RMI Petrol has warned that the mass exodus from the UK refinery market could result in the major oil company brands disappearing from the dealer sector.

The comments followed US company Murphy Oil putting its Murco Milford Haven operation on the market – meaning four out of the eight refineries in the UK are now up for sale.

RMI Petrol chairman Brian Madderson said: “The major oil company brands could disappear into being company-owned only, so there will be fewer of them. If independents were unable to access the premium brand players – Shell, BP and Esso – at an affordable price, then they would have to look at the alternatives.”

He explained it could well make other companies, such as Harvest Energy, Gulf and ConocoPhillips, see their brands rise in prominence on the forecourt. UKPIA’s Nick Vandervell said oil companies faced tough UK conditions due to EU legislation and the economic situation.

The recent announcement by Murphy Oil also included the news of its plans to offload its entire retail network in the UK.

The company hasn’t revealed details of any potential buyers, although it said it anticipated a transaction being completed in the first quarter of 2011.