19 Sep 2017

Fuel crisis: 13 petrol stations now without 95-octane

1:41 pm on 19 September 2017

Thirteen Auckland petrol stations have sold out of 95-octane as the city grapples with an ongoing fuel crisis, which has affected dozens of flights.

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Z Energy says the 95-octane outage is deliberate, as it has prioritised 91-octane and diesel, and more supplies are on their way. Photo: RNZ

A pipeline that supplies fuel to Auckland Airport was closed over the weekend after a leak was discovered on Thursday. It has caused dozens of flights in and out of the city to be delayed or cancelled.

The pipeline from Marsden Point in Whangarei also carries petrol and diesel into New Zealand's largest city, but the fuel industry is reassuring Aucklanders the city will not run out.

The city's pumps are being topped up by petrol tankers from Marsden Point and Port of Tauranga at Mount Maunganui.

Up to 80,000 litres of jet fuel - or about two tanker loads - spilled from the pipeline at Ruakaka, about 130km north of Auckland.

It was damaged by a digger operating on a farm.

Z Energy said 13 of its stations in the city have temporarily run out of 95-octane premium fuel.

But the company said more was being trucked into the city and supplies would be replenished soon.

It said the outage was deliberate as the company had prioritised 91 and diesel, which were used by 90 percent of motorists.

Click here to find out which stations are affected.

Auckland Airport said this morning that 28 flights had been cancelled today, up from 14 yesterday.

Of them, 22 were domestic flights and six were international, and this compared with the 465 services a day that ran from the airport, it said.

Check out Auckland Airport's website for a full list of delays and cancellations.

Auckland Airport

Nearly 30 flights were expected to be disrupted at Auckland Airport today. Photo: 123RF

Importers Institute secretary Daniel Silva said passenger airlines were having to limit the amount of freight they could carry to make room for fuel.

He said importers were stocking up for the Christmas season, and a lot of supply chains depended on that stock.

"It's not catastrophic because we expect it to be resolved in a week or two," Mr Silva said.

NZDF offers ship, drivers, military fuel

The government said the NZ Defence Force was pitching in, with HMNZS Endeavour helping to shift diesel from Marsden Point to other parts of the country.

It said NZDF was making 890,000 litres of military fuel available to civilian aircraft, and 20 NZDF drivers were being drafted in to help local operators manage the wider fuel distribution workload.

Turbo prop aircraft were being allowed to land at military airfields at Whenuapai and Ohakea to fill up their tanks.

Security staff at the entrance to a property near the pipeline break on Ruakaka Road.

Security staff at the entrance to a property near the pipeline break on Ruakaka Road. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Fuel industry spokesperson Andrew McNaught said earlier that a ship was carrying 36 million litres of petrol and diesel from Marsden Point to Port of Tauranga.

Mr McNaught said from there, trucks would be working around the clock to take the fuel to Auckland.

"We're confident that there is sufficient fuel in the Auckland market from both a petrol and diesel perspective," Mr McNaught said.

But he said the supply of jet fuel for Auckland Airport was a bigger problem.

A separate ship would take jet fuel from Marsden Point to Lyttelton and Dunedin so planes could refuel outside of Auckland.

Government, council and agencies working together - Collins

Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins told Morning Report a number of measures were being taken to speed up fuel distribution.

The NZ Transport Agency was making it easier for tankers to get over-weight permits to be allowed to carry more fuel, Ms Collins said.

Auckland Transport and NZTA were working together to phase traffic lights so trucks could get to fuel stations more quickly.

Auckland Council would also extend the times when fuel drop-offs were allowed in the city, she said.

Ms Collins said measures were also under way to get more jet fuel into Auckland.

This would involve tankers taking jet fuel into Wynyard Wharf, although there was a question mark as to whether the facility could be made ready in time.

"I have been told that there are technical and logistical issues," Ms Collins said.

"[Industry bosses,] I believe today, they will be able to make a decision on that."

Board of Airline Representatives executive director Justin Tighe-Umbers told Morning Report airlines were loading extra fuel on inbound flights and outbound flights were stopping in Australia and the Pacific Islands to top up.

He said there were no safety implications, but there had been "a lot of additional cost incurred".

"That will need to come out in the wash at the end of this."

Pipeline well marked - neighbour

A woman who farms on a neighbouring property to the site of the rupture said the line was well marked, with white posts and signs warning "no digging".

Whangarei district councillor Phil Halse also owns a farm with a gas pipe going through it, and said it was something every landowner should be aware of.

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