The average fuel margin across Europe last year was just over five pence per litre, according to Wood Mackenzie, one of Europe’s leading energy information companies specialising in downstream oil markets.

Its survey data also revealed that the UK continued to have the cheapest pre-tax petrol and diesel pump prices in 2004, despite a background of volatile crude oil and product markets.

The data was based on Wood Mackenzie’s Opal service which monitors major brand pump prices across 11 EU member countries. It revealed that the UK average pre-tax pump price of unleaded 95 petrol was 21.6ppl, 0.6ppl and 1.1ppl cheaper than the next lowest countries – Germany and France.

The UK was also the cheapest pre-tax for diesel, averaging 22.84ppl, compared with 23.3ppl in Germany and 23.9ppl in Spain. Chris Hunt, director general of the UK Petroleum Industry Association, said the survey underlined just how competitive fuel retailing continued to be in the UK, with pre-tax pump prices having been consistently among the lowest in the EU over the past eight years.

“We also have a good refining and supply infrastructure in the UK and despite testing market conditions, our members have been investing at their refineries to prepare for the move to sulphur-free fuels. Combined with new vehicle technologies, these new fuels will help improve fuel efficiency and deliver further improvements in exhaust emissions.”