21 Sep 2017

Fuel crisis: No flight cancellations tomorrow - Air NZ

6:26 pm on 21 September 2017

Air New Zealand says no flights will be cancelled tomorrow at Auckland airport because of fuel shortages, as repairs on the broken fuel pipe continue.

Passengers wait for their flights at Auckland Airport.

Passengers wait for their flights at Auckland Airport. Photo: 123RF

Thousands of passengers have been affected by the jet fuel shortage over the past week by widespread cancellations and rescheduling of flights.

But airlines spokesperson Justin Tighe-Umbers said most flights had been running from Auckland today.

He said he hoped school holiday travellers would not be affected at the end of next week.

"So the planning expectation for airlines is that the pipeline will be fixed by 28 September, and on that date we would expect to see allocations to gradually increase. On that basis, airlines are expecting that they will be able to meet their school holiday schedules with minimal disruption."

Earlier today, Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins earlier said 14 flights at Auckland Airport had been cancelled today, down from 36 yesterday.

Damaged section of pipe cut out

Meanwhile, Refining New Zealand said the damaged section of the Wiri pipeline has now been cut out and crews were welding the new piece in place.

More than 100 people were working day and night to repair the pipeline break on farmland at Ruakaka, south of Marsden Point.

The company said a 17m-long section had to be isolated and cleared of explosive vapours before specialist welders could safely cut through it.

The area where the pipe carrying fuel into Auckland was damaged.

The area where the pipe was damaged. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

It has also had to dig pits under and around the damaged section, drain water and hydrocarbons from the site, build a gravel road for trucks, and remove contaminated earth before welding could start.

The welds would be inspected twice over a 24-hour-period by the refinery's insurance agents, Lloyds, before the pipe is given the all-clear.

Under the stringent safety-rules for jet fuel, each load has to settle for 30 hours before it can be certified as pure.

The refinery expected to start loading tankers with jet fuel at Marsden Point this evening, after safety trials.

The area where the pipe carrying fuel into Auckland was damaged.

The area where the pipe was damaged. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

During a briefing on the latest information about the fuel shortage today, Refining NZ chief executive Sjoerd Post said the pipe should be up and running again next week.

Watch the briefing here:

He said a number of tests would have to be carried out, and the pipe would only run at 80 percent capacity for several months.

He said the company was waiting on a device from Brazil, which would be used to look for any weaknesses in the pipe.

Peter Mersi from the Ministry of Transport said that meant some trucks will continue to carry fuel on the roads until the end of the year.

Defence Force drivers were now on the roster to help step up road tanker deliveries of jet fuel to the airport, and the navy tanker Endeavour headed to to Marsden Point today to help ferry supplies south.

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