FT - Brian Madderson, PRA chairman

During the pandemic lockdown, PRA was one of the few industry trade associations to be invited to a fortnightly fuel review with the Downstream Oil Industry Forum (DOIF) and have daily contact with the Energy Resilience Unit at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). These reviews enabled us to build really helpful personal contacts. The BEIS daily fuel volume data was circulated to all our members and proved to be very useful for establishing how their own sites were performing. The volume benchmark was set as the weekly average from January 27 to March 22, and was based on samples from 4,500 filling stations across GB (excludes NI).

One of the key factors we pointed out to BEIS was that the data was supplied by wet-stock monitoring firms, so was heavily skewed towards oil company, supermarket and large independent groups. The smaller, often singleton and rural located filling stations, were not represented. From our own informal polls/discussions with suppliers, we were able to advise BEIS about the likely number of site closures and a more realistic estimate of the volume downturn for this sector – numbering around 3,500 sites without NI.

As we lobbied government for financial support, we were able to highlight our findings. In some cases, our members were only supplying around 15-20% of pre-lockdown volumes, which had a huge impact on their financial sustainability. We believe this informed government when considering relief packages.

By contrast, BEIS noted that volumes in their sample for the first seven weeks of lockdown had decreased to 39% against the benchmark period. From the Prime Minister’s easing of restrictions in May, the larger sites saw increasing volumes through to July. Volumes increased again in the w/c 14 September to 92%. However, we are aware of smaller sites still struggling to exceed 60% of pre-Covid levels.

Meanwhile, the Department for Transport (DfT) has been continuing to roll out important consultations involving our industry with Decarbonisation of Transport, Red Diesel, Road Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) and E10 all requiring submissions.