Auckland fuel shortage leads to cancelled, rerouted flights

A fuel shortage in Auckland has led to numerous flight disruptions.

More than 20 flights have been cancelled in the past 24 hours, with Auckland Airport announcing there are further cancellations to come for some domestic and Tasman flights.

The main fuel supply to Auckland - a 170km pipeline which carries jet fuel, petrol, and diesel from the Marsden Point oil refinery in Northland to tanks in Wiri, south Auckland - has been out of order since Thursday afternoon when a digger cut through it while lifting swamp kauri on a Ruakaka farm.

Oil companies are currently working out how much fuel stock they have in Auckland, but are already limiting their supply to the airport.

A number of Sunday flights left Auckland on schedule but were rerouted via Christchurch to refuel.

Passengers flying to Dubai received a text early Sunday morning alerting them to the diversion.

"Due to a shortage of fuel at Auckland International Airport, your flight will operate from Auckland to Dubai via Christchurch. The flight will depart on schedule and will stop en route for refuelling," the message read.

Minister of Energy and Resources Judith Collins said fuel is being brought in to account for the shortage. 

“There are fuel stocks on hand in Auckland and additional stocks of petrol and diesel are being trucked in directly from the refinery, and from the terminal in Mt Maunganui. The fuel companies are confident that supply of these fuels will be maintained and it is unlikely that motorists will be inconvenienced.

“The pipeline is the only source of jet fuel for Auckland Airport, so precautions have been taken to restrict the amount of fuel being used. Airlines have options to manage their operations and will be looking to minimise any inconvenience for travellers. They will keep their customers informed of any changes to flight schedules, as required."

Prime Minister Bill English has been advised of the issue.

"I've instructed ministers to work closely with the companies to offer all assistance that government can. It's the sort of problem that will require government agencies and oil companies to work together," he said. 

Refining NZ spokesperson Greg McNeill said staff first noticed a drop in pressure in the pipeline at around 2:30pm on Thursday afternoon. A leak was quickly spotted on farmland in Ruakaka.

At that point, Refining NZ shut down the pipeline to excavate around the leak. There has been a crew on site since Thursday to carry out recovering and repair.

"Right now they're still assessing the damage and what may have caused it. Pipeline experts have been called in, including some from Canada."

Refining NZ said this section of the pipe has never been a problem. 

There is currently no indication as to when leak will fixed, but until then no fuel can be sent down the pipeline.

Mobil Oil New Zealand Limited spokesperson Andrew McNaught said the fuel industry is "working to manage any potential impacts resulting from the temporary shutdown of Refining NZ’s Refinery-Auckland pipeline.

“We are very focused on managing any impacts to the supply of jet fuel to the airport as a result of this issue. Industry is working to minimise any potential impacts on other petroleum fuels by putting alternative supply arrangements in place. This includes transporting more fuel from the refinery via road-tankers, diverting additional loads to Auckland where possible, and working with customers to carefully manage their supply requirements.