Due to the comparatively small size of our oil market, fuels were originally imported into New Zealand by the oil companies. In 1956, oil prices were reviewed and the Government investigated the viability of refinery for New Zealand.
Marsden Point was chosen because of its convenient deep-water harbour close to the main North Island markets, low earthquake risk and the availability of land adjacent to the site.
Building began in 1962 and the refinery was officially opened on 30 May 1964 by the Prime Minister, Keith Holyoake. The first export cargo of refined product left the refinery on 1 June, followed by the first domestic cargo on 12 June.
In the mid-1980s the refinery was substantially expanded and upgraded to allow for increased production. Extra tanks, utility supplies and environmental treatment units were added along with a 170-kilometre Refinery to Auckland pipeline (RAP). The expansion cost NZ$1.84 billion. At its peak, an estimated 5000 contractors were working on this major project.
In 1988 the introduction of the Petroleum Sector Reform Act saw the energy industry deregulated. New processing agreements with the oil companies and improved operational performance have since seen the refinery maintain a strong, cost-competitive position in this deregulated market.
In 1999 New Zealand’s largest fuel testing laboratory, Independent Petroleum Laboratory (IPL) was established. IPL provides testing services to the refinery, local and international customers and government agencies.
Since 2005 Refining NZ has invested $735 million on lifting the refinery’s capacity and capabilities through a series of growth projects:
2005 – Future Fuels – allowed the refinery to produce cleaner fuels – removing benzene from petrol, and reducing the sulphur content of diesel.
2009 – Point Forward – increased the capacity on the refinery’s principle crude distillation unit (CDU1)