By Janet McGurty
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil pipelines and terminals along the U.S. Mid-Atlantic seaboard are beginning to shut down, following the lead of area refineries, before the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy along the New Jersey coast later on Monday.
With most of the refineries shut ahead of the storm, the populous Northeast will be dependent on pulling gasoline and diesel out of storage as the plants ramp back up to full rates.
Colonial Pipeline, the largest U.S. product pipeline, is still shipping gasoline and diesel up from Gulf Coast refineries to the Linden, New Jersey terminus in the New York Harbor, spokesman Steve Baker said.
But that could change once the full force of the storm is felt.
Several terminals and pipelines in the Linden area have closed and other pipeline companies are taking it hour by hour before deciding what to do.
NuStar Energy, which shut its asphalt refinery in Paulsboro, New Jersey, closed its terminals there as well as in Linden and Virginia Beach, said Greg Matula, a company spokesman.
Buckeye Pipe Line has shut some lines out of Linden, including pipes to Queens and elsewhere in New York City, a spokesman for the company said.
"We are still shipping jet fuel to JFK, La Guardia and Newark," said the spokesman, referring to the region's three major airports.
"We are also still shipping gas to Pennsylvania. But that could change if the weather gets really bad."
Storage terminals play a key role in supplying the region with gasoline and diesel.
The East Coast has been dependent on outside sources to plug the gap between demand and regional supply. In 2011, the region used 5.2 million barrels per day of oil products, including 3.1 million bpd of gasoline, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows.
In recent years, the Northeast has supplied itself with 40 percent of the gasoline, 45 percent of the heating oil and 60 percent of the ultra-low-sulfur diesel consumed there, with imports from Europe and barrels piped from the Gulf Coast making up the difference.
(Reporting by Janet McGurty; Editing by Dale Hudson)