Shipment courier

Marsden Pt refinery not expected to take its last shipment of crude oil, workers say

Workers are ‘very disappointed’ New Zealand’s only oil refinery has taken its last delivery of crude oil, as refining margins rise and volatility in oil markets is exposed by the war on Ukraine.

Refining NZ, at Northland’s Marsden Point, unloads crude oil on Wednesday, after the ship Torm Ingeborg arrived on Tuesday.

Once the last crude has been processed over the next week, the refinery shutdown will begin and the company will move to a fuel import terminal, changing its name to Channel Infrastructure on April 1.

Refining NZ takes its last cargo of crude oil from the Torm Ingeborg vessel, with the Marsden Point site moving to an import fuel terminal.

NZ Refined/supplied

Refining NZ takes its last cargo of crude oil from the Torm Ingeborg vessel, with the Marsden Point site moving to an import fuel terminal.

The closure will result in the loss of 240 of the company’s 310 jobs, although some displaced workers will be retained for up to two years.

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Another 80 to 160 full-time contractor positions will also be cut during the shutdown, and the shutdown will spell the end of annual maintenance contracts, where up to 700 people are brought to the site.

The latest shipment of crude oil marks the last refining carried out in New Zealand, with refined fuel now being imported.

NZ Refined/supplied

The latest shipment of crude oil marks the last refining carried out in New Zealand, with refined fuel now being imported.

Refinery worker Aaron Holrowd, who is First Union’s delegate to the site, said the end of the refinery business was very disappointing.

“We are coming to the end when the company would be the most profitable manufacturer in the country, because the refining margins are huge.”

But Holrowd said the company’s owners intended to close the refinery and talks of making biofuels had stalled without a major government grant.

Refinery worker and fire union representative Aaron Holrowd says the end is near as refining margins are up.  (File photo)

Denise Piper / Stuff

Refinery worker and fire union representative Aaron Holrowd says the end is near as refining margins are up. (File photo)

Most workers had been able to find other jobs that used their skills, but a number of younger workers were moving to Australia, or at least out of Whangārei, he said.

“It’s a booming labor market; many people like me have a business and technical background and will find work.

Over 60, Harrowd planned to go into semi-retirement while working on contract.

In a statement, chief executive Naomi James said the final crude ship marked a milestone in the refinery’s closure after 60 years.

Refining NZ chief executive Naomi James said the company was proud to provide New Zealand with the fuel it needed and would continue to play a vital role in keeping the country moving.  (File photo)

Denise Piper / Stuff

Refining NZ chief executive Naomi James said the company was proud to provide New Zealand with the fuel it needed and would continue to play a vital role in keeping the country moving. (File photo)

The company is now focused on safely shutting down the refinery and supporting workers through the transition, she said.

First Union also said closing the refinery was unwise because it left New Zealand dependent on foreign supplies of refined oil.

Transport, Logistics and Manufacturing Secretary Mark Muller said international sanctions against Russia – a major oil producer – showed how suddenly things could change.

“A severe scenario could have major impacts on New Zealand’s supply disruption for six months or more,” he said.

Petrol prices have hit the $3 mark at some filling stations around Auckland as the war in Ukraine puts pressure on oil supplies.  (File photo)

David White / Stuff

Petrol prices have hit the $3 mark at some filling stations around Auckland as the war in Ukraine puts pressure on oil supplies. (File photo)

But the government had looked at the safety of the fuel and was confident the supply would be sufficient, said Whangārei MP Dr Emily Henderson, who is on the refinery’s transition task force.

“It’s not like we’re really changing the nature of import here – we were importing crude oil, now we’re importing refined fuel.”

New Zealand had supplies overseas and the international situation was well established, Henderson said.

MP for Whangārei, Dr Emily Henderson, said the latest crude shipment is a sad moment for Whangārei but will not impact New Zealand's energy security.  (File photo)

Robert Kitchin / Stuff

MP for Whangārei, Dr Emily Henderson, said the latest crude shipment is a sad moment for Whangārei but will not impact New Zealand’s energy security. (File photo)

In response to the war against Ukraine, New Zealand agreed to release some of its oil reserves.

But Henderson acknowledged that the latest crude oil shipment was an unfortunate milestone for Whangārei.

“The refinery has been part of our fabric for so long, it’s a sad time in so many ways.”

Henderson admitted Refining NZ left Northland in the lurch by closing ahead of schedule, meaning alternatives like biofuel manufacturing were not yet ready.

The latest delivery of crude oil, from the vessel Torm Ingeborg, will be marked by an event for guests on Friday.

NZ Refined/supplied

The latest delivery of crude oil, from the vessel Torm Ingeborg, will be marked by an event for guests on Friday.

But she was excited about a pilot project launched by Transpower that could see Northland become the country’s first renewable energy zone, where renewable electricity could be “exported” to Auckland.

Calls to Boycott Refinery Celebration

Meanwhile, a party for guests on Friday, to celebrate the refinery’s proud heritage, was called hypocritical and insensitive by Northlander Social Credit political party leader Chris Leitch.

The event was an insult to workers who were losing their jobs, as well as Northland businesses who would face additional economic stress due to the refinery’s $800 million annual revenue no longer being spent in the community. , did he declare.

Leitch was calling on guests to boycott the event, but Henderson said she would attend without a problem.

Harrowd said workers could organize their own events to share a few drinks, but not with management.

“That’s pretty acrimonious – it’s the destroyers as far as we’re concerned.”