Gas supplies to most Hawke's Bay consumers, including big fruit and vegetable processors such as Heinz Watties, will return to normal today after gas supplier Natural Gas Corporation (NGC) successfully repressurised its flood-affected pipeline last night.
Supplies were cut after the pipeline to the region was damaged by flooding in Manawatu on Monday.
NGC gas processing and transportation general manager Michael Cummings told NZPA today that the pipeline was successfully repressurised about 8.30pm last night.
Gas supplies were affected after raging floodwaters washed out the Pohangina Bridge near the Manawatu town of Ashurst. The pipeline ran across the bridge.
However, Mr Cummings said despite being knocked off the bridge and downstream into the flooding river, the pipe had remained intact.
Pressure tests had been completed and engineers had been able to find no fractures in the pipe.
As a result the pipe had been repressurised and NGC customers were being brought online throughout today.
Mr Cummings said although the line had been repressurised sufficiently to return customers' supplies to normal, further repairs would be needed to bring it up to full pressure.
Engineers were currently building a temporary structure across the Pohangina River that a new temporary section of pipeline could be put across.
That work would hopefully be completed by Friday next week, he said.
However, the long-term solution would be to place a permanent section of pipeline either in a trench dug in the river bed or through a space drilled under the river bed.
That work would take six weeks to two months, he said.
The risk of having the pipeline resting on the river bed, as it was currently, in flowing water was that it could be hit and damaged by debris if there was further flooding, he said.
Food giant Heinz-Wattie used LPG gas to resume limited sweetcorn processing yesterday, but had its entire workforce of 600 on standby for normal production today and Sunday.
The night shift at Hawke's Bay Wool Scourers was also on standby to resume production as soon as the gas came on and a team of electricians and engineers were preparing the Awatoto plant.
General manager Nigel Hales said the plant would work seven days a week to catch up. The gas-enforced closure had caused the company to miss shipping connections for its scoured wool.
McCain Foods was running at 50 per cent capacity yesterday after converting some of its boilers to diesel. New Zealand general manager Ian Wilmot said the Hastings plant could be in full production within 12 hours of the pipeline reopening.
"If gas is flowing later... our harvest crews will be in the field picking sweetcorn," he said.
Ray Pantoja, of the Turbo Group which operates the Masonic Hotel, was not abandoning his "plan B". Boilers were still being converted to run on diesel so the bars and restaurants could reopen for Napier's Art Deco Weekend, which begins today.
"We have plan A and plan B and we are working on both in case one falls over," Mr Pantoja said.
Gas Association chairman Trevor Goodwin said last night consumers must wait for their retailers to contact them regarding reconnection to the network.
"Gas supplies are still precarious and resumption must be staggered to avoid a sudden draw-off of gas. This could cause further serious problems," he said.
Herald Feature: Storm
Related information and links