Gas returning to essential services including dairy processing

Hospitals and other essential services, including most dairy factories in the upper North Island, are getting gas supplies returned after the break in the Maui gas pipeline.

As coordinator of the gas emergency, Auckland-based network operator Vector said the company was working methodically to excavate at the site of the pipeline break, at a site north of New Plymouth, near White Cliffs.

The work was “methodical” and proceeding in 300 millimetre increments to ensure the safety of workers at the site, and to prevent any further damage to the pipe.

The cause of the weld break is unknown at this stage. Replacement pipe is already at the site, ready for installation once the pipe is exposed.

The return of supply to affected customers is unlikely to be immediate, as systems need to be repressurised where they have been bled of gas that was in the pipe before yesterday’s“curtailment” notice to all gas users other than households.

Fonterra warned yesterday it would have to dump about 30 million litres of milk a day at a cost of around $20m after the gas outage forced it to close 15 of its 17 factories.

This couldn’t happen at a worse time as most herds are at or near peak supply in a season of high production.

There is also concern about the environmental impact from dumping all that milk.

Attention now must focus on fixing the pipeline and restoring supplies.

When that’s done some questions need to be asked over security of supply, quality of infrastructure and the need for a Plan B when normal supply is interrupted.

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