Never has it been more important to take care of your wet stock. Obviously it’s an extremely valuable commodity and any losses are money - or fuel - down the drain. However there are bigger issues at stake - namely protecting the environment. Cause damage to the environment and it could cause serious damage to your business not least of all because of the new EU Environmental Liability Directive, which is going through the consultation process, and is based on a ’polluter pays’ principle. And don’t be mistaken in thinking your insurance will help - it will in some cases, but not all. Because of concerns about the hefty cost of clean-ups, the Association of British Insurers has agreed that public liability policies should cover sudden and accidental pollution but not any gradual pollution or the mandatory clean-up costs involved. So if you’ve got a leak that’s been dripping away for some time you could be in trouble.

Earlier this year, BP was fined £8,000 for allowing an unknown amount of fuel to leak from Kingfisher Service Station, Leagrave, Luton, which put valuable groundwater resources at risk. Luton Magistrates’ Court fined the company £8,000 and ordered it to pay £3,536 in costs. The clean-up is costing BP £320,000 - a drop in the ocean for a company that size, but an amount that could put smaller dealers out of business. Probably the best way to prevent this happening to you is to invest in the best equipment you can afford and also have the best possible checks in place.

== at your service ==

Fairbanks Environmental unveiled its next generation I-bank wet-stock management service at IFFE earlier this year. Using ’real time’ data analysis, it records every customer sales transaction and change in tank stock levels. Managing director Bob Conlin explains: "This enables us to deliver world class leak detection, equipment diagnostics, pump flow rate and meter drift monitoring, as well as in-tank alarm reporting and loss investigation escalation, automated fuel replenishment facilities and environmental compliance monitoring."

I-bank works alongside established POS systems, independently of service station staff. "Real time ’visibility’ enables our analysts to quickly detect and investigate unacceptable wetstock loss and provide more efficient fuel delivery management through immediate tank stock level monitoring," says Conlin.

This monitoring includes everything from the timing of tanker deliveries to stock level trends and dispenser use to give retailers control over their operations. And up-to-the minute data is available from Fairbanks 24/7, via its multi-language web portal.

Conlin continues: "I-bank analyses individual sales, providing flow-rate details for each fuel dispenser. Our staff are then able to identify abnormal flow rates - possibly indicating a leak or the need for routine maintenance. It can be possible for the tank gauge systems’ own alarm to go unnoticed by busy service station staff but I-bank not only monitors the tank gauge for its alarm conditions, but sends alerts to a central station for action."

He says meter over-measure is possibly the biggest cause of stock loss: "Traditionally, this has been tackled by regular meter calibration checks. However, I-bank provides immediate identification of individual over-dispensing meters - enabling adjustments to be made without a scheduled programme or unnecessary calibration checks on other meters."

Meanwhile Edensure is enjoying great success with its ES3 system, which has recently unveiled a weekend wetstock analysis service. By assessing reports at the weekend, Edensure guarantees that any leaks are identified immediately and the forecourt is alerted and necessary action taken. Linda Cash, operations manager, explains: "Feedback from customers revealed there was a gap in the analysing that took place. The results produced using ES3 are highly accurate but require analysis to identify disparities. We found that on weekends forecourt managers were often too busy to assess them. The ’Weekend Wetstock Analysis’ trial started several months ago with a select customer base. Our analysts were on hand 24/7 to assess the results produced and gauge if any losses had occurred."

The pilot scheme was such a success that Edensure implemented it on a permanent basis. Companies gain access to this free service when they purchase the ES3 system. Edensure’s ES3 costs operators £130 per site per month.

== accurate identification ==

The Didcot-based Fraser Group uses Edensure’s ES3 service. Company director, Hugh Fraser, comments: "I have been in this industry for over 30 years and had various tank gauges and systems that have claimed to identify wet-stock loss.

"The difference with ES3 is that it can pinpoint the problems and tell me exactly where my losses are occurring.  It can identify which pumps are over-dispensing and by how much - this level of accuracy means we can make timely management decisions and cut back the nozzles that are costing us money. ES3 also lets us know when we have been under-delivered, which is a very important aspect of the service. We now have the power to go to our suppliers and show them evidence of short deliveries.  Having this information to hand is helping us to negotiate a more balanced relationship."

Finally, earlier this summer Edensure joined forces with Texaco on a tour of England and Wales to meet with its sales and forecourt managers to discuss their wet-stock management needs. Edensure’s managing director, Martin McTague, explains: "We were presenting our system to dealers and encouraging them to adopt it to protect their business and the Texaco brand. That’s because if Fred Bloggs has a leak at his Texaco site, customers won’t remember his name but they will remember Texaco’s.

"Wet-stock management is becoming an increasingly hot topic so it seems right to introduce our services to dealers wherever possible."


=== case study - snax 24 ===

In 2005 Snax 24 signed a new dealer agreement with BP and included in that was the remote wet-stock management service provided by Fairbanks.

Operations director, Giles Taylor, explains: "We have benefited from the targeted meter calibration and reset programme which has generated significant savings - since implementing the service our overall site losses have reduced.

"Fairbanks monitoring and warnings give us back-up to our existing systems plus the comfort of knowing that if we do suffer losses then they will manage the investigation and keep us all fully informed. We particularly appreciate being able to speak directly with the wet-stock analysts looking after our sites. We also have access to our data at any time via their website, which is particularly helpful when a petroleum officer calls.

"The fire safety risk assessments included in the service contract have helped us identify trends and implement cost-effective programmes for any remedial works required. The total package of services leaves us feeling safe in the knowledge that we are always up-to-date with any petroleum-related forecourt compliance issues."


=== Fairbanks’ top 10 tips for good wet-stock management ===

1 Risk assess your site and decide whether your control measures are adequate to control wet-stock loss. Determine what loss rate (in litres per day) your system would detect. Are your current equipment and procedures good enough to detect a small loss? A small continuous leak of as little as 0.38 litres per hour (9litres per day) can be very difficult to detect, but will result in releasing over 3,000 litres into the ground in one year.

2 Consider installing secondary containment tank and pipework. Prevention is better than cure, but it does come at a price. Consider the cost benefit of replacing single-wall tanks and pipework with double-wall systems or installing a double-wall lining system.

3 Make sure that your leak detection systems are operating correctly. You can take comfort in the knowledge that your leak detection alarms and sensors will warn you of a problem - but only if they are working properly. Carry out routine checks and ensure they are in good working order.

4 Measure the fuel in your tanks accurately.

Make sure that your tank contents’ measuring device is well calibrated. If you use dipsticks, make sure they are correct for each tank and adopt a best-practice procedure for accurate dipping.

5 Record daily sales at the same time as taking tank stock levels. If your POS and tank gauge are interfaced then this will happen automatically, otherwise you need to implement a robust management procedure to ensure this happens.

6 Implement a loss-investigation escalation procedure. Once you have detected a problem, it doesn’t stop there. You should have a well-understood set of procedures that will guide your staff through a series of steps which will help you identify the cause of the loss, whether this is a leak, pump over-dispensing, theft, delivery anomalies, equipment faults or human error.

7 Either ensure that you always have trained staff who are competent in wet-stock control and loss investigation or consider using a third-party monitoring company. With high staff turnover, this can be difficult to achieve. When using a third-party company make sure that you understand the level of protection being provided and use a company accredited to a recognised standard.

8 Make sure you notify the relevant regulatory authorities when you suspect a leak. It is highly recommended that you contact your petroleum licensing authority and the Environment Agency as they will want to work with you to resolve the problem as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.

9 Consider the benefits of real-time monitoring - it can remove the burden of manual processing of data by site staff and can speed up a loss investigation by pinpointing the problem, thus avoiding an otherwise lengthy investigative process.

10 Treat wet-stock control and management with the appropriate degree of importance and urgency. It is often because the processes go on largely unseen that wet-stock management does not receive the attention that it deserves. Take it seriously and invest wisely in your protection measures and it will pay dividends in the long term.