Forecourt Trader - 30 years at the heart of the fuel retailing community
Fuelling debate
Published:  27 August, 2010

The big news this summer was the launch of Shell's FuelSave (available in unleaded and diesel), which claims to be able to save drivers up to one litre of fuel per tank from the very first fill at no extra cost. The cynics may shake their heads and mutter 'No way' but it's an attractive proposition for drivers who are currently shelling out on average 120ppl.

There's no guarantee about the savings but Shell's marketing director David Wood says the company has been very conservative in its claims: "We're very confident in our claim. Our reputation is extremely important to us and we wouldn't want to do anything that gets us accused of misleading our customers."

He continues: "What's so great about FuelSave is that people save without paying any more money for it. People are used to having to pay more for something in the first instance before getting paid back. But with FuelSave, they benefit from this innovation by just going to Shell."

FuelSave unleaded and diesel are replacing regular Shell unleaded and Shell diesel across the UK. They are available everywhere except for 61 sites in the south west due to logistical challenges, which Wood says Shell is working on.

Wood points out that FuelSave is more expensive to produce than regular fuel but says Shell hasn't increased the price for dealers or drivers instead the company hopes to get its money back via an increase in market share.

Shell scientist Jo Smith describes FuelSave as a "really big breakthrough" for the firm. The unleaded version contains an efficiency improver, which Smith says took five years to develop. This improver is designed to reduce energy losses by lubricating where normal engine oils can't easily work. This then helps engine components to turn more freely, resulting in more of the fuel's energy being made available to drive the wheels. This can improve engine efficiency and therefore fuel economy.

Meanwhile, the diesel version is designed to ignite and burn more quickly than regular diesel which helps with more effective combustion in engines. It is also designed to help prevent the build-up of deposits on fuel injectors and this in turn can help improve an engine's efficiency. Says Smith: "When we talked to customers there was a clear message that they wanted improved fuel economy and reduced motoring costs. We developed FuelSave in our extensive network of test facilities. We first tested the formula in the lab, then scaled it up and did engine tests then fleet trials."

Cars for testing were chosen by their different engine technology and Smith says they were representative of the vehicles seen everyday on the roads.

FuelSave was first launched in the Netherlands last year where Wood says it has been very well received. "We've had a positive reaction in all markets so we feel very confident about it."

Wood says that whereas Shell's premium VPower fuel is for car enthusiasts, FuelSave is for all drivers.

The new fuel is being championed by cricketer Freddie Flintoff, who is urging drivers to take up Freddie's Challenge to become more fuel efficient in their driving style (www.shell.co.uk/freddieschallenge).

Says Flintoff: "I used to be guilty of all kinds of bad driving habits which meant I was using much more fuel than I needed to. Just simple things like always having the car's air con turned on or stuffing the boot full of my cricket gear and the kids' stuff! Then I met the scientists at Shell and they showed me some easy tips on how to improve my fuel efficiency which also saved me money at the same time."

His aim is to get over 100,000 UK drivers trained up in fuel efficiency by the end of the year.

FuelSave is part of Shell's Smarter Mobility programme which aims to speed up the global shift to cleaner, more energy-efficient road transport. It has three parts: smarter products, smarter use and smarter infrastructure.

Over at BP, spokesman Mark Salt says all its fuels are designed to keep engines clean and protect against the build-up of deposits to help maintain efficiency. He adds: "BP Ultimate fuels are specially designed to clean your engine as you drive and their advanced formula can also offer additional benefits including increased fuel economy (up to 28 extra miles per tank for Ultimate unleaded, average 13 miles, and up to an extra 22 miles per tank for Ultimate diesel, average eight miles), increased power, better responsiveness and lower emissions."

Alternative fuels

LPG stands out as being the most affordable and available 'alternative' fuel. So says Jem Aldridge, general manager of Autogas. "With LPG now available from over 1,400 refuelling stations nationwide and an estimated 160,000 LPG-powered vehicles on the UK's roads, LPG really is the third fuel of choice. It's debatable even that LPG should be referred to as an alternative fuel such is its availability and proven benefits."

One of those benefits is cost: "LPG currently retails at around half the cost of petrol or diesel and the differential between these common road fuels and LPG has never been greater," stresses Aldridge. "Motorists can now save up to 40% on fuel by switching to LPG."

Aldridge adds that vehicles running on LPG considerably reduce the harmful emissions that contribute to environmental and health problems compared to traditional road fuels.

"LPG vehicles produce 17% less carbon dioxide than petrol and 2% less than diesel; 120% less NOx than petrol and a staggering 2,000% less than diesel; and up to 120 times less small particle (PM10) emissions than diesel vehicles."

Autogas is committed to improving the network of refuelling sites by making LPG available on more forecourts in key locations. For example, in July LPG was added at Gordano Services at junction 19 of the M5.

On the vehicle front, Proton is launching its Gen-2 ecoLogic model that customers can drive away and immediately refuel with LPG. But it seems Proton is unusual as Aldridge says manufacturers of commercial vehicles seem to be more inclined to offer LPG as a customer option than those making cars. He says Citroen is working with an approved installer to offer LPG conversions that meet the manufacturer's warranty conditions and Ford is producing a derivative of its popular Transit model ready prepped for conversion by a list of approved installers.

