Grant Bradley

Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Vector steps up Maui watch

Vector has stepped up monitoring of the Maui gas pipeline as investigations into the leak which cost the country tens of millions of dollars continue.

The company operates and maintains the 307km pipeline, a small section of which split, forcing a shutdown for almost a week late last month which led to some large factories and milk processing plants closing for several days.

"As would be expected, heightened monitoring and surveying of the pipeline has been in place since the incident and will stay in place for the foreseeable future," a spokeswoman said.

Vector is also the critical contingency operator which has the power to ration gas. It has already published an initial incident report detailing what happened and is due within the next week to release a second performance report.

Vector itself is conducting an investigation aimed at establishing the cause of the failure.

And the Ministry of Economic Development has also commissioned a wide-ranging review including an investigation into the cause of the cut, the adequacy of pipeline maintenance and risk management practices and the preparedness of businesses for the cut and for potentially more significant outages.

"The review will enable the [energy] minister and interested parties to understand the cause of the outage, what effect the outage had on consumers of gas, any issues relating to health, disruption of food supplies, pollution, and business continuity planning," the MED terms of reference say. Results of the review will be published in February.

During the early stage of the shutdown it was estimated Fonterra was losing up to $20 million a day as milk was dumped because it could not be processed. Early this month the company was reportedly considering its insurance and compensation options.

Insurance sources said there did not appear to have been any large claims lodged yet. Insurance risk consultant John Sloan said many policies specifically excluded the Maui pipeline from claims in many big company policies.

The first critical contingency incident report found the gas escaped through a 120mm-long split in the gas pipeline in north Taranaki. The second report will be subject to submissions from affected groups.

POST MORTEMS

Investigations into the Maui pipe failure:

* Two critical contingency operator reports.
* Vector internal investigation.
* Wide-ranging MED probe.

- NZ Herald

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