Auckland Airport is burying new fuel pipes in 4m-deep trenches below its airfield to make its infrastructure more resilient.
The 4.4km pipeline currently pumps up to 14,300 litres of fuel a minute to 22 different aircraft stands, enough to fill the petrol tanks of 240 average cars.
The first lengths of new pipeline that will run fuel throughout the airfield have been laid in trenches, with steps and shields to secure the sides.
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The reliability of aviation fuel infrastructure was thrust into the spotlight two years ago after the pipeline which carries it from Marsden Point to Auckland was ruptured near its source. The pipeline shutdown caused aircraft groundings and led to an inquiry which recommended fuel companies be required to invest in their own infrastructure.
Auckland Airport's manager of development and delivery, Andre Lovatt, said pipeline work on the airfield was a key component in developing resilient infrastructure for the airport's future growth.
The existing airfield is also being expanded as part of a multi-billion dollar infrastructure development programme designed to revitalise the airport over the next decade and cater for a forecast doubling of the number of passengers by 2044.
During the next three years, more than 250,000sq m of land, the equivalent of 30 rugby pitches, will be converted into new airfield space at the western end of the airport beside the international terminal. This will add more than 18 per cent surface area to the airfield.
Lovatt said the pipeline development is designed to cater for future airfield developments and anticipated growth, including the new domestic jet terminal.
That is planned for the southeastern end of the international terminal and will allow the dated domestic terminal to be revamped for regional operations.
There are more than 200 projects under way now and the pipeline development is one of them.
"Throughout this complex project, we're hopping ahead – area by area – to lay the lengths. All of which has to be done while maintaining fuel supply throughout the airport facility," Lovatt said.
Laying the half-metre wide pipeline was intricate, with on-site contractors closely following airport plans mapping out existing underground utilities.
"The team on the ground have to maintain facilities as they go. So existing water pipes and electrical lines are protected while the new pipeline is put in."
Once the new pipeline is laid and up and running, the existing line will be decommissioned. The imported 12 metre-long sections of pipeline arrived in August with the final parts joined on site.
The airport has just started work on a new Park & Ride car park to the south and is widening roads in its Northern Network area. Work is about to start on a new arrivals area for international passengers.