Celebrating 50 golden years of Peak Oil

Peak Oil is a family operated distribution business covering Derbyshire, South Yorkshire, and Nottinghamshire. Formed in 1972 by Tom Pearson, Peak Oil has just celebrated its 50th anniversary in business. Claudia Weeks, content writer for Fuel Oil News, spoke with Tom about the history of Peak Oil and what makes it such a special family run business.

Peak Oil, a family operated distribution business covering Derbyshire, South Yorkshire, and Nottinghamshire and formed in 1972 by Tom Pearson, has just celebrated its 50th anniversary in business.

The history of Peak Oil

Tom Pearson founded Peak Oil as a business from his home address in Dronfield, back in 1972 and explains how it all began: “I started Tom Pearson Oils with my wife Rachel in 1972, largely because I didn’t want to move away from the area where we were living. My then employer, Castrol, had offered me a promotion, which would have meant moving away.

“The business was initially based at our home address running one tanker from Callywhite Lane (Dronfield), which I rented from Trent Oil Nottingham. In these early days the pressure was on to secure one order a day so that the driver had a delivery to do!

“Early in 1973 I signed a contract of supply with Chevron, bought my first (second-hand) tanker and on 30th March, I incorporated Tom Pearson (Oils) Limited. However, it was later that year when the business really found its feet. In October 1973, an oil crisis hit the UK because of the Yom Kippur War and the country was at the mercy of an oil embargo. Tom Pearson Oils, with its contract of supply with Chevron, did not suffer the same supply restrictions as other local businesses and this proved to be a pivotal moment in Peak Oil’s history.

“As the business expanded, I bought my first new tanker in 1974 and was granted planning permission to build a depot at Sheepbridge Industrial estate and the business relocated there in 1977.  On 1st January 1978, I changed the name of the business to Peak Oil Products (Northern) Limited. Further expansion occurred in 1983 when I bought Shottle Station (Belper), making Peak Oil the only family oil company based in Derbyshire.

Peak Oil’s main depot is still based at Sheepbridge in Chesterfield and Tom commented: “Aside from updating our loading infrastructures, the depot itself hasn’t altered much. The main change would be the addition of a self-service forecourt, which we opened in the 1990s, and more recently it has become the home of the UK’s first retail pump of HVO (a renewable diesel).”

Milestones of growth and change

Fuel Oil News asked Tom to reflect on the main company milestones of growth and change during the last 50 years. “The loan of the tanker enabled me to get going,” Tom said. “But, as I mentioned earlier, the contract that I signed with Chevron was a pivotal point for the business. The other main factors for growth and change have been driven by investment in depots, modern vehicles, and computer systems relevant to the industry.

“I have always been keen to support new business and embrace innovation within the sector. We were one of the first clients of Codas Computers back in 1974 and computerisation has made a huge contribution to improved efficiency. Similarly, we were one of the first businesses to purchase a tanker from Tasca Tankers back in 1995. These strong working relationships with our suppliers have been fundamental to our ability to grow and adapt over the past five decades. More recently we have launched our Renewable Diesel in response to the changing environmental and political needs of the sector.

“My proudest accomplishment in business has been expanding Peak Oil to the position it is in today. My most memorable day at work must be the day that we bought Shottle Station in Belper – it was a big day! I also vividly remember the day that I employed my own children, these were very special times.”

The best industry advice

After 50 years’ experience in the fuel distribution business, Fuel Oil News asked Tom what the best advice was he had ever received. Tom ponders and replies: “The advice that comes to mind was given to me by a friend, Frank Lownsborough, who was a car salesman, and he quite simply told me to “Never give up!”

“This has stuck with me over the past 50 years, during which time Peak Oil has quite literally weathered storms…you may recall the ‘Big Freeze’ of December 2010, during which time we couldn’t get a truck in or out of the depots for 3 days and were inundated with people running out of fuel.

“We have also kept afloat when wars have sent the markets into turmoil, and we have continued to deliver to our faithful customers when fuel crises have hit (most notably September 2000 and September 2021).”

The Peak Oil team

Peak Oil is very much a family run business. When asked who is now responsible for running the business on a day-to-day basis, Tom answers: “The business is now run by Neil, our eldest son, who has worked in the business since 1987. Neil works with Helen, our eldest daughter, and together they manage a great team of employees, many of whom have worked for the business for over 30 years.”

When the business first started back in 1972, there were three employees – Tom, Rachel, and a driver. Now, there are over 30 employees.

After 50 years in business, Fuel Oil News wanted to know a little about some of the colleagues from the Peak Oil Team and asked a series of quick-fire questions to Tom:

  • Who has been the funniest person you’ve worked with?

       Alan Clark aka. Tango, who worked for us as a driver for 14 years. He never failed to make me smile.

  • Who has had the best ideas?

Neil, he continues to support innovation and isn’t afraid to try new things.

  • Who has surprised you?

I can’t single any one person out as so many have joined the team and flourished.

  • Who made the best cup of tea?

I’m always a grateful recipient of a cup of tea, but the first cup of the day is always the best and it’s usually made by my wife, Rachel.

When asked what makes customers choose Peak Oil as a supplier, Tom replied: “I would say our prompt, competitive service. I also think that because of increasing corporate consolidation over the last half century, there are now fewer local fuel distributors than ever before and customers wish to support local companies that delivery quality goods with an exceptional service.”

Peak Oil celebrates 50 years in business

Tom was keen to share Peak Oil’s plans for