Taking action in Ireland

Being proactive rather than reactive was one of the really strong messages conveyed to an audience of over 60 fuel oil distribution staff who attended last month’s Fuel Oil News Distributor Debate in Northern Ireland, writes Irish correspondent, Aine Faherty
Distributors from north and south of Ireland attended the event in Templepatrick, where much emphasis was placed on the promotion of oil as a viable, trustworthy and efficient fuel and heating solution.
“Everyone needs to make a concerted effort to push oil and to improve the view people have of the industry,” said Mark Askew, chief executive of the Federation of Petroleum Suppliers and first speaker. Highlighting the very important role drivers have as the industry’s PR men, a view endorsed by David Meekin of Meekin Fuels, Mark said: “We must carry the right message and the right image to the consumer by way of proper and up-to-date driver training.”
Although oil has undergone a long period of instability over the last eight years, BP’s Angus Fraser assured delegates that, despite exiting refining, the oil major remains committed to the Northern Ireland market. Stressing the importance of strong, long-term relationships, he said BP strove to pass on the best possible price to customers and that high quality products and a reliable source of supply – even when stock is low – remained the company’s invaluable strengths.
“Most people hate to change software,” said Fuelsoft’s David Kingsman. “Thinking it’s a case of the better the devil you know. However, putting up with short term pain to change systems and learn new work practices, could reap rewards long term. A well-rounded integrated system links telephone and computer, meaning orders can be taken and monitored more easily and backed up by a 3D secure website for payments.
In feedback, many attendees found the fuel quality presentation given by chemist Julia Mansfield of Fuel Science Additive Technologies provided great insight into reasons behind fuel’s variable quality. An issue of particular relevance to Ireland, which imports 80% of its fuel requirements, and where the closure of Whitegate, the country’s only refinery, is expected in the near future.
Initially painting a dim picture for the home heating oil distributor, David Blevings, Northern Ireland Oil Federation said average profit for such a business was less than 2% of turnover. In March 2009, 900 litres of kerosene was £300 cheaper than it is today; add this to the fact that solid fuel and gas are considerably cheaper and ”it’s easy to see why people are choosing to go elsewhere,” he said.
Remedy – show your customer you’re here to help – a condensing oil boiler could save 20% on fuel costs – form a partnership with an oil installer and offer a fixed contract and a budget plan. “A customer upgrading to a modern condensing boiler will be a customer for another 20 years.”