Fuel pipeline and Plan B

Should we have a ‘Plan B’ for everything? Some have said we should have had a backup to a bust fuel pipeline.

This has caused major disruption at Auckland Airport in particular.

Stuff:  Possibility of prosecution after leak closes crucial jet fuel pipeline

The Northland Regional Council said it was investigating the circumstances that led up to a fuel pipe line from a Northland refinery being temporarily shut down.

The 168-kilometre 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, when refinery workers noticed a drop in pressure.  A jet fuel leak was located on a rural property 8km south of the refinery later that afternoon.

Refining New Zealand spokesman Greg McNeill said on Monday initial investigations showed a digger “scraped” and “cut” the pipe.

Prime Minister Bill English said that a contingency for this type of incident had been previously been looked into but wasn’t economically viable.

“There have been a couple of studies done that looked at different alternatives for backing up the current infrastructure, and the decisions were made that the investment that would be required to double up would be too much to be passed onto consumers.

“But I expect that after this that they’ll go back and have another look at it.”

Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood said some 27 domestic and international flights were cancelled over the weekend, while others travelled via other airports to refuel.

McNeill said they believed it would be fixed between September 24-26.

“Getting the product down to Wiri where it is stored is the key to us, we’re working toward a definite timeline,” he said.

Once the jet fuel is back at Wiri it will undergo about 30 hours of processing before it is certified and taken on to the airport.

It happened during an election campaign so it is more political than usual: Government knew of jet fuel supply concerns: Labour party

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says the Government has known for years there were serious risks to the supply of fuel to Auckland International Airport.

In a statement this morning, Ardern says Air New Zealand raised the issue about additional jet fuel supply storage in 2012 but the Government instead set up a raft of “mishmash of minor initiatives”.

It goes back further than that – the Clark led Government also considered pipeline options in 2005.

But the fuel supply and pipeline are privately owned.

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett was grilled by Guyon Espiner on Morning Report over a cabinet paper from 2012 in which officials advised then Minister of Energy and Resources Simon Bridges of the serious impact of a shutdown.

“It’s not owned by the Government, it’s owned by the fuel companies and it is their job to get their product to the source where it’s needed.

“I’m sure that we will now look at that and make sure we’ve got it all lined up properly …there’s other alternatives to a second line, and there might be things like extra storage needed in Auckland that goes beyond the eight days.”

Stuff Editorial: Burst pipe shows importance of having a plan B

There is a sense of deja vu in all this. New Zealand has seen before how failures in small but critical parts of its infrastructure can lead to disproportionate disruption.

In 1998, central Auckland suffered a five-week power cut after four electricity cables failed. The outage started with one old and obsolete cable, which triggered another, and then two more.

In 2011, a landslide caused a leak in the Maui gas pipeline north from Taranaki. It was fixed within six days, but the failure is estimated to have cost the economy $200 million.

The interdependence of some of the country’s networks was demonstrated in 2012, when a power cut in a Wellington control centre crippled the entire Auckland railway network.

We haven’t even begun to consider massive disruption caused by large earthquakes, the continued closure of the Manawatu Gorge, or damage caused by weather events – such as the failure of stopbanks protecting Edgecumbe – which are likely to become more frequent.

For all the talk about how infrastructure development fuels national growth, sometimes not enough care is taken to protect the assets that we have, even when the risks are known. Lip service is given to building resilience, but the truth is this is expensive.

Yes, expensive.

The vulnerability of the 30-year-old Marsden Point to Auckland pipeline was highlighted in a report by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment in 2012. It seems nothing was done about it.

I don’t know if nothing was done, but a new pipeline wasn’t installed, a tanker ship wasn’t put on permanent standby, the storage tank capacity at Wiri wasn’t doubled, the 170km of pipeline wasn’t continuously patrolled.

Winston Peters didn’t even suggest moving Auckland Airport to Whangarei.

How important, or feasible, is it to have back up plans for everything?

They could have a second pipeline from Marsden Point to Wiri – that would have to follow an entirely different route to be safe.

Auckland could have stand by motorways in cash a crash disrupts traffic.

They could re-introduce rail ferries from Wellington to Lyttleton in case there’s another Kaikoura earthquake – but what if the next earthquake is in Wellington?

We could all have two cars and two houses and two jobs, just in case.

The Government could make us have a plan B for everything.

Or we could have infrastructure that makes economic and practical sense, and risk the occasional bit of disruption.

Leave a comment

40 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  19th September 2017

    typical response after years to address the issue…’Labour did it…too’.

