Pipe leak cuts fuel to air­port


A jet fuel leak which has caused the can­cel­la­tion of more than 20 flights out of Auck­land Air­port, could take up to two weeks to fix.

The Re­fin­ery Auck­land 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.

Auck­land Air­port spokesman Si­mon Lam­bourne con­firmed oil com­pa­nies were lim­it­ing fuel sup­plies to air­lines.

Re­fin­ing NZ spokesman Greg McNeill said the 168-kilo­me­tre multi-sup­ply pipe­line was shut off about 2.30pm on Septem­ber 14 af­ter mon­i­tor­ing picked up a drop in pres­sure.

A leak of jet fuel was dis­cov­ered 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,’’ McNeill said.

Ex­perts would de­cide how best to re­pair the leak.

The pipe­line’s cus­tomers – BP, Z En­ergy and Mo­bil – were told of the is­sue on Thurs­day, McNeill said

He said a fix could be 10 to 14 days away be­cause of the dif­fi­cult ac­cess to the site and the need to have re­pairs prop­erly cer­ti­fied.

‘‘We have got heavy equip­ment in there and it is very soft peaty soil.’’

The fix would have to be cer­ti­fied by a Lloyds pipe­line ex­pert, he said.

It was likely Re­fin­ing NZ would first op­er­ate the pipe­line at 70 per cent of ca­pac­ity un­til it knew the re­pairs had been suc­cess­ful.

The time­frame of 10 to 14 days was an es­ti­mate, he said.

‘‘The re­ally pos­i­tive thing is we have made great progress.’’

It ap­peared the pipe­line had been dam­aged by a dig­ger but McNeill could not com­ment on who might carry the can in terms of the fi­nan­cial li­a­bil­i­ties.

But he said Re­fin­ing NZ, which is listed on the NZX, had be­gun try­ing to count the cost to its own busi­ness in terms of lost rev­enue.

It was pos­si­ble the com­pany would make a re­lease to the NZX to­day, he said: ‘‘If it is ma­te­rial then we will have to.’’

Lam­bourne 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.

The ex­pected ar­rival time in Dubai would likely ex­tend by 2.5 hours to 7.50am, ac­cord­ing to Emi­rates’ web­site.

Air NZ said the air­line was ‘‘work­ing through the im­pli­ca­tions for air­craft op­er­a­tions’’ in the com­ing days.

Some long-haul flights to and from Asian and North Amer­i­can coun­tries would stop to re­fuel at some Aus­tralian and Pa­cific air­ports.

To ‘‘con­sol­i­date pas­sen­ger loads’’, the air­line would can­cel some do­mes­tic and Aus­tralian ser­vices.

Mean­while, do­mes­tic flights from Welling­ton and Christchurch would be filled to their max­i­mum lim­its to ease the load in Auck­land.

Jet­star spokes­woman Kate Mil­lar said it was not yet known how many of the air­line’s flights would be af­fected.

It was look­ing at pos­si­ble so­lu­tions, in­clud­ing up­grad­ing trans-Tas­man flights from Boe­ing 737s to Air­bus A330s, which had 100 ex­tra seats, she said.

Up to 400,000 litres of fin­ished prod­uct can be pumped down the pipe­line, which is 25cm in di­am­e­ter, ev­ery hour, Re­fin­ing NZ’s web­site said.

Mo­bil Oil NZ’s man­ager, An­drew McNaught, said fuel com­pa­nies were try­ing to man­age the im­pact of the tem­po­rary shut­down.

McNaught said it was ‘‘im­por­tant to note’’ 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.’’

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