Distribution still stretched as Buncefield report reveals faulty fuel gauge

Fuel distribution capacity continues to be stretched following the Buncefield oil terminal disaster, according to Nick Vandervell, spokesman for the UK Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA).

Commenting on the latest report into the December explosion, which identified the cause of the blast as a faulty fuel gauge, Vandervell said that the future of the site – which previously supplied 5% of the UK’s road fuel – remained a ‘sensitive issue’.

“It’s very difficult at the moment. We don’t have the final report and that’s probably still some way off,” he said. “Out of that the Health Safety Executive will have to look at planning use guidelines in relation to safety zones around terminals like Buncefield. It may be that the circumstances of what happened at Buncefield are deemed to be ‘one off’, but that decision will be quite a difficult one to make publicly given the impact it could have had.”

In the meantime, Vandervell said that temporary measures for the supply of road fuels remained in place. “Extra drivers and tankers have been taken on, but it’s still the case that many of these are having to work out of different depots and cover longer distances. For the companies affected, this will be adding to their operating costs,” he said.

“Logistically, with loads having to come from further away, it needs more planning and scheduling. It gives you slightly less flexibility to be able to react quickly. It also means there is not much spare capacity within the distribution system. Whilst it’s working at the moment, it’s not ideal as a permanent solution.”

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