Fuel for thought
Latest trends in fuel and its supply
Fuel – you need it, there is no way round that. However, it is not just diesel that is available, there are various blends of bio-fuels on the market and an added requirement is for AdBlue, especially as Euro6 comes to the fore.
Chris Peat has contacted companies involved with fuel supply and management to find out what trends there are in this segment of the industry.
Portland Fuel Price Protection
Joe Tuohy from Portland Fuel Price Protection has noticed the recent drop in fuel prices has led to an increased amount of hedging activity, as operators seek to lock in their budgets for next year at a significantly lower level than previous years. He believes there will always be a future for hedging, saying, ‘Fuel remains one of the largest costs for any operator and hedging enables them to turn an unknown cost into a fixed cost. No other mechanism can provide this degree of budget certainty.’
‘It’s a fantastic option for anyone who cannot pass on the cost of rising fuel prices on a daily basis. Fuel hedging has been widely used by larger operators for a number of years, and thanks to Portland small and medium sized operators can now access this mechanism too.’
With alternative fuels, like CNG and biofuel, coming to the fore, how does the cost of these compare to diesel? Joe said, ‘Alternative fuels will always have their place in the market. However at current prices they are not commercially viable, hence why so many are heavily subsidised.’
As diesel prices fall, so too does the interest of alternative fuels, according to Joe. He said, ‘The falling diesel price undoubtedly makes life even harder for the alternative fuels suppliers. The higher diesel price has for a long time been the major driver for switching to alternative fuels; this is no longer the case.’
Director of Rix Petroleum Hull Ltd, Duncan Lambert, is very much in favour of fuel hedging. He claimed the practice is still a good option for any business wishing to fix its overheads. He said many businesses need to quote a fixed price for a period of time and that if a fuel escalator is not in place, then fixing your fuel is the best way to ‘control costs and ultimately guarantee your margin’.
Duncan said, ‘Buses and coaches sell a lot of packaged days/weeks and print forward offers, therefore, fixing fuel cost has become very important to the daily budget. The duration of a fix is very much down to the operator, none of us like to fix then to see the market go below that mark. However, if you have fixed your margin then the goal has been achieved.’
As well as fuel hedging, another option is to use fuel cards. Fuelcard Services supplies the Shell Bunkercard. Suitable for coach operators, it offers fixed weekly diesel prices at all Shell service stations throughout the UK and a further 0.4pence per litre rebate at the 200 plus Shell Bunkercard sites. One of the benefits listed for this method of purchasing fuel is that no cash is tied up in yard stock, you only pay for the fuel you use. The card can also be used to pay at the M6 Toll. Only fuel, lubricants and AdBlue can be purchased using the Shell Bunkercard. Fuelcard Services offers a similar product for Esso, BP and Texaco services, or for Scania fleet operators.
Other fuel card companies are available too, including DKV Euro Services and the Fuel Card Group amongst others.
Another fuel supplier is Watson Group. The company have been in operation for over 50 years. Not only does it supply diesel, but it also offers fuel cards and a variety of lubricants.
Something some may not realise is that all diesel contains 5% to 7% bio-fuel content by law. This is something JA Envirotanks has taken note of and is letting its customers know about. The company says this bio-fuel content is ‘an ideal breeding ground for microbial contamination’. This is mainly due to the increased amount of water present where the bio-fuel acts as a detergent, cleaning the inside of the storage tanks allowing dirt to be dragged into the pump systems. Bio-diesel typically holds up to 25 times more suspended water than petroleum diesel.
Colony forming units of bacteria grow on the water-fuel interface, becoming heavier, until they drop out of the fuel to the bottom of the tank. The bacteria feeds on the fuel, breaking down the carbon chains, leading to poor vehicle starting, excessive smoke and reduced power output. As a consequence, storage tanks can become contaminated as the micro-organisms start breeding, necessitating more regular tank inspection and cleaning. To combat this, JA Envirotanks provides the JAE Jensen fuel polishing kit. This offline filtration system can automatically reduce the percentage of water content, eradicating the bio-microbial bugs’ potential breeding ground.