Aldridge continues: "The cost of converting a vehicle to run on LPG by an approved installer can be recovered in less than two years, depending on the mileage and fuel efficiency of the vehicle and once the conversion is carried out, the financial and environmental benefits are immediate."

Eco-friendly cars are certainly catching on. According to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, registrations of alternatively-fuelled cars (including hybrids) in the UK doubled in the first six months of this year.

And alternative fuels keep on making the headlines. Scientists at the University of Leeds have found a way to produce hydrogen fuel from waste vegetable oil. While GENeco, a Wessex Water-owned company is fuelling a car from human waste. Described as the UK's first people-powered VW Beetle, the Bio-Bug runs on methane gas generated during the sewage treatment process.

Apparently waste flushed down the toilets of just 70 homes in Bristol is enough to power the Bio-Bug for a year, based on an annual mileage of 10,000 miles.

GENeco's general manager, Mohammed Saddiq, explains: "Our site at Avonmouth has been producing biogas for many years which we use to generate electricity to power the site and export to the National Grid.

"With the surplus gas we had available we wanted to put it to good use in a sustainable and efficient way. We decided to power a vehicle on the gas offering a sustainable alternative to using fossil fuels which we so heavily rely on in the UK."

He reckons that if you were to drive the car, you wouldn't know it was powered by biogas as it performs just like any conventional car. "It is probably the most sustainable car around," he says.


E5 - water content is key

Now that ethanol has been introduced into most parts of the UK retail fuel supply chain, retailers need to switch their focus from monitoring water bottoms in tanks, to water content in fuel. Edward Wheeler, managing director of Eurotank Environmental (pictured below), explains: "Before ethanol was introduced, UK fuel retailers were advised to remove all free water at the bottom of their tanks. By doing so, the risk of phase separation was eliminated, although some retailers have experienced the phenomenon, with the source of the water a major point of contention.

"Now that the terminals and retail sites have been operating with ethanol for an extended period, these fuel systems should remain relatively dry, due to the moisture-absorbing properties of ethanol-blended fuels.

"For sudden major phase separation issues to occur, water ingress into above or below fuel storage tanks needs to take place. The most common source of water ingress into tanks is via leaking fittings within underground tank manholes."

Moving forward, Wheeler says it is important for retailers to consider the monitoring of pump samples of both standard unleaded and super unleaded. "The higher the water content of the petrol, the more corrosive it can be against steel tank walls, particularly at the very bottom of the tanks.

"To get an accurate 'dead bottom' sample from an underground storage tank, can be difficult and expensive. Therefore, retailers should use their forecourt dispensing equipment to take samples and monitor for upward trends, which should raise an alarm before major phase separation issues occur."

He says a typical nozzle sample from tanks containing ethanol-blended petrol should contain somewhere in the region of 300 to 600 parts per million (ppm). Although there is no water content specification within EN 228, retailers should avoid selling fuel with a water content greater than 1,000ppm.

"The main reason 1,000ppm needs to be avoided is because phase separation can occur with water content as low as 1,500ppm.

"Phase separation is when previously blended ethanol comes out of solution as it becomes wet and therefore has a higher specific gravity (weight) than the petrol itself.

Pumps suck (or push, if you have submersible pumps) fuel from 50-100mm off the bottom of the tank floor.

If the fuel at this height in the tank contains up to 1,000ppm, then it is highly likely that the fuel at the very bottom of the tank will contain significantly higher water content, due to the specific gravity taking the wettest fuel to the base of the tank.

"Therefore if you are delivering 1,000ppm water content petrol or super unleaded to your customers, phase separation could occur within a very short time frame and may have already caused accelerated corrosion to your underground storage system."

He adds that it's important to note that phase separation should be a rare occurrence, at site-specific locations, which is determined by the amount of moisture building up within the tank.

"The more deliveries you have into the tank, the dryer the system. Premium/super unleaded tanks are perhaps at greater risk than standard unleaded."


Retailer view

"Biofuels how the greens kill the world. The dozy buggers in Brussels decided that we should run our cars on an ever-increasing blend of biofuels. These fuels have less energy per litre than hydrocarbon fuels so we burn more of them. They have less litres per tonne anyway. The result is that E5 is 33ppl more expensive than normal unleaded and biodiesel is about 24ppl more expensive. They react with water and damage tanks and fuel lines. The diesel blocks filters and coagulates in tanks if there is water present. Our deliveries are so hot, they are sweating. Is it the mix that requires such high temperatures? Our stock losses are higher than ever with biofuels. Tank cleaning costs thousands.

There is no standard as there was with simple hydrocarbon fuels. Engineers seem to spend all their time unblocking filters these days. Has it saved the world? Has it b******s."




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Weekly retail fuel prices: 15 January 2018
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East124.9460.90131.85122.27
East Midlands124.34132.31121.54
London125.0662.90132.42122.10
North East123.94133.63121.07
North West124.1658.50132.51121.18
Northern Ireland123.4169.90128.40120.85
Scotland124.5774.90130.88121.33
South East125.1561.40132.52122.48
South West124.73130.24121.91
Wales124.44128.57121.19
West Midlands123.7465.23132.27121.20
Yorkshire & Humber123.9161.90132.74121.12

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