Concerns over handling biofuels on the forecourt were the hot topic at last month’s Esso Dealer Forum, which was themed ’In Good Company’. The two-day event, held at The Belfry hotel in the West Midlands last month, included a series of seminars on topical issues, with the biofuels seminar proving extremely popular with retailers. Issues raised included how retailers should prepare their site for a delivery of the new controversial ’eco’ fuels.

The 160 dealers who attended the event heard how Esso was converting its terminal at Birmingham to bioethanol on July 1, making it the first major oil company to do this in the UK. Andrew Cannell, Esso’s European biofuels project manager, revealed that the Hythe terminal would be converted on December 1, with a date for its Irish operation to be confirmed.

Cannell also gave retailers a rundown of what they needed to do to prepare for accepting their first delivery of biofuels. This included inspecting the site to make sure no water was present in the tank, making sure enough E5 was delivered to ensure the right mix, and carrying out regular checks to ensure no water was present. If water was detected, he advised retailers to stop selling the product immediately.

Meanwhile, retailers at the event also heard a recorded media interview from Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil CEO, as well as talks from Karen Dickens, Esso’s executive director, fuels marketing UK & Ireland; Mark Mason, Esso UK dealer operations manager, and Rupert Bravery, service strategy manager EAME for the Mobil 1 brand.

Representatives from other companies, such as Coffee Nation and Cadbury, gave updates on their brands and products.

The Esso event, for UK and Ireland retailers, also included the opportunity for those attending to try their hand on the Belfry’s golf course. A networking dinner and a charity auction helped raise £13,000 for Esso’s anti-malaria charity work through the charity Help Us Help.

Retailers were full of praise for the event.

Robert Miller, who runs Fordel Service Station in Dalkeith, Scotland, said: "It was a great opportunity to meet lots of Esso people. I’m usually doing so many other things that I tend not to go to many events, but the content of this one was too good to miss."

Steve Dyer, manager of Thornfalcon Garage in Taunton, said: "There should be more events like this. Over the past few years there seem to have been fewer and fewer, and we need to be able to meet up with colleagues and talk.

"These events get you up-to-date with the latest legislation and you learn about issues such as biofuels - we’ve had most of our information on biofuels so far from the PRA, but it’s been rather quiet from the oil companies. This event has been very useful for finding out a bit more on Esso’s plans on this and other issues."