More than 100 forecourts closed in the UK last year – while an extra 46 supermarket forecourt sites opened, according to the Energy Institute (EI). Figures from EI’s latest UK Retail Marketing Survey showed that the number of petrol stations in the UK declined by 111 in 2007, although the rate of closures actually slowed – the figure compared with 382 closures in 2006 and 587 in 2005.

This left 9,721 working forecourts in the UK and Northern Ireland at the end of December 2007. Meanwhile, the number of supermarket sites increased by 46 to 1,237.

Other findings in the EI report included:

– oil company sites declining by 239 to 5,549

– main retailer sites increasing by four to 1,240

– smaller retailer sites decreasing by 16 to 107

– other unbranded sites increasing by 94 to 1,138

The data also suggested that an increasing number of drivers were switching to more efficient diesel cars – with petrol sales continuing to fall. Diesel sales rose by 869,000 tonnes to 21m tonnes in 2007, a jump of nearly 40% over the last decade. Meanwhile, petrol sales totalled 18,000 tonnes, a drop of 72,000 tonnes on the previous year, and 17.3% below decade earlier levels. Total road fuel sales rose by 2% to 39.087mn tonnes.

Other data showed that the number of registered UK vehicles reached an all time high of 33.4m in 2007. There were 759 quick-serve restaurants attached to forecourts (eg. Little Chef, McDonalds), and 651 in-forecourt (eg. Wild Bean Café, Bake N Bite). Average site throughput, at 4,251,193mn litres/year, was a new record level, while 782 sites now sell auto-LPG – the largest operators are BP with 209, virtually unchanged on 2005 (207), and Shell with 158, up two from 2006. In addition, 949 sites were retailing biodiesel (up 451 from 2006), with 578 retailing bioethanol (up 181), and 2,849 sites sold super unleaded petrol, 376 more than in 2006.

The five biggest oil company operations by number of branded forecourts were (2006 figures in brackets):

– BP – 1,146 (1,212)

– Texaco – 1,018 (1,041)

– Esso – 880 (910)

– Shell – 880 (872)

– Total – 855 (909)

– Taxation of retail motor fuels was running at 50.35 pence/litre on both petrol and diesel at end-2007, VAT remained unchanged at 17.5%.