    Reply
    • It’s relevant – it may be that a government imposed plan B is not a sensible option.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  19th September 2017

        would not be a problem for sound economic managers.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  19th September 2017

          If it’s privately owned, I can’t see that it’s all National’s fault as Pollyardern was quick to say-and it IS relevant to say that Labour knew and did nothing.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  19th September 2017

            No economic management could have prevented this, I imagine,

            Reply
            • Blazer

               /  19th September 2017

              its called risk assessment,quite common in…modern countries,contingency plans.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  19th September 2017

              So you think that they could have prevented the digger driver busting the pipe ? There are contingency plans, I am sure, but they can’t stop accidents happening in the first place.

    • chrism56

       /  19th September 2017

      According to the residents, there never was any swamp kauri recovery in the area, and it has to be said that there is no evidence of digging in the nearby paddocks.
      https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/96941407/digger-scraped-and-cut-crucial-jet-fuel-pipeline-affecting-thousands-of-auckland-airport-travellers
      If the next door neighbour is right, that means almost everything said about the cause has been wrong and Mr Guyton probably has been defamatory, even in his second attack . Not that we would ever get an apology

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  19th September 2017

        blame game,damage control by the locals,I suspect.

        Reply
        • chrism56

           /  19th September 2017

          Have you got any proof or are you into the defamatory shit still?

          Reply
          • Blazer

             /  19th September 2017

            my opinion,but stick this in thy pipe and inhale…’Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett accepts that a mistake by a digger driver which caused widespread disruption to the nation’s aviation industry is “embarrassing”.

            Reply
            • chrism56

               /  19th September 2017

              That was because she was repeating what NZ Refining said. What if the company is wrong as now looks likely?

            • Blazer

               /  19th September 2017

              well as Deputy P.M,she should be sure of her facts before opening her big gob…’zip it…sweetie’…indeed.

          • chrism56

             /  19th September 2017

            According to Wikipedia, there was a major industrial dispute when the pipeline was installed. This failure is most likely a legacy of that, with poor workmanship and inadequate site supervision to blame. Things don’t corrode, even in an acid swamp, if the cathodic protection is properly installed

            Reply
            • Blazer

               /  20th September 2017

              read this from Stuff…and weep…
              ‘The digger operator who damaged the fuel pipeline supplying Auckland city would have almost certainly have known what he had done, says Refining NZ boss Sjoerd Post, adding he is concerned for the individual’s mental safety.

              Refining NZ had “clear evidence” the 170 kilometre pipeline that pipes fuel from the Marsden Point oil refinery had been struck, with digger teeth marks visible at the location of a 20 centimetre tear in the pipe.

              “It is very clear and independently confirmed by the Lloyds’ verifier that a digger has dented and scraped over the pipe with quite significant force.’

            • patupaiarehe

               /  20th September 2017

              I don’t know about that Blazer. Take a look at my recent post on OF 😉

            • chrism56

               /  20th September 2017

              Rubbish Blazer. Two days ago, the refinery company said it was a digger 3 months ago.
              http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11923238
              When that was shown to be wrong, they changed the date.
              And how did they backfill the hole when they built it?

            • The latest news is the last kauri digging on that farm was in 2011 and that was 800m away from the line. The company is also replacing a 17m length of the pipe – a lot more than needed for a digger puncture. The company has also been required to do NDT on the whole pipeline – the pipeline regulations.
              All of which indicates that the company’s story is starting to disintegrate.

  2. robertguyton

     /  19th September 2017

    [Deleted – don’t make insinuations/accusations unless you can suport them with evidence. PG]
    Everyone knows that!

    Reply
  3. NOEL

     /  19th September 2017

    Potential problem analysis wasn’t in vogue when the pipeline was constructed.
    But I can’t believe it wasn’t used at some point in a later risk evaulation.

    Reply
    • David

       /  19th September 2017

      I’m sure there was a lot of risk analysis when it was built. The fact it’s been in service for 30 years with very few people being aware of it’s existence does indicate they got something right.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  19th September 2017

        Yes; 30 years ago was the mid to late 80s (eek) and it’s impossible to believe that it was just put there with everyone hoping for the best but not doing anything about potential problems,

        Reply
  4. NOEL

     /  19th September 2017

    Mitigating risk isnt about buiding parallel redundancy.
    I’m guessing using the Endeavour is not a spur of the moment decision.

    Reply
  5. robertguyton

     /  19th September 2017

    “Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett accepts that a mistake by a digger driver which caused widespread disruption to the nation’s aviation industry is “embarrassing”.

    Energy Minister Judith Collins estimates the incident could cause “millions and millions of dollars” to the Auckland economy.

