Potential disruption to flight due to bad batch of jet fuel

Upcoming holiday travel plans could be disrupted as a bad batch of jet fuel forces airlines to ration.

Z Energy, owner of the duds show, told airlines Tuesday night they need to conserve fuel in the coming weeks.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Employment said routine fuel testing at a kerosene delivery has raised some concerns and there are potential implications for kerosene supplies.

Board of Airline Representatives (Barnz) chief executive Cath O’Brien said the timing was particularly frustrating.

“We’re heading towards the busiest holiday season in years and we’ve finally been so pleased to be able to operate, get people to reconnect with family and friends abroad for Christmas and it’s really disappointing to be taking on that challenge in to face this moment.”

Z Energy will likely allocate less fuel to airlines than they used, O’Brien said.

“Airlines need to find solutions to save fuel and operate with less fuel than they expect.”

Flights from short-haul destinations such as Australia could carry extra fuel, but long-haul flights would find it more difficult to stop en route and pick up extra fuel.

“It’s going to take time and potentially mess up entire schedules, so it’s far from ideal and in some cases not possible,” O’Brien said.

Airlines would make decisions about changes they might need to make in the coming hours and days, she said.

No reason to panic

“Customers need not panic – airlines have not changed their flight schedules at this time.”

The problem shows New Zealand does not have “sufficient resilience” if something happens to a fuel shipment, she said.

The country’s only oil refinery, based at Marsden Point, ceased operations in April and became an import-only terminal for already-refined products.

Former refinery manager David Keat, who worked at Marsden Point for 27 years, said this left the country vulnerable to the disruptions that were inevitable.

There were export refiners in the Middle East, India and South Korea, with Chinese refiners sometimes exporting products.

“But of course they export to everyone else and we are in competition. So if there’s a war in those oil producing areas or a logistical event like a hurricane, the supply will be cut off,” Keat told Nine through Noon.

“And we’re at the other end of a very long supply chain to get these products.”

The most common contaminant was water, but that was easy to fix — the oil only needed to sit for a few days, he said.

In this case, the contamination was more likely to be sulfur or something else that needed to be diluted – and the material for that was on a ship somewhere.

It would have been possible, albeit not very economical, to stockpile a small amount of crude oil to supply diesel to hospitals in the event of a supply crisis, Keat said.

However, the deliberate demolition of Marsden Point over the past six months meant it would take a great deal of money and time to convert it back into an operational refinery.


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