The recent damage to the Refining NZ fuel pipeline supplying Auckland’s jet fuel, petrol and diesel has brought about several discussions regarding the ongoing maintenance of New Zealand’s oil infrastructure – namely, who should be responsible for ensuring its upkeep.
Regardless of where you sit on this matter, one thing is certain – a disruption to Auckland’s fuel supply has severe consequences.
Aside from the 70,000 litres of fuel spilt onto local farmland, cancelled overseas holidays and a potential increase in Auckland’s already-inflated fuel prices are just some of the repercussions, not to mention a potential loss of revenue for Refining NZ – currently estimated at $10-$15 million.
How did this happen?
Warnings about Auckland’s fuel vulnerability date as far back as 2005, with the most recent warning issued in a report by MBIE in 2012. The report identified potential risks to the fuel pipeline and postulated the results of a disruption.
The pipeline currently operates under a five-yearly certificate of fitness and annual surveillance audits, with annual checks conducted to assess signs of damage and possible corrosion. The condition of the pipe was last tested via an internal scanner in 2014.
According to Refining NZ, there is “clear evidence” that the fault in the pipe was caused by a digger, which left teeth marks and resulted in a 20-centimetre tear.
Whatever the reason, Refining NZ and the New Zealand Government now face the daunting task of ensuring this doesn’t happen again. The includes reviewing inspection frequency.
Taking precautionary measures.
Maintaining the state of national infrastructure, such as New Zealand’s fuel supply network, requires a combination of on and off-site monitoring, extensive data collection and analysis, complex scenario planning and a willingness to embrace smart technology that can assist with all of the above.
The utilities sector has traditionally been slow at adopting new technology. A recent report from IDC has found 88% of APAC utilities providers are merely in the early stages of digital transformation – describing them as “digital resisters”.
However, innovation in asset management technology has meant there are more opportunities for utilities firms to increase the operational efficiency and effectiveness of structural and preventative maintenance inspections.
The use of drones is a good example of new technology that can be used to quickly assess the integrity of equipment, especially when located in remote or dangerous locations, such as wind turbines situated on windswept cliffs.
The proliferation of the cloud means enterprises can deploy mobile apps that enable in-field inspectors to document areas for repair, assess areas that require urgent attention and carry out procedures, all from an operations centre in their pocket.
Enterprise Asset Management is critical to both prevent disaster and streamline operations.