Following a faulty shipment of jet fuel, New Zealand’s airports have begun to ration fuel at least for a brief period of time, as new shipments are due to arrive soon.
The problem first emerged when in early December 2022, a faulty shipment of jet fuel arrived in the country. According to Z Energy, a fuel distributor in the country, the conductivity of the imported fuel was above the allowed threshold, the company’s spokesperson was quoted as saying by Radio New Zealand.
New jet fuel shipments
Following the import of faulty jet fuel, airports and airlines have monitored the situation and whether it would impact their operations in the near future.
What has made the situation worse was that New Zealand’s only oil refinery, namely Marsden Point, was converted into an import-only facility in April 2022. The site – lying a few hours’ drive north of Auckland – transitioned to only import oil and its derivatives, a decision that was finalized in November 2021.
“In response to a significant decline in refining margins as a result of excess refining capacity in the Asian region, Refining NZ initiated a strategic review of the business in April 2020, to determine the optimal future business model and capital structure for the Company’s future,” the company justified at the time.
The faulty shipment was caught at the terminal and was shipped overseas to be reprocessed. According to Paul Stocks, the Deputy Secretary of Building, Resources, and Markets, at New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment, a new shipment arrived in New Zealand on December 12, 2022. It is expected to be available for use on December 18, 2022.
“Two further shipments are set to arrive in the country before Christmas, this includes a replacement shipment for the off-spec fuel shipment,” said Stocks in a statement to AeroTime. “In the meantime, fuel suppliers have begun rationing fuel to ensure supply until new supply is available. Airlines and fuel companies are doing everything they can to minimize the impact on customers.”
Disruptions to airline operations in New Zealand
While at first, no schedule changes were visible on flights to and from the country, some airlines have now added extra stops to seemingly mitigate any impact the shortages could have.
For example, American Airlines Flight AA35 from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) to Auckland Airport (AKL) now also stops at Christchurch International Airport (CHC) on Flight AA9780. On December 12, 2022, an American Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner (registered as N834AA), flew from DFW to AKL, then departed for an hour-long flight from AKL to CHC and back, before returning to Dallas.
On December 8, 2022, though, another AA Dreamliner (registered as N821AN), flew directly from DFW to AKL, before departing the New Zealander airport for Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on December 10, 2022, flightradar24.com data showed.
Per New Zealand Herald, CHC’s spokesperson indicated that the stop at the airport is to refuel the aircraft before it returns to the United States.
“Singapore Airlines is monitoring the situation closely and working with the relevant authorities to understand if our operations to Auckland will be impacted,” stated Karl Schubert, a Singapore Airlines spokesperson, in a statement to AeroTime on December 8, 2022. “There are currently no changes to our scheduled operations. Should changes need to be made, we will inform customers accordingly.”
In an update on December 12, 2022, Schubert indicated that there were still no changes to the airline’s flight schedule.
On the same day, David Morgan, Air New Zealand’s Chief Operational Integrity and Safety Officer reiterated to AeroTime that the airline was monitoring the situation and that there were no changes at the time.
As of December 12, 2022, Air New Zealand’s operations remain fully operational, according to Morgan.
AeroTime has contacted several more representatives regarding an update on the situation at hand.