You know your pumps need replacing when the dispensing rate slows down, caused typically by the pumping unit wearing out and reducing suction. Then there’s the problem of meter drift, which can again happen over time, and means you’re giving your fuel away.

"Typical life cycles of fuel pumps can be in the range of 10-30 years depending upon annual throughput," says Barry Onions, head of sales (UK and Ireland) at Petroassist. "We would recommend replacing fuel pumps on an average throughput site of 3mlpa after 20 years to eliminate the amount of meter drift and fuel giveaway."

Petroassist is the official Wayne distributor for the UK and Ireland, and Onions says the Helix range is renowned for its compact size and reliability.

"There are currently five models in the range from the Helix 1000 through to the Helix 6000, so there is a model to fit any forecourt requirement. The Wayne Helix 6000 is the best seller due to its iconic design, compact footprint and height, which allows for great visibility across the forecourt for the operator. It also allows for any combination of fuel grades from the standard unleaded/diesel grades and their ’super’ alternatives through to specialist grades like AdBlue and LPG that can be combined in the same unit as standard grades."

The latest addition to the Helix range is the Additive Pump, which allows the forecourt operator to add super/special grades to their site without the need for major redevelopment work. "The additive pump works by having inbuilt storage tanks for the additive component that can be refilled on site allowing the operator to add extra grades and increase their profitability," explains Onions.

He says that installing new fuel pumps can be a relatively straightforward process if the existing site grades are being reused for the new pump installation. "One of the major factors that we must consider is the fuel volume and the amount of works taking place on the installation. If the work is considered to be a ’major refurbishment’ then the site is likely to need Stage 2 Vapour Recovery to be installed in the new fuel pumps and the associated pipework installed underground. Many older sites do not have Stage 2 installed and Petroassist would always advise talking to the local Petroleum and Environment Health Officers before starting works to seek agreement on whether this is required to be installed."

Interestingly, a new partnership between Europump Maintenance and vapour recovery system supplier TST Electronics gives retailers the ability to have a best-in-class Stage 2 system retrofitted to existing dispensers not originally installed with the technology, potentially eliminating the need for a more costly pump replacement.

A Stage 2 vapour recovery monitoring system measures the ratio of petroleum spirit being recovered versus the amount of petrol dispensed. Without active monitoring on your pumps where Stage 2 is fitted you are required to carry out laborious weekly checks on the pumps using a ’whistle test’, which is applied to the nozzle and whistles as the pump dispenses product.

Jack Aplin, service director of Europump, says: "This fairly crude method at least proves that the vacuum pump is drawing vapour but it doesn’t prove what the ratio of vapour to liquid is. If the system is over-compensating by pulling in more vapour than liquid dispensed, then a lot of vapour will go back to the tanks, causing over-pressure and the vapour will escape to the atmosphere out of the vents.

"Some Stage 2 vapour recovery systems have caused very big problems for pump maintenance companies in the UK and some pump manufacturers have incurred huge costs to go back to fairly new pumps and replace failing monitoring systems."

Retrofit of the TST system is possible thanks to small, space-saving components and the ability for sensors to be installed at any angle. Reliability is further improved by the -40 to +60 degree operating temperature (some systems struggle below five degrees) and a Vortex sensor, which is not affected by dirt or liquids that can get into the system through the nozzle. Self-monitoring and dynamic self-adjustment features also significantly reduce service calls.

Meanwhile, Petrotec Group has been manufacturing and supplying fuel pumps since 1983. Its current range called Progress is installed in over 20 countries. The Progress range has five models Progress 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000 and 5000. The best seller globally is Progress 1000 thanks to its compact footprint, but it is closely followed by the Progress 5000 model which has grouped hoses for a modern styling and has proved popular in the UK retail market.

Mohammad Ajmal Dar of AK Fuel says they have installed Petrotec Progress pumps on several of their sites after installing other makes in the past. "We have been very pleased with their speed and reliability and really like the stainless steel finish which makes them robust."

