.78 to $4.15 a gallon in minutes.

Some stations in Henderson County ran out of gasoline as lines formed, said emergency management director Rocky Hyder. In Bumcombe County, officials limit fill-ups at government pumps.

In South Carolina, there were lines for gasoline Thursday night in Columbia, Sumter and Greenville.