As Petrol Stations Run Out of Petrol Could Rail Provide an Answer?

Mitigation and forward planning


As reports trickle in petrol stations are starting to run out of 95 Unleaded Petrol and that the Navy is using their tanker to move diesel around the place (see: Auckland fuel crisis hits petrol stations) we need to look at redundancy capacity to ensure energy security not just for Auckland but New Zealand as a whole.


This just in:


If you use 95 or 98 gas I recommend topping up today.


Yesterday in my UPDATED: Military Joins Relief Efforts. Marsden Point Fuel Line Saga Shows New Zealand’s Lack of Redundancy Capacity I had pointed out the following:

Some facts and figures:

  • A standard rail tank car for our narrow gauge would hold 50,000 litres, a large tanker can hold 100,000 litres and still be pulled by the big DL locomotives
  • The Airport goes through 3 million litres of avgas a day
  • In the event of a pipeline failure one train of 30 x 100,000 litre wagons or two trains of 30x 50,000 litre wagons a day would be needed to move the Jet Fuel from Mardsen Point to a bulk liquid transfer terminal in Wiri. A standard Metro Port container train from Auckland to Tauranga can move 50-70 wagons
  • 3 x 12 million litre tanks for jet fuel. That is 36 million litres or enough 12 days supply at 3 million litres consumption
  • Delivery through the pipeline is  325,000 litres an hour (average)

Source for last two figures come from Wiri Oil Services Limited.


So apparently it has been known for a while that the pipeline like the National Grid (electricity) had vulnerable due to the stringy nature and no back up supply.


Simply put Auckland is going to need a second supply line for both redundancy and growth into the future. A second pipeline from the shipping tanker terminal at Port of Tauranga to Wiri via Hamilton, as well as extra tanks in Wiri and a new 20 tank farm facility in Hamilton would be the minimum we need. I have used Tauranga to Wiri via Hamilton as well as a new tank farm in Hamilton for two reasons:

  1. Redundancy that coastal shipping and the “southern pipeline” can cover in case the “northern pipeline” was put out of action
  2. Growth especially residential and industry inside the Golden Triangle (Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga) area over the next Century


Wiri Oil Terminal


In that post I had called for a separate pipeline from Tauranga to Auckland via a new Hamilton Tank Farm to be built. Given the time it would take to clear the Resource Management Act and get the infrastructure built a second option needs to be looked at.



Yep Rail bailing New Zealand out of another disaster YET AGAIN.

Building the Marsden Point to North Auckland Line branch line, repairing the North Auckland Line north of Swanson, and getting some rail tanker wagons would allow the movement of fuel from Marsden Point Refinery to an oil station in Wiri (where the fuel then is piped to the Wiri Bulk Terminal). As noted above at least 30 wagons are needed daily to move the required amount of jet fuel to Auckland. Another 30-50 wagons (minimum) would then be needed daily to move 91, 95 and diesel (although Diesel can still be shipped by tanker from Marsden Point to Wynyard Quarter’s bulk terminal then trucked to Wiri). This means two to four trains a day moving at night from the North to Wiri via Newmarket to keep fuel supplies up.


This is a good short-term measure until the second pipeline is built. However, this measure won’t be effective post 2023 when the City Rail Link opens as the Western and Southern Lines will be full of passenger trains.



You can tell this is a moving feast as I was writing this .


So the question becomes do we need to build the Avondale to Southdown bypass rail line to allow freight to move its way from Northland to Auckland bypassing the Newmarket area?

The line could be very well needed even after a second pipeline is built and other freight is resumed between Auckland and Northland. But at least the by building the bypass and having the tanker cars present we would have that redundancy capacity we do not have right now – and are feeling for it!.




4 thoughts on “As Petrol Stations Run Out of Petrol Could Rail Provide an Answer?

  1. Just one issue – a 100,000 litre rail tanker is a very large tanker. The Kiwirail OM Class milk wagons can only carry 59000 kg gross weight and they are Kiwirails largest bulk liquid wagon.
    KiwiRail is more likely to use standard isotank containers – each 20,000 to 25,000 litres and carry 2 per flat bed wagon. These are used to ship fuel to the islands. So 30 wagons will carry about half the daily requirement, so 2 trains a day. I agree with you neglect of Northland rail has removed resilience from our transport infrastructure.

    1. I used 100,000 litres based on the US 119,000 litre oil tanker cars and scaled it back for our narrow gauge.

      I might have not scaled it back enough although our DLs could easily pull them along.

      Reflecting on this I’ll go edit the post later today for 50,000 litres and the very large 100k litres

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