Petrotec has developed an ’Adaptor Plate’ system for replacing old pumps with new Progress models making it efficient and cost-effective to replace like-for-like units. "Modern options such as Stage 2 Vapour Recovery and ATC must be taken into consideration and our experienced sales team can advise customers on a site-by-site basis on these options," says Miguel Sinval, the company’s country manager UK.

Another Petrotec development will come later this year with the launch of an outdoor payment terminal for independent retailers. "This will allow interfacing to the majority of epos systems," says Sinval. "We believe this will be very popular with retailers wanting to extend their business hours without the need for an increase in staff."

Keeping clean

While it’s important to keep pumps clean it’s also vital to help customers keep protected when refuelling and that’s more crucial than ever now to avoid transmission of Covid-19.

Over the past month in excess of 2,000 forecourts across Europe, North America, the Middle East and Australia have signed up to Devon-based GripHero’s offer of free hand-protection dispensers for fuel pumps, including several from our Top 50 Indies list.

Nick Fraser, director of Fraser’s Retail, says: "Efficiency and high standards are at the heart of everything we do within our business. In deciding to use GripHero as our hand-protection solution, we want to be protecting our customers in the most efficient way possible, while minimising our impact on the planet and eliminating waste."

Meanwhile, Michael Gatty from Hills of Corby Hill group, which has installed GripHero across its 13 sites, comments: "At Hills, we’re very proud to be doing the best we possibly can for our customers’ safety. By rolling out GripHero on all fuel nozzles across our group, we will be standardising protection for all drivers visiting our sites at the exact point of fuel delivery."

GripHero is the only dispenser in the world permitted to sit on fuel pump handles. The use of ATEX-certified anti-static hand-protection material removes all chance of ignition caused by static, uniquely enabling the dispensers to be fitted in the refuelling zone. So, when the UK government announced nationwide restrictions as a result of Covid-19, the company’s MD Oli Yeo decided that offering dispensers free of charge (until the end of April) was the right thing to do. "By ensuring that hand protection is available at the precise point where it is needed GripHero helps to ensure that motorists do not come into contact with plastic and metal surfaces where Covid-19 could easily be passed from one driver to another."

Stevenson Forecourts

As part of the £1.2m development of its new-to-industry Northallerton site, Stevenson Forecourts invested in Gilbarco SK700 pumps. Managing director, John Stevenson, says: "The pumps were recommended by a couple of pump maintenance colleagues that have no allegiance to any manufacturer.  We used to have Gilbarco pumps years ago and knew they were well made and reliable."
The pumps include a button that doubles the diesel dispense rate. "I’m not sure how many people use it but we do get comments from van drivers that they like it."
John has a maintenance contract with Gilbarco: "The main reason for this is because the site is so busy we need downtime to be minimal. By using the manufacturing company we have found they have more parts available on their vans for quicker repairs. To be fair though the pumps are less than two years old so we have not had many call-outs at all."
John adds that keeping the pumps clean is crucial. "We check them several times a day to see if any immediate attention is required."

Prospect Service Station

Harog Ltd bought Prospect Service Station from the Co-op in 2015 and redeveloped the site in 2018. Director Roger Perry chose Tokheim Quantium 510 pumps for the site as he had re-pumped his other site in 2010 with Q500 pumps, which were the predecessors of the Q510s. "I’ve found these pumps to be very reliable with no meter drift over the time we have had them," he says: "I also have a good relationship with Tokheim so it was a natural choice to discuss the work required with them. But I spoke to three different suppliers in all and got similar quotes from each. What swung it in favour of Tokheim was their reputation for quality equipment which I have experienced myself.
"The pumps at Prospect are proving to be excellent. They are a key part of my business and the nice thing is that I hardly ever have to think about them. I think we have had one service call in 18 months, which I regard as fantastic.
"We managed to negotiate an extended warranty with the pumps which is something that I would suggest is well worthwhile. Once the warranty runs out then we will have a contract as it prevents any nasty surprises and usually ensures better service when you have to make a service call."
The site also has a dedicated AdBlue dispenser. "The AdBlue pump relies on the margin that can be made rather than sales volume and is a significant benefit in my view. It is much more convenient to use from a customer perspective than cans; reduces the amount of manual handling my staff have to do; and solves the problem of all those empty cans that customers leave behind."