Mo­tor­way poses ex­plo­sion risk


New Zealand’s most-ex­pen­sive road­ing project could har­bour po­ten­tially ex­plo­sive con­se­quences, a power com­pany is warn­ing.

Mer­cury En­ergy have out­lined nu­mer­ous safety con­cerns re­gard­ing its de­com­mis­sioned Auck­land South­down Power Sta­tion and its prox­im­ity to the East-West Link’s (EWL) pro­posed route.

The EWL is a $1.8 bil­lion con­nec­tion from State High­way 1 at Sylvia Park to State High­way 20 at One­hunga, which aimed to ease con­ges­tion and im­prove the flow of freight be­tween the two in­dus­trial hubs.

The ther­mal pow­er­sta­tion is on standby and could be fired back into life if Auck­land’s power sup­plies ever fal­tered.

Mer­cury En­ergy’s whole­sale mar­kets man­ager James Flex­man said that in the event of a restart, tur­bines on the sta­tion would dis­charge nat­u­ral gas close to the mo­tor­way.

A low prob­a­bil­ity but high con­se­quence risk of this would arise if a ve­hi­cle which over­heated stopped ad­ja­cent to a tur­bine, cre­at­ing an ex­plo­sion haz­ard, Flex­man said

‘‘If the East West pro­posal was lo­cated where it is cur­rently pro­posed, any such ex­plo­sion could put hu­man life at risk and po­ten­tially dam­age the struc­tural in­tegrity of the pro­posed road/ path­way,’’ he said.

High en­ergy ex­plo­sions could also re­sult from gen­er­a­tor ro­tor rup­tures and disc fail­ures on gas tur­bines, he said.

Mer­cury was re­quest­ing a full safety risk as­sess­ment be un­der­taken by the board to iden­tify any fur­ther haz­ards which could arise from the co-lo­ca­tion of the EWL and the power sta­tion.

New Zealand Trans­port Agency’s (NZTA) act­ing sys­tem de­sign man­ager Paul Glu­cina said it had been work­ing with Mer­cury En­ergy since 2014 to mit­i­gate any risks as­so­ci­ated with the EWL.

NZTA had com­pleted a risk as­sess­ment on in­for­ma­tion Mer­cury En­ergy pre­sented to an EWL board of in­quiry and had found the pri­mary is­sues raised could be man­aged to an ac­cept­able level, Glu­cina said.

‘‘We have pro­posed to the board of in­quiry that as a con­di­tion of con­sent we carry out a fur­ther risk as­sess­ment be­fore any con­struc­tion starts,’’ she said.

NZTA would con­tinue to work with Mer­cury to en­sure fu­ture risks were ad­dressed and a safe route was pro­vided, she said.


An artist im­pres­sion of the East-West Link along Or­pheus Drive near Aotea Sea Scouts build­ing.

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