    On Thursday, it was revealed that a digger once struck a key fuel pipe near Marsden Point, which by Sunday had caused a major leak that starved Auckland Airport of its main jet fuel supply.”

    Well Collins should indeed be embarrassed, as SHE IS AT THE CENTRE OF THE SWAMP KAURI CONTROVERSY:

    “In Parliament, Labour’s MP for Te Tai Tokerau, Kelvin Davis, asked the Government if ministers were “aware of reports that local wood manufacturers have been refused the opportunity to buy swamp kauri from Kauri Ruakaka mill, which was formerly called Oravida, and is allegedly involved in exporting raw swamp kauri?”

    One of the directors of Oravida is National MP Judith Collins’ husband, David Wong-Tung.

    Under further questioning in the House, Minister Nick Smith replied, “I thought the member (Kelvin Davis) was above getting involved in this kind of murk”.

    Winston Peters then asked Dr Smith,: “Is he denying what is well known in Northland because people who are high up in Oravida are major donors to the National Party?”

    Dr Smith replied that the law had been changed under Labour in 2004″

    https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/national-party-donors-allegedly-involved-in-illegal-kauri-exports-6350968

    “Northland conservationists say the logs are being illegally exported under the guise of carvings and the Government is doing nothing about it.The Far North Protection Society said that, despite their complaints, its members were still seeing massive logs dug from ancient wetlands, heading south on trucks to be sold overseas.”

    https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/276363/minister-defends-trade-in-kauri-swamp-logs

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  19th September 2017

      Er…what connection is there between the two things ?

      MOD !!! You seem to be making serious accusations of corruption with, I suspect, no evidence. The Oravida allegations are scurrilous and slanderous.

      Reply
  6. unitedtribes2

     /  19th September 2017

    I haven’t seen this question yet. “Why is it so hard to fix a pipe?”
    Cut damaged section out.
    Weld in new section.
    They must have installed at least a kilometre a day when they first constructed it. Dose anyone know the answer to this?

    Reply
    • patupaiarehe

       /  19th September 2017

      When they first installed it, it wasn’t surrounded by fuel soaked ground UT.

      Reply
    • David

       /  19th September 2017

      “Weld in new section.”

      You are aware this is a pipeline that carries pertrochemicals are you not? It is a much more involved process that you understand, requiring special skills and materials.

      “They must have installed at least a kilometre a day when they first constructed it. ”

      Sure, they had everyone here, all the materials ready, and it wasn’t in service. They did not install a km and then have in operation the next day.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  19th September 2017

        I imagine that if it was that easy, they would be doing it !!!

        The ground will be well soaked, as it is when a hose busts….we have probably all had an old hose do this and saturate the place. Imagine that multiplied by ????

        I bet that the digger driver is lying low and praying that his name won’t be printed.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  19th September 2017

          Anyone who thinks that all that’s needed is a bit of welding is welcome to try it.

          Just make arrangements for the funeral first. No need for a coffin, there probably won’t be any need for one.

          Reply
    • Conspiratoor

       /  19th September 2017

      Yes UT, every day that passes the stench of a cover up grows stronger. What if it turns out the digger scrape is a sideshow. What if the damn thing is corroded along its length and essentially rooted

      If only, I can hear Bill saying …we can keep the lid on this thing until Sunday…

      Reply
      • David

         /  19th September 2017

        “What if the damn thing is corroded along its length and essentially rooted”

        It’s not. So you can rest easy.

        Reply
  7. David

     /  19th September 2017

    “They could have a second pipeline from Marsden Point to Wiri – that would have to follow an entirely different route to be safe.”

    Look at the topography, there is no route that allows for a meaningfully different route and this doesn’t avoid the simple fact NZ has one refinery and one international airport and one runway that matters.

    Redundancy in infrastructure in NZ will always be constrained by geography, the size of the population and the simple fact we are a long way from anywhere else.

    Reply
  8. Zedd

     /  19th September 2017

    maybe this could have a ‘silver lining’.. remind many kiwis that, they can actually get around, without carrying tons of metal around them OR perhaps move to electric vehicles instead ? 😀

    Reply
    • David

       /  19th September 2017

      That works fine until it’s the power lines that come down….

      Reply
      • Zedd

         /  19th September 2017

        @David
        They say it could takes weeks or months to fix this pipeline.. I doubt it would take more than a few days to reconnect a broken power wire ? :/

        Reply
  9. NOEL

     /  19th September 2017

    I guess we should be thankful it was the RAP and not the Wiri Terminal.

    Click to access RAP%20Contingency%20Options.pdf

    Reply

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