A new CCR (Continuous Catalyst Regeneration) unit has started operating at New Zealand’s only oil refinery, replacing the existing gasoline making plant (semi regeneration platformer) that has been in operation for around 50 years.

Refining NZ, owner and operator of the Marsden Point refinery, said on Wednesday that the unit is producing “on-specification” gasoline three weeks earlier than originally scheduled.

Sjoerd Post, CEO of Refining NZ, described the NZ$365 million ($243 million) Te Mahi Hou project as a significant investment in critical energy infrastructure.

“This is a major milestone for Te Mahi Hou, and follows four years of hard work — designing, planning, scheduling and construction — all of which has contributed greatly to Northland as well as the New Zealand economy. There is still more to do in the coming weeks to bed the project into the refinery but for now, everyone involved can be justifiably proud of getting Te Mahi Hou to this major milestone,” he said.

The CCR unit is expected to boost the refinery’s gasoline production by two million barrels to around 13 million barrels per annum. This will increase the refinery’s share of the country’s gasoline demand from around 55 percent to 65 percent.

At the same time, it will reduce CO2 emissions by an estimated 120,000 tons a year thanks to improved efficiency on the refinery’s processing units.

Post said: “Te Mahi Hou is key to the growth of our refining business. When it’s bedded in Te Mahi Hou will be a valuable revenue generator that will help ensure we remain competitive with Asia Pacific refiners.”