Jamie Thompson was Principal Petroleum Inspector for London Fire Brigade for 38 years, dealing with all filling stations in the Greater London area. He is also currently Chairman of the European Standards Committee (CEN TC 393) dealing with equipment for service stations, and Chairman of the underground and aboveground tank committee (TC265 WG8). FACTS sat down with Jamie to discuss fuel dispensing and site management best practice.

What are the key concerns that fleet operators must consider when establishing a refuelling set-up on their sites?

Environmental and safety concerns are top of the list. Operators should make sure there is no leakage from the tank or pipes that is going into the surrounding environment otherwise they will be subject to a hefty fine from the Environment Agency. A recent example is of a leak of 23,500 litres of fuel at a Tesco petrol station in Haslingden, Lancashire. The fuel polluted a nearby river and forced those living nearby to vacate their homes. Due to the high-profile nature of the business, the fuel throughput of the station and the seriousness of the leak, a fine of eight million pounds was handed down.

Transport managers do not always have the expertise to know about the wide variety of tanks and pipes that are available. Underground tanks, aboveground tanks, different pipework systems; you rely on someone else to do it correctly. The APEA can offer assistance here.

What can fleet operators do to prevent against leakages?

Make sure the site is secure – if you have underground tanks, you should have double wall tanks with leak detection. The same with pipework – if you have pressured pipework which a lot of people do, they should be plastic, double walled pipes with leak detection devices too. Also, they should have water separators in their drainage system so if there is any leakage, or spillage when dispensing, it should go to an oil-water separator to make sure that no fuel flows offsite.

How can fleet operators ensure high standards of safety and security with their on-site refuelling set-up?

There are guidance documents available; the Red Guide from the Energy Institute tells you how to operate a service station. Fleet operators can look at that guidance. Someone at the fleet operation should be in charge of this and check periodically that everything is up to standard. This document can give you good guidance in this regard.

What technology (software, fuel management systems etc) is available to help operators?

The APEA offer the Blue Book which offers guidance on the design, construction, modification, maintenance and decommissioning of a filling station. It includes fleet operators in that. It also includes advice on how to install, decommission and maintain fuel equipment. That is available on our website.

In order to minimise fuel loss, those managing fuel facilities should look into Statistical Inventory Reconciliation (SIR) for underground fuel tanks. There are electronic devices or companies which will check how much fuel is being dispensed and make sure you are delivering the same amount of fuel as you are receiving, and you are not losing it through leaks. People should be incorporating SIR technology if they are running the system themselves, and particularly if they are running several sites. Weekly or monthly reports can be generated, and alerts can be set if leakages or irregularities are observed.

Aboveground tanks must be bunded. This is not only a matter of limiting fuel loss but the major issue is limiting the environmental impact of a leak. The environmental impact and subsequent financial penalty to a business can far, far outweigh the loss of 20 or 50 gallons of fuel.

What are the key responsibilities of the APEA?

The APEA was founded around 60 years ago as petroleum enforcing regulators came together to find a unifying approach. Companies were doing things a lot differently to each other in those days. Over the years, this has built up to include not only petroleum regulators but industry and commercial partners as well. The APEA works to produce guidance and best practice on operating fuel equipment. We offer the relevant training too. For example, I will soon be travelling to Belfast to carry out a training course over three days to make sure people have the knowledge they need to operate safely and securely.

For more information: www.apea.org.uk