The first signs of a $365 million expansion to the Marsden Pt oil refinery will start being visible to the general public next week with work starting on removing two massive oil tanks to make way for a new Continuous Catalyst Regeneration Platformer.
The $365-million CCR project will lift the refinery's capabilities up to 80 per cent of all New Zealand's fuel needs, providing a more reliable fuel source for the country. Construction will create about 300 on-site jobs and hundreds more off-site over the next four years.
Refining New Zealand communications manager Greg McNeill said about $81 million had already been spent on the CCR project, including engineering design and constructing foundations and pipe works for new pumps, but the removal of the two massive tanks - taking about nine weeks - would be the first changes the outside world would notice at the site.
"Before we could do that we had to convert two other tanks to take different fuels. That's now complete so work can start removing the two tanks," Mr McNeill said.
"This is the most noticeable above-ground work visible so far and is when the project really starts to kick in."
Of the total investment of $365 million, around $147 million is expected to be spent in Northland.
The expandable tanks - each holding up to 34 million litres of crude and measuring 18.4m high by 49m in diameter - have been filled with water and will be removed section by section from the top down from Monday.
Once removed, work will begin on the CCR itself, starting with the foundation, which will take about 12 months. Further construction will take a further 12 to 18 months.
The CCR replaces the refinery's 1960s petrol processing unit, increasing capacity by three million barrels of crude a year. The plant will also lower carbon dioxide emissions by 200,000 tonnes a year.
The existing petrol making plant (semi regeneration platformer) would otherwise require an investment of about $105 million to extend its operational life beyond 2015.
CCR technology is proven in the refining sector and used around the world. It will enable Refining NZ to process more crude oil, and a wider range, more effectively and efficiently.