The free Petroman System won in our recent Forecourt Trader competition was installed at the Rheged service area in Cumbria in December.
Over the coming months we will return to the site to independently verify whether the system saves retailers the amounts of money the company and its customers claim.
The three elements of the £17,000 system were installed in three underground petrol tanks on the forecourt at the Rheged complex, owned by the Westmoreland group.
On its forecourt, the site has a throughput of around 2.75mlpa with a stock loss of about 0.2%. Andy Smith, Westmorland’s group forecourt manager, hopes the new system will bring this down to less than 0.1%, but Petroman is confident it can exceed these expectations.
The Petroman system is designed to reduce stock losses by preventing petrol vapour being returned to the refinery through the stage 1b vapour recovery system.
The installation of the three elements was carried out over two and a half days without interrupting the forecourt’s trade.
The first stage involved installation of a panel of balancing valves and a manifold in the vent-pipe system for the vapour management panel.
The valves prevent as much vapour as possible going into the vapour recovery hose of delivery tankers. If pressure builds up to near a dangerous level in one of the tanks, the system uses empty space in the other tanks to even out the pressure. Only when the pressure becomes too high (over 33mb) across all the tanks, does it release vapour through the stage 1b system.
The first job the Petroman team had to do was to dig down to expose the lowest joint of the four vent pipes so a new manifold could be installed for the three petrol tanks and the diesel vent was temporarily capped off.
Petroman’s senior engineer, Phil Lyons, says: "Luckily there was a strong floodlight nearby, as we had to dig late into the evening to get to the joints and dig out the footings for the risers that support the panel. We knew we had to finish it that night as the weather forecast was predicting the coldest night of the year and the ground would have been like concrete the following morning."
After finishing the digging, the team could not leave the site until they had attached new short sections of vent pipe, a new manifold and the temporarily supported panel casing, to leave the site safe and tidy.
The following morning they set about building a frame to permanently support the panel, installing the valves and neatening up the appearance of the installation.
Lyons says: "The panel is very visible on a forecourt, so we always try to give it the best appearance that is possible, using flexible plastic trim, neatening up the ends of bolts, and painting the lower pipes, which always get stained with sealant."
The final part of the first stage was attaching new vent pipes to the back of the panel and the capped off diesel vent. Great care was taken to ensure that all the pipes were evenly spaced and the same height. The second element to be installed was the Accumulus valve. This involved cutting a position out of the fill pipe, relative to the overfill prevention device, and then inserting the Accumulus valve into the pipe near the top.
The valve uses and amplifies the suction effect of petrol going through the pipe during each delivery, so sucking vapour into the stream and reintegrating it into the stored stock. This then becomes saleable product.
The third and final element to be installed was the Softfill. This is a tapered 125-500mm-long straight tube with dozens of small holes along angled sides. It attaches to the bottom of the fill pipe at one end, and has a small wheel at the other. The end nearest the fill-pipe has a joint to allow the Softfill to lie at right angles when it is in the tank.
When the pipe and Softfill assembly is reinserted into the tank, the wheel guides the unit along the bottom of the tank. When the next delivery is made, the new petrol will dissipate calmly through the Softfill, producing much less vapour than with a normal fill-pipe.
After the softfill installation, the whole system was pressure-tested to ensure the valves worked properly and there were no leaks.
To ensure the validity of the results, Vianet Fuel Solutions (VFS) agreed to independently verify the figures through its wet-stock monitoring system. As well as simple sales and stock-loss figures, the system will also monitor such things as temperature of stock and pump meter drift; the aim being to eliminate all extraneous factors, so the results will show purely the effect of the Petroman system. The full results will be the subject of a further report in Forecourt Trader.
"We have faith in the products," says Petroman managing director, Rodney Carter, "as we have proved they work time and time again. The only problem is that people think the results are sometimes too good to be true, so we have had to do the convincing, one customer at a time. We decided that the only way to prove how much we can save a forecourt was to present it openly and publish independently-verified results."