Pipe leak cuts fuel to airport
The Government is offering ‘‘all assistance it can’’ after a leak halted Auckland Airport’s main supply of jet fuel.
Prime Minister Bill English said he received a high-level briefing on the issue early on Sunday morning.
‘‘My understanding is that it’s the sort of problem that would require government agencies and oil companies to work together,’’ the prime minister said.
The pipeline – which carries jet fuel, petrol and diesel directly from the oil refinery at Marsden Point in Northland to tanks in Wiri, south Auckland – has been out of action since Thursday afternoon.
Twenty departing flights were cancelled on Sunday.
Auckland Airport spokesman Simon Lambourne confirmed oil companies were limiting fuel supplies to airlines.
He said some flights would be affected and passengers should check the Auckland Airport website for updates.
On Sunday, the 14-hour Emirates flight from Auckland to Dubai would stop off at Christchurch to ‘‘top up’’ with fuel, Christchurch Airport spokeswoman Yvonne Densem said.
Passengers would remain on the plane before flying on to Dubai.
Densem said it was the only flight the airport had been asked to help with on Sunday.
The expected arrival time in Dubai would likely extend by 2.5 hours to 7.05am, according to a message posted on Emirates’ website.
A spokesperson for Air NZ said it was ‘‘working through the implications for aircraft operations’’ in coming days.
Customers would be contacted directly about any flight changes, the spokesperson said.
Refining NZ spokesman Greg McNeil said the 168-kilometre pipeline was shut off about 2.30pm on September 14 after monitoring picked up a drop in pressure on the multi-supply pipeline.
A helicopter was dispatched and discovered a leak of jet fuel 8km south of the refinery, near Ruakaka, he said.
‘‘We have been doing a recovery and repair operation ... [crews are] excavating around the pipeline so we can see what damage there may be. That’s nearly complete,’’ McNeil said.
Just how long the pipeline would be stopped was not yet clear. McNeil said experts would decide on how best to repair the leak.
A range of experts, including from oil companies, were involved in the operation, he said.
McNeil said he could not comment on what oil companies’ stocks were in the Auckland region.
Up to 400,000 litres of finished product can be pumped down the line, which is 2.5cm in diameter, every hour, Refining NZ’s website says.
Mobil Oil NZ’s manager, Andrew McNaught, said fuel companies were trying to manage the impact of the temporary shutdown.
‘‘The industry is liaising with Auckland Airport to carefully manage supplies and minimise any disruption to flight operations.’’
That would include flights carrying more fuel to enable return flights without refuelling, refuelling at other airports, and stopping to fuel at other airports on the way to and from Auckland, McNaught said.
Alternative supply arrangements were being made for road fuels, he said.
‘‘This includes transporting more fuel from the refinery via road-tankers, diverting additional loads to Auckland where possible, and working with customers to carefully manage their supply requirements.’’
McNaught said it was ‘‘important to note’’ that the refinery was still running and fuel was still being manufactured, shipped, and trucked to consumers.
‘‘Additionally, finished fuel imports are still coming into New Zealand.’’
‘‘While the pipeline also supplies petrol and diesel to Auckland, we are confident that supply of these fuels can be maintained via industry trucking from the refinery in Whangarei, and fuel terminals at Mt Maunganui.’’
It was the first time the pipeline had experienced a fault, he said.