By Dan Gibson – Wetstock Manager
The requirements for how the modern forecourt records its fuel management, or wetstock, has changed.
The “Blue Book” – from the Association for Petroleum and Explosives Administration (APEA) and Service Station Panel of The Energy Institute (EI) – now states that wetstock management by a third party is a fundamental requirement for any site with single tanks or lines.
This might seem onerous to many small businesses, who don’t want to consider another monthly outgoing, but ultimately it could lead to not only financial savings but also time and effort savings. In a “polluter pays” landscape, it’s more important than ever that a site operator employs the services of professionals to help manage their wetstock.
Wetstock management has long been seen as a cost-effective form of leak detection, not only for its potential benefits to the environment but also in the way it can help operators control their most valuable asset; their fuel. Wetstock management can help quantify seasonal effects on fuel, ease identifying maintenance issues and also to track contractor attendance for repairs.
As a result, many forecourt operators are now turning to wetstock management specialists, such as Suresite, in order to stay compliant and gain insights in to their business.
Water presence in fuel has been an increasing issue with use of biofuels and will continue to be as high levels of “bio” are introduced in the next few years. To combat this type of issue, Suresite uses data-driven alerts to centralise the management of critical alarms. You pick the threshold and Suresite implements it.
Wetstock management is not just about real-time data
‘Real-time’ wetstock monitoring has now become the norm, having been the biggest step in wetstock management in the last decade.
The step was underpinned by SIR (Statistical Inventory Reconciliation), which improved reporting of the vast quantities of data collected. The SIR aspect to wetstock monitoring has remained the same, based on the daily reconciliation data, so there is still immense value in the analysis of dip book data on its own, bringing value to sites that rely on manual dipping techniques.
Suresite offers wetstock management and monitoring for all sites, regardless of the equipment on site, with the only difference being the level of reporting available.
This means that to meet the Blue Book’s requirements, as long as a third-party wetstock specialist is reviewing your wetstock reconciliations and can provide you with monthly compliance certificates to show tank performance you will be compliant. This is an inexpensive way of having third-party wetstock monitoring as it offers no setup costs and a relatively low monthly fee.
Why use real-time wetstock monitoring?
It’s important to note that daily “dip book” reconciliation data is just the minimum specification of wetstock management. Recording wetstock on a daily basis could mean it is days or weeks before a fuel loss issue is noted, depending upon the rate of release. Using real-time data collection means that the volume of data is vastly increased and the ability to monitor the separate elements of the fuelling system is improved.
With dip book variances an increase in loss cannot easily be understood and manual tests such as pump tests or tank and line tests may be required. However, variances detected using real-time data can be drilled into and their cause determined (for example, loss on delivery or a failed meter on one nozzle).
In an industry where the polluter pays, we have seen record fines handed out in recent years – £8m to Tesco for an incident that occurred in 2014, for example. With the cost of fuel increasing and with the likely hood of significant fines, making the most of wetstock management makes sense.
Out of hours matters
As the majority of bulk fuel theft occurs at night and is carried out by organised gangs the use of real-time wetstock monitoring comes into its own.
The only true way to monitor the stock levels while a site is closed is through real-time monitoring and having actionable alerts to detect unusual activity (such as stock level changes). Thefts by organised crime gangs are typically completed within 15 minutes and they can get away with up to 7500L of fuel. Detecting the theft is one thing, getting someone alerted and on to site in a safe and timely manner can mean additional costs are prevented, as the mess left behind on site can lead to further loss of fuel and additional cleanup costs. Suresite has staff on call every day until 10pm and can provide additional cover during the out of hours periods.
Not just retail sites
Wetstock monitoring isn’t solely confined to just the forecourt. There are hundreds of thousands of commercial diesel tanks and backup generator tanks in use across the UK. These may not fall under the ‘Blue Book’ guidelines requiring SIR levels of monitoring, but the same issues – leaks, theft, spillage – still stand. Real-time analysis can be applied to these installations and provide key business support by providing key data for fuel ordering, water detection and ensuring that fuel is available at the time it’s needed. In 2015 there were 19,755 recorded commercial fuel thefts with a value of £1,469,354 with this type of theft highlighted as a worsening issue.
Implementing a basic gauging system and engaging with a wetstock provider such as Suresite, providing the monitoring and centralised alerts, can help bring peace of mind that key equipment will work as required and thefts aren’t going unnoticed.