Oil industry shows good planning for Y2K

The country shouldn't stop running at the end of this year. The oil industry, a regular in everyone else's contingency plans, is saying it's on track to Y2K success. The four main players in New Zealand's oil industry, Shell, BP, Caltex and Mobil, share a number of facilities including the Marsden Point oil refinery. 'We're all down to the business continuity planning, we've ordered generators, we're conducting peer testing where we go into each other's sites to have a look,' says BP's John Machin.

The country shouldn't stop running at the end of this year. The oil industry, a regular in everyone else's contingency plans, is saying it's on track to Y2K success.

The four main players in New Zealand's oil industry, Shell, BP, Caltex and Mobil, share a number of facilities including the Marsden Point oil refinery. "We're all down to the business continuity planning, we've ordered generators, we're conducting peer testing where we go into each other's sites to have a look," says John Machin, millennium project manager for oil giant BP. He's tested alternative telecommunication services in case Telecom isn't available.

BP has a shipping fleet of 30-odd supertankers and imports oil into New Zealand from a variety of source countries — most in the Middle East but some from Indonesia and other "boutique fields". The nearest supply depot is in Melbourne, and supplies would take four days to reach New Zealand. Machin isn't worried about New Zealand running out of fuel if things do go wrong with Y2K. "We normally have up to 60 days' supply at various locations around New Zealand, if you include petrol stations, depots and so on." The summer break usually means a busy time for petrol stations, and BP is taking extra steps to ensure tankers can get petrol to the various retail outlets even if the power is switched off.

"We've tested gravity feeds for all our trucks so we know we can load them up and get them going even without electricity. We've tested the system with full tanks and even with mostly empty tanks and we're confident we can get the fuel into the trucks without too much trouble."

The four main oil companies also own two coastal tankers that have been checked for compliance.

"We've just had an external audit on the ships and there have been a few minor issues that we've found, and they've either been fixed or there's a manual work-around in place." The ships will be operating with a full crew, to reduce reliance on automation, and to be absolutely certain, the ships will be in dock on the night of December 31.

One way companies that rely on fuel can help themselves, says Machin, is if they top up their tanks in October or November.

"It wouldn't be a problem, and I don't mean to start them panic buying, but it would mean we were running at capacity."

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