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.

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