Cookson & Zinn
Bio-fuels are something Cookson & Zinn have had to address over the last few years. The tank specialist has had to develop ways of dealing with water contamination and bugs caused by them. John Reynolds from the company said there are two problems they pose: poor performance from the fuel itself and the fact it can corrode the metal of the tank over time.
To overcome this, the company has borrowed technology ideas from the aviation industry, producing its tanks to sit on a cradle that slopes at an angle of 1:50. They have a pipe at the end with a nozzle, which allows contractors to siphon off the waste that sits at the bottom. Something else borrowed from the aviation sector is to give the containers an internal epoxy lining. This gives protection against corrosion from bugs. John reports the company is selling more of these tanks now, as awareness of the problems associated with biofuels increases.
When it comes to storing biofuel, Ledbury Welding Sales Director, Kevin Powel, said its storage practices depend on the concentration of the fuel. B30 biofuel (a 30% bio mix with diesel), can be stored in a bunded tank and kept in the same conditions as standard diesel. Greater percentages need to be stored in a heated and insulated tank that has been specially adapted to that substance. The container needs to keep the substance warm to stop it from thickening. In some cases, this means keeping it above 17degreesC. Ledbury Welding can provide all of the accessories required for this inside its standard tank design, including thermostats and temperature control systems.
Kevin said his company’s products are designed to facilitate their own maintenance, which is important as they feature more mechanical parts. They are also insulated and designed to keep in latent heat. When it comes to buying these tanks, Kevin said it is important to keep in mind the whole life cost, rather than just the initial outlay.
Ledbury welding have worked with bio-fuel supplier, Argent Energy, a number of times, supplying storage solutions for their product. Argent manufactures bio-diesel from waste, producing around 60m litres of it a year. Dickon Posnett, Development Director at Argent, said the interest in finding alternative fuels has got serious in the past few years, leading many to start blending it into diesel. Many opt for B25 (25% biofuel and 75% diesel) due to its ease of use, requiring the same storage facilities as normal diesel. It has the benefit of reducing the amount of carbon emitted, but is still essentially a diesel.
TfL want B20 in all its buses as part of its push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in London. This demand is something being echoed across the country, according to Dickon. Qualities and blending of biofuels have come on in ‘leaps and bounds’, he claims. He said it is a ‘quite complicated’ process, as the green fuel can be manufactured from various materials.
The purer and better distilled it is, the more efficient burn it will achieve. In terms of how much money can be saved through using biofuel, Dickon said, ‘Generally speaking, if you do longer runs, then you will notice a slight saving. Coaches certainly would.’
When it comes to saving money and saving fuel, Energenics is one company to keep in mind. The company provides its Envirox product, which is added to vehicles’ fuel tanks. It uses nanotechnology to improve fuel economy. Also available from Energenics is Envirox DPF Assist, a fuel treatment designed to enhance the running of a DPF.
Tuffa UK Ltd has been designing and manufacturing plastic and steel fuel storage tanks of up to 200,000litres for over 30 years. The company has noticed demand for tanks for the storage of diesel has ‘risen tremendously’ over the years to allow cost-savings associated with bulk buying fuel and it has seen a rise in fuel tank sales. More recent times have brought the need for improved filtration of water that can build up in bio-fuels, which it says can prove to be costly, thus the company provides suitable filtration in the form of water and particulate filters.
For those looking to store an alternative fuel but not wanting to buy an entirely new tank, Tokheim might have a solution. In partnership with Fenotec, the company has developed a new leak protection lining solution, which can be installed in a few days to provide years of protection to underground tank units. The liner gives old tanks new capabilities, so that they can handle a variety of fuel types and bio-fuels in the future. Tokheim’s liners are made of high quality materials that comply with current regulations for a long lasting life. As well as this new offering, Tokheim provides solutions for all fuel storage, dispensing and management needs.
UK Bunded Fuel Tanks
MD of UK Bunded Fuel Tanks, Chris Knight, said all bio-fuel can be stored in a steel tank and his company provides equipment for this. His containers have been updated to cope with the bio-fuel content of diesel, such as changing the pipework to better deal with it.
The main storage issue he was keen to talk about was AdBlue. He said the need for this substance is high, with a great deal of vehicles in the industry now requiring it due to Euro6. He believes this high demand will last for at least the next ten years. His company provides a combined AdBlue and diesel tank.
UK Bunded Fuel Tanks can supply mild steel fuel tanks for diesel from up to 200,000litres with a companion AdBlue container. The latter is designed to withstand the highly corrosive nature of the urea in AdBlue. The pair is coupled with a fuel management system, which allows users to download information to the back office detailing what fuel is being used by each vehicle.
Centre Tank Services
Centre Tank Services is selling a lot more AdBlue equipment too. Michelle Goodfellow from the company noted that previously operators preferred to buy AdBlue in smaller containers. She said many fleet are now entirely composed of AdBlue using vehicles, which means it makes more sense for operators to store it in larger tanks.
Centre Tank Services provide all dispensing and pumping devices for this, being the UK distributor for Piusi equipment. As well as this hardware, the company also provides management systems for AdBlue, which work similarly to how versions for fuel work, even incorporating vehicle tags for identification of who has taken what.
Manufacturing and supplying pumps for bio-fuel, as well as standard diesel, is Fuel Proof. One issue the company has had to overcome with products for bio-fuel is the filter blocking on pumps in cold weather. The dispensing hose going brittle is another problem. The company has overcome this by producing them with a different material.
In terms of the tanks themselves, Ben Pilkington from Fuel Proof said the company has not had to implement any design change to cope with bio-fuels, they remain all-steel constructions. Ben has noticed more of his customers are now looking to use a higher grade of bio-diesel, usually around the 30% to 70% concentrate mark.
As has been mentioned above, Ben has noticed AdBlue is of real interest to the industry at present. His company provides equipment for this, making sure it uses stainless steel to avoid the damage caused by the urea in the chemical. These separate storage units are installed on the side of fuel tanks.
Merridale/MIS Fuel Monitoring
What became clear to MIS Fuel Monitoring Director, Stephen Hannan, during the early days of the introduction of 100% bio-diesel in the industry was that vehicle manufacturers had not accounted for its use. He warns against mixing bio-diesels, which he says from one operator’s experience has led to disastrous consequences, damaging tanks and engines.
Pumping and dispensing solutions are available from MIS that are suitable for use with up to B30 bio-diesel. The company can obtain the necessary components to pump B100 bio-diesel if required. Stephen said pumps that aid lubrication of bio-fuel, which itself does not lubricate itself properly, are required. However, he says he has not supplied these products for ‘three or four’ years now, perhaps hinting at the lack of demand for it these days. MIS does not provide LPG or CNG pumps, but will connect its fuel management systems up to the latter.
MIS is seeing a lot of demand for web based fuel management systems, with Princess Coaches adopting such a system recently. Also, the company finds more operators are looking to do away with driver tags when it comes to monitoring fuels, with fuelling data downloaded wirelessly.
Triscan says it is committed to supporting those looking to use alternative fuels such as CNG, LNG, LPG and bio-fuels, as well as AdBlue users. The company can employ a combination of software and hardware solutions to provide the reporting infrastructure that customers need to underpin low-carbon transport strategies, and support the rollout of dual fuel vehicles across the fleet.
The hardware has been designed to control multiple pumps and monitor dual fuel products at the same fuelling point, ensuring all transactions are fed back to one central, web based server and appear on the same report against the vehicle. Full fleet management reporting facilities are enabled by connecting the fuel management system with Triscan’s Odyssey World software, which collates multi-site, multi-vehicle transactions in one central database to help simplify reporting and management.
Last year, Asda Logistics Services invested in Triscan’s Apollo 2 (LNG Fuel Management System) to monitor both LNG and diesel at its newly opened distribution centre in Avonmouth, Bristol. Alongside this initiative, the supermarket chain also invested in Triscan’s automatic mileage capture device, KisskeyOBD, to ensure that the refuelling process was simple, quick and exceptionally accurate. These products would also be suitable for bus and coach depots, particularly the latter, and have already proved popular with customers such as First Group, Abellio and National Express.
Triscan employs a team of dedicated engineers and Project Managers, based across the UK, to respond to customers’ needs.
As well as bio-fuels and the use of more AdBlue, another recent development is the fact all newly installed diesel dispensers now require ATEX certification for use in potentially explosive environments. This requirement is due to a recent EU Regulation, which also means CE marking and the relevant EC declaration of conformity are required too. Previously, only pumps / dispensers for Petrol, CNG, LPG & Hydrogen needed to comply with the ATEX Directive. The new ruling means that diesel dispensers must now also meet the requirements.
Fuel pump manufacturer, Pumptronics, has long held Certification for ISO 9000 Quality Management including the additional manufacturing quality module for ATEX. For instance, its C series dispensers already have the required ATEX approval in place and its Zeon range now also complies. Pumptronics supplies over 200 products and has the ability to develop tailored solutions to meet the specific requirements of customers.
In order to apply a CE marking, the manufacturer of such equipment must assess all risks and the need for compliance to all applicable directives before applying such CE marking and signing the associated Declaration of Conformity. Pumptronics believe the change in classification of diesel may affect many commercial pump manufacturers and users of equipment. Even if the site owner considers his premises to be perfectly safe, the pump manufacturer needs to make sure equipment is suitable for use.
Another fuel management system provider is Fuellink Systems, which manufactures the Fuellink ST that provides constant, secure real time control of fuel. Each terminal features Fuellink Spectrum hardware, which ensures data is collected using the latest industry standards.
This information is transferred to the company’s Fueltran web based server, which provides fuel information to any device with internet access. The system also allows managers to send text messages or work instructions to staff via the Fuellink terminals ready for collection when the vehicle or driver next draws fuel. Replies can be entered at the terminal and will be sent back to Fueltran. Fuellink ST can operate with touchless tags, fuel cards, keys and automatic number plate recognition systems. In addition, Fuellink ST can use vehicle or driver identification with or without pin codes and works with fuellers, supervisors or managers. Code sharing allows you to share resources with your partner organisations.
Oil Tank Supplies
Offering a complete package in terms of in-depot fuelling is Oil Tank Supplies (OTS). The company takes a project from start to finish, taking care of all aspects of installing a fuelling station. With Euro6, AdBlue is becoming a big requirement in the industry and in line with this the company now provides a multitank with diesel and AdBlue pumps.
OTS also provides a filtration kit, which has a remote cycle and puts the fuel through different stages of filtration to maintain its quality. With AdBlue at risk of freezing at particularly low temperatures, the company has introduced a heated nozzle.
The company’s Bill Bower has found bus operations tend to have older installations in place already, but OTS can add to what is already there, retrofitting equipment.
Management systems are taken care of by OTS too, with all data collected by its equipment sent back to a single website application. Bill said this enables operators to monitor fuel going in and out, allowing better management and determining when is best to schedule deliveries. A technology he is finding of increasing interest is an on-vehicle tag that wirelessly registers whenever a vehicle has entered the fuelling bay. This replaces the tags given to drivers to log into a fuelling system. Companies using this, he claims, have seen a lot less fuel usage.
OTS offers to go to customer’s depots and carry out a fuel test, looking at the site and seeing how it runs, before suggesting what solutions could be rolled out to improve the fuelling system.
FuelTek offers a complete package for fuelling. The business designs, develops, manufactures, installs and services a complete range of fuel management systems and fuel dispensers. It supplies a wide range of ancillary equipment for the commercial re-fuelling industry to complement its own products. It can provide products either individually or as a turnkey package. Privately owned, FuelTek claims its staff have many years’ experience in the commercial vehicle re-fuelling industry. Its wares are designed to be reliable and versatile systems that are uncomplicated, robust and easy to use.
Timeplan is believed to have been the first modern fuel management company in existence. It has provided this technology since 1978 and since those days it has maintained its aim of providing quality, reliability and good customer service. Innovation and development of its products to keep up with changes in the industry have also been a key concern. It lists a large national operator amongst its customers, as well as a range of smaller independents.
Centaur and MCS Card Systems
In partnership with MCS Card Systems, Centaur Fuel Management has developed a new entry level fuel management system. The new Sapphire Lite range of terminals has been developed after extensive research into the market. It follows on from the two companies’ Sapphire terminal and TSM (Total Site Manager), which operate by means of broadband, 3G or wireless connections. Used in bus and transport depots, the Sapphire terminal operating in conjunction with Total Site Manager (TSM) uploads transactions in real time, allowing the fleet manager to track their vehicles and transactions as they are happening. The terminal is compatible with all major pump suppliers and accepts up to four pumps. It also has the ability to incorporate fuelcards, allowing the fleet manager to monitor on-road and home depot transactions as they happen and all on one screen.
The new Sapphire Lite terminals coupled with custom developed software for secure contactless monitoring and reporting are designed to offer the complete entry level solution for fleets of all sizes. The Sapphire Lite, with its USB interface, is intended for fleets working to a limited budget but still wanting increased control and an online interface.
Mark Cope of Centaur said, ‘The new range of terminals offer a significant improvement over existing entry level hardware with improved accuracy and control. Initial feedback from installed systems has been extremely positive. Whilst we offer a number of systems, some more established than others; we can say with no bias that the new terminals have a definite edge and are already reducing our customers fuel bills.’
FuelQuip can provide fuel management systems for fleets of all sizes and for fuels of all types. As well as diesel pumps, the company has experience installing gas oil and Adblue pumps, all of which are controlled via its management systems, for multiple vehicle refuelling and transaction recording. It uses the GIR fuel management system, which is designed to be reliable, flexible and user friendly. To support solutions once they are in place, it offers a 24/7, 365 day a year customer helpline to assist with onsite problems to service contract customers. FuelQuip is Oftec registered and members of the APEA (Association for Petroleum and Explosives Administration) and PEIMF (Petroleum Equipment Installers and Maintenance Federation).
A range of fuel management equipment is available from TransFlo, providing entire end to end solutions. Its products are installed on some of the largest fleets in the country. One of its products is the SmartAVR, which offers refuelling transparency, coupled with integrated system security. Its technology automatically recognises the vehicle pulling up to a dispenser and will decline access to all vehicles that are not authorised to draw fuel from the tanks.
To help manage fuel stock, Optimum offers a solution for its customers. Tanker loads of fuel (from 10,000litres up to 37,500litres) can be delivered on the basis of a tank monitoring system, whether that is based on client records or a ‘Telemetry AUTODERV’ facility at the customer’s depot or garage. Stocks are then reconciled on a weekly basis. Deliveries are made to suit customer requirements, but generally between 06.00 to 17.00 or 17.00 to 22.00 during week days.
An ongoing issue with fuel is security. Diesel thieves are an all too common occurrence, but there is equipment out there that can help. Fuel defend has a range of anti-siphon devices for various buses and coaches. It provides models for ADL, Bova, DAF, Irizar, Ashok Leyland, MAN, Mercedes-Benz, Optare, Scania, Van Hool and Volvo.
Two levels of TISS’s TankSafe anti-theft tools are available, including its Impregnable version. This is designed to completely stop any siphoning, skimming and diesel spills. The float-valve prevents skimming or siphoning of any fuel from the tank, even small amounts that the company claims may go unnoticed by fuel monitoring systems.