National | Aircraft

Marsden Point eyes environmentally friendly jet fuel to save jobs

The Marsden Point oil refinery says it is looking to produce environmentally friendly biofuel for aircrafts in an effort to save hundreds of jobs.

Last week, shareholders of Refinery NZ voted to convert Marsden Point, Aotearoa’s only petrol producer, to an ‘import-only terminal’.

The vote comes after a battle with the government over electricity prices and looks set to cost hundreds of jobs.

Now, the company has put a last ditch proposal to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to create fuel for aircraft made with organic (plant) biomass or hydrogen.

Biofuel makes up between 10 and 50 percent of the greater fuel product and requires no modifications to aircraft.

Refining NZ concedes the move will cost several million dollars to execute but would save some of the 300 jobs and 4000 downstream or contract roles set to go at the plant over the next year.

Analysts believe the government could leverage its majority shareholding in Air New Zealand to encourage uptake of the biofuel.

Speaking to Te Ao Māori News, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government was working with Refinery NZ “to see if biofuels might be an option for them in the future."

Analysts have warned of fuel insecurity created by Aotearoa losing its only petrol-producing refinery.

The head of the Northern Australia Strategic Policy Centre, Dr John Coyne, was scathing of the government last week in an interview with Radio New Zealand.

"They're very naive,”… “They're buying into a very dated view of globalisation, and they certainly haven't learned the lessons from Covid-19, around secure supply chains and national resilience."

Marsden Point says it is working on several proposals to grow the business as refining in NZ winds down but concedes many of them are further down the line than the immediate future.

"We are investigating opportunities for private storage, other imports, Maranga Ra (the solar farm project that was previously developed), the import, storage and production of biofuels, including sustainable aviation fuel." the company says.