23 Sep 2017

Broken fuel pipeline replaced

2:20 pm on 23 September 2017

The broken piece of pipeline that carries fuel from Marsden Point to Auckland, and which prompted dozens of flights to be grounded, has been replaced.

Since the 170-kilometre pipe was found ruptured nine days ago and shut off, airlines have had to ration their fuel supply.

Refining New Zealand said the new piece of pipe passed a welding inspection last night, and they were now preparing to start putting fuel through it.

The agency said plans remained on track to deliver jet fuel into Wiri between tomorrow and Tuesday.

Earlier today, warnings went and safety measures were put in place on Auckland's waterfront in preparation for the arrival of a tanker loaded with millions of litres of volatile jet fuel.

The site of the damaged pipe, seen in the lower left of the photo.

The site of the damaged pipe, seen in the lower left of the photo. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

The flight plans of thousands of air passengers have been disrupted after the sole pipeline carrying jet fuel, petrol and diesel to the city from Refining New Zealand's Marsden Point ruptured last week.

Flights are now returning to normal and the fuel restrictions on airlines have been loosened.

Refining New Zealand said these images show the damage to its pipeline was caused by a digger.

Refining New Zealand said these images show the damage to its pipeline was caused by a digger. Photo: Supplied / Refining New Zealand

The tanker Matuku will offload 1.5 million litres of jet fuel and 5.5 million litres of diesel when it reaches Wynyard Wharf this evening.

Fuel industry spokesperson Andrew McNaught said it would take around 24 hours to discharge the fuel.

"We want the product to settle, these are going into chemical tanks," he said.

He said it was the first time the process had been done, so they needed to be sure it was safe.

The fuel should reach the airport by Tuesday next week.

People working and living in the area had been notified, Auckland Council spokesperson Dean Kimpton said, but the public needed to be aware of an increase in tanker movements at the waterfront, particularly at Beaumont street.

"Like with any industrial or construction activity, they need to be eyes-wide-open and just be aware of their surroundings."

Mr Kimpton said the council was working with traffic management to minimise public safety risks.

Peter Mersi, of Auckland Transport, said the route from the wharf to the airport was still to be finalised but Waterview Tunnel would not be used.

Not all infrastructure was built to take trucks of this size, he said, and the priority was to find an efficient route with cameras and the ability to control traffic lights.

Two truckloads of jet fuel have now been delivered to the airport.

Mr McNaught said the number of tankers on the road would increase from two to eight over the next few days, carrying jet fuel twice a day from Marsden Point.

They will truck up to 350,000 litres of jet fuel a day, equal to 10 percent of the airport's usual daily demand.

The airport said flight schedules were nearly normal and further disruptions were unlikely.

However, airlines would continue with contingency measures, the head of the board of airline representatives, Justin Tighe Umbers, said.

Technical fuel stops will continue into Australia and the Pacific for some of the long haul flights over the next few days.

Meanwhile, a navy ship earmarked for diesel fuel delivery is now not needed.

The HMNZS Endeavour was sent to Marsden Point to help alleviate the fuel shortage.

But the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment said the increase in tankers moving fuel around the North Island meant it was not needed.

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