Government establishes industry group to resolve Auckland Airport jet fuel crisis

REFININGNZ/FACEBOOK

Pipeline owner Refining NZ continues to work on repairing the pipe.

A joint industry-government group has been convened to oversee the full re-instatement of jet fuel supplies into Auckland Airport.

The move was among a series of measures announced on Wednesday by industry representatives and Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins.

Auckland Council chief executive Dean Kimpton said the council was “working very closely” with industry and government to assess if the central city’s Wynyard Wharf fuel tanks could be converted to aviation fuel storage.

Questions remain over exactly how the pipeline was severed.

CHRIS MCKEEN/STUFF

Questions remain over exactly how the pipeline was severed.

Council agency Panuku Development Auckland needed to “ensure tank safety issues are dealt with” for conversion to be considered, he said.

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Fuel industry spokesman, BP New Zealand country manager Andrew McNaught​ said rationing airlines back to 30 per cent of their normal Auckland aviation fuel supply could stretch out existing airport stocks to “about 20 days”.

Energy Minister Judith Collins has set up a combined government and industry group to resolve the debacle.

MAARTEN HOLL/STUFF

Energy Minister Judith Collins has set up a combined government and industry group to resolve the debacle.

The allocation will be reviewed on Thursday, September 28, he said.

When the aviation fuel shortage is resolved, airlines won’t be able to immediately resume full operation as new stocks needed to be phased in, he said.

Meanwhile, Auckland’s ground fuel supply “continues to be healthy,” he said.

The pipeline which connects Marsden Point Oil Refinery and Auckland Airport was breached Thursday on a farm near Ruakaka.

CHRIS MCKEEN/STUFF

The pipeline which connects Marsden Point Oil Refinery and Auckland Airport was breached Thursday on a farm near Ruakaka.

Ground fuel tanker loads from Marsden Point and Port of Tauranga to Auckland had been boosted to 14 and 34 trucks per day respectively.

At an Auckland airport press conference, Collins praised efforts to repair the fuel line outage putting enormous strain on the country’s aviation network.

The crisis stems from a rupture in the Refinery NZ-operated primary fuel line to the country’s largest airport last Thursday.

Dozens of flights have been grounded and thousands of passengers have faced disruption.

However, the fuel shortage is said to have affected only 5 per cent of all domestic and international flights.

It’s expected that Auckland Airport will be able to receive a fresh intake of jet fuel between September 24 and 26 and work continues in Northland to repair the damaged line.

McNaught said the industry was confident of maintaining ground fuel supplies into Auckland.

He said the industry was taking advantage of a number of offers from the Government to streamline supply of ground fuel into Auckland.

“As of today some companies are filing trucks to higher than usual weight limits in order to maximise the efficiency of their trucking operations and some service station deliveries are now occurring outside of typically permitted time windows – i.e. in the middle of the night.

“While doing so might be a slight inconvenience to neighbours of some sites we ask in advance for their understanding and patience.”

A new jet fuel facility for trucks at the Whangarei truck loading facility would be tested on Wednesday, which could enable limited tanker shipments from the refinery. Meanwhile, some fuel companies planned to take up the offers of New Zealand Defence Force trucks and drivers.

“The industry’s focus remains squarely on ensuring safe and secure supplies of ground transport fuels into Auckland and on developing alternative options for safely getting additional supplies of aviation fuel to Auckland Airport.”

The industry was making a decision on whether or not it would move to temporarily convert and use existing chemical tanks at Wynyard Wharf to bridge additional jet fuel into Auckland.

“We are considering this decision very carefully as these tanks are not specifically designed for jet fuel and we need the highest level of assurance that using them for jet will not in any way impact on the quality of the product.”


 – Stuff

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