Nearly 30 billion litres of diesel were sold as road fuel in the UK last year, according to UKPIA’s newly published Statistical Review 2018. Its compilation of UK downstream oil industry statistics found that in 2017 diesel demand grew by around 1%, while demand for petrol remained virtually flat compared to the previous year. And while that 1% increase for diesel might sound good, it compares badly to the average annual growth rate of 4% over the past three decades. Although diesel sales increased by 1%, the Review reports that sales of diesel cars decreased by 17.1% last year, and demand for petrol cars grew by 2.7%.

Diesel currently accounts for over 65% of total road fuel sales. Meanwhile, sales of petrol have been falling since reaching a peak of 33 billion litres (73% of the market) in 1990; today, sales of petrol have fallen to 16.1 billion litres.

UKPIA reports that road travel demand has been on an upward trend for decades and, despite a flattening in growth during the recession, demand is forecast to increase in the future. However, it says that due to advances in engine efficiency, this trend is not going to be reflected in product demand.

The Statistical Review found that overall demand for petroleum products grew in 2017 to 69 million tonnes – a slight increase from the previous year. UK refinery production fell to just over 60 million tonnes of product, down 20% from 2011, mainly due to production losses from the closure of the Coryton refinery in 2012 and the Milford Haven refinery in 2014, as well as capacity reductions. The majority of oil products processed at UK refineries is consumed in the UK market – approximately 62%.

Writing in her introduction of the Review, the Rt Hon Claire Perry MP, Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: “The downstream fuels sector has an historic role in underpinning economic prosperity in the UK, and as the UKPIA’s latest Annual Statistical Review reminds us, oil still plays a major role in driving UK prosperity and will continue to do so in the coming years.”