New Zealand commits national suicide

New Zealand commits national suicide

Don’t tell me that New Zealand is not committing national suicide, just like the resst of the world, especially Europe.

“Don’t worry…we’ll import it” ….in the midst of World War 3.

Businesses used to get much of their supply from the Marsden Point oil refinery, which produced CO2 as a by-product of its refining operation until that was closed at the end of March.

Now the only remaining domestic source of liquid and other food-grade CO2 is a production plant attached to Todd Energy’s Kapuni gas field in Taranaki.

CO2 shortage threatens wide range of NZ groceries including Tegel chicken

Tegel says the NZ shortage of food grade CO2 could bite “over the coming months”.

Tegel is warning that it may not be able to produce some chicken products because of a shortage of carbon dioxide gas in New Zealand that is also threatening brewers and fizzy drinks makers.

The Food and Grocery Council said the availability of cheese, preserved meats, sparkling wine and ready-to-eat meals could also suffer, with price rises possible.

The Brewers Association and the Beverage Council separately voiced concerns about the gas shortage on Saturday.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is used widely in the food industry – including in packaging to preserve the shelf life of chicken – and to add fizz to drinks, as well as in other industries such as healthcare.

Businesses used to get much of their supply from the Marsden Point oil refinery, which produced CO2 as a by-product of its refining operation until that was closed at the end of March.

Now the only remaining domestic source of liquid and other food-grade CO2 is a production plant attached to Todd Energy’s Kapuni gas field in Taranaki.

Todd Energy confirmed last week that production at the plant, which was built in 1969, had been reduced “with planned maintenance impacting production through to mid-August”.

Tegel said in a statement supplied by the Food and Grocery Council that, following the closure of the Marsden Point refinery, its supply of CO2 had been “significantly rationed” and it had seen costs for food grade CO2 increase substantially.

“Whilst we have been able to take steps in the short term to reduce the impact of the CO2 shortage on our production, the ongoing supply constraint may impact our ability to produce some of Tegel’s products over the coming months,” it said.

Carbon dioxide can be imported, but Beverage Council spokesperson Emily Fuller has described that as an expensive option because of high freight costs and the fact the gas needs to be transported in heavy cannisters.

A Food and Grocery Council spokesman said the issues at Todd’s Kapuni plant were a concern, given it was now the only domestic source of food grade CO2 in the country.

Carbon dioxide was used as a preservative for meat, cheese, and ready-to-eat meals, as well as to make fizzy beverages, such as beer, bubbly, and soft drinks, he said.

“If this situation isn’t resolved, before long there could be a shortage of those products on supermarket shelves and prices could even rise as a result,” he said.

“Some of our members have been told they will be getting just 50% to 55% of orders. Manufacturers will have stocks of CO2 and product on hand but they won’t last indefinitely.”

Plans for a $250m shutdown of the country's only refinery are already well advanced.
Plans for a $250m shutdown of the country’s only refinery are already well advanced. Photo credit: File Image

By Phil Pennington for RNZ

The government has been warned that closing down the country’s only oil refinery could expose New Zealand to fuel security risks.

The Energy Minister said these risks are not significant, but a consultant’s report to the government says the opposite.

The risks centre on reconfigured supply chain, meaning the country would hold significantly less fuel because it held no crude awaiting processing.

Officials have sought a review of the risks to a reconfigured supply chain from a pandemic, natural disaster or regional war.

Plans for a $250m shutdown of the country’s only refinery, Marsden Point at Whangārei Heads, to turn it into an import-only terminal instead are already well advanced.

Officials have also raised questions about 320 jobs being on the line, and about cleaning up the contaminated site.

The change to stop refining is expected to cut fuel throughput at Marsden Point by 40 percent, and leave it needing only a third of the land and a fifth of the tanks.

Briefings from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to Energy and Resources Minister Minister Megan Woods show central and local government in talks with Refining New Zealand since early last year.

Woods has told the company about the strategic importance of the refinery. Officials say this revolves around fuel supply security, jobs and getting new green-fuel industries going.

“The maintenance of domestic refining capacity is of some strategic value to New Zealand, at least for a transitional period,” they told Woods.

The company has countered that the change carries no risk because overseas fuel supply chains are diverse and strong, and some official advice echoes this.

Refining NZ is beset by increasing competition from bigger refineries in Asia.

The extra blow of COVID-19’s impact on demand already led to it reducing refining this year.

A recent $750 million expansion and investment has not paid off at the 60-year-old refinery.

It has painted the change to an import-only terminal – importing 3 billion litres of processed fuel a year for Auckland and Northland – as a matter of survival.

In 2020, the company talked of carrying on with reduced refining till 2035, then going full import.

But that appears to have sped up: “The earliest possible timing of import terminal commencement is in 2022,” a briefing said.

Documents show conversion could take between 18 months and five years, and cost $200m, plus $50-60m on demolition.

Local iwi are concerned about how contaminated land is handled.

Environmental assessments say the aquifer beneath the refinery “is already contaminated due to the presence of hydrocarbons in groundwater, and for this reason, the resource has little value for other purposes”.

The conversion plan must still pass the hurdle of a shareholder vote later this year.

However, two of its three biggest customers, BP and Z Energy, are already on board.

Refining NZ has told the government that if the refinery is shut down, fully restarting it ever again would cost too much.

Some changes have not waited for a vote: Marsden Point has already permanently cut bitumen production.

The biggest bitumen user, the Transport Agency,issued a tender in December saying it had “identified potential risks” in the future bitumen market.

“These risks relate to security of supply of quality bitumen … cost-reflective price of bitumen at points in the supply chain, and downstream competitive effects within our contracting markets.”

A 14-page consultants’ report to MBIE in March 2020 listed eight risks to stopping refining, including:

  • Between a quarter and a third less overall fuel stock in the country
  • No ability to correct imports that are not up to standard
  • No ability to process crude in a global supply emergency

It summed up:

“The change of the Marsden Point facility to a fuels terminal would have a significant impact of New Zealand’s fuel security.”

By contrast, Woods’ spokesperson last night said officials had advised the conversion “is not expected to have a significant impact on fuel security”.

“Relying solely on imports of finished fuel products, which are ready for distribution, allows for a flexible response to fuel supply disruptions.”

Current crude oil imports were “not immune anyway to import supply chain risks”.

Conversion would probably increase by up to $12m the annual cost to the Government to meet its international obligations to hold 90 days of stocks.

MBIE has received a review of geopolitical risks and natural disasters to the supply chain, but not released it yet.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) told the MBIE there was “quite a significant national security element to having 100 percent reliance on fuel imports”.

MBIE said it will manage risks by finding some suppliers outside Southeast and North Asia.

MBIE’s briefing to the Incoming Minister last November makes little mention of the refinery.

Its briefings note 320 jobs could go from stopping refining, including the refinery’s 50 engineers.

Working groups are looking at the impacts on the region’s economy.

Refining NZ has been approached for comment.

Cost of importing petrol hits a record new high

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