In 1998, underground storage tank regulations required all fuel site operators to upgrade their tanks with spill-prevention and leak-detection equipment. Rather than invest in the costly upgrades, many stations closed.
With the evolution of alternative fuels rapidly changing the nature of today’s market, many fuel marketers are facing a future of similar investments. Planning for these challenges is essential to ensuring future compliance and success.
The retail fuel industry has changed significantly during the past decade. Ten to 15 years ago, retail sites were owned by large petroleum companies that dominated the industry. More than 58 percent of today’s convenience stores selling fuel are single-store operations, according to NACS.
Faced with the oversight of managing these smaller operations, single-store owners encounter a unique set of challenges. How do they manage to stay informed about emerging industry trends, yet remain compliant and attain profitability?
Compliance with environmental regulations drives many key decisions for the modern fuel site. A properly planned fuel system must overcome the ever-changing legislative minefield that exists within small geographic regions, while ultimately managing to squeeze out an acceptable level of revenue and profitability.
Some novice fuel site marketers make the mistake of prioritizing the aesthetics of their retail site at the expense of infrastructure. Although providing a positive customer experience through c-store and forecourt upgrades is important, having the appropriate underground equipment lays the foundation -- literally -- for a successful future.
Investing in cost-effective underground equipment is one of the smartest choices a fuel marketer can make in today’s retail environment. Antiquated equipment is not built to withstand the varied properties of alternative fuels, nor does it operate efficiently.
Excavation and installation costs can be reduced significantly through integration of multi-compartment tanks and “thru-and-thru” piping layouts, also known as “in series” layouts. The centralized tank provides for several compartments within one holding vessel, while a “thru-and-thru” piping layout can utilize a variety of piping materials to create a customized piping layout. The “thru-and-thru” design – be it flexible, fiberglass or semi-ridged – will inherently require fewer fittings than a traditional layout.
While updated and modern underground logistics are essential, a site’s above-ground layout impacts the functionality and profitability of the operation. Establishing a safe and efficient traffic and pedestrian circulation while maintaining a pleasing aesthetic is a key consideration.
The fuel tanker’s on-site resupply route should be carefully evaluated. A tanker that snarls traffic upon approach not only poses a safety hazard, but also deters consumers from pulling into the station.
A skilled, experienced fuel systems adviser can help level the playing field for proprietors of small fueling sites. From planning an entirely new fuel system or making upgrades to an existing system, the benefits of a qualified fuel system partner include:
Insider Industry Expertise: A fuel systems adviser on the front lines of fuel technology can offer insights into current and emerging trends and recommend solutions that will capture profits both in the short- and long-term.
Compliance Consultation: A fuel system partner can help you navigate the complicated world of environmental regulations, ensuring your operation is compliant with your state’s specific regulations including Stage II Decommissioning Laws.
Cost-Effective System Strategies: Trustworthy advisers will develop a long-term plan that works within a fuel site operator’s budget.
Big-Picture Analysis: A fuel system consultant will help you understand the short- and long-term benefits of infrastructure investments.
With today’s blended fuels, advances in fuel technology and changing regulatory requirements, a trustworthy fuel system partner can help fuel retailers overcome the exhausting list of legal, environmental and revenue-impacting variables associated with modern fuel site management.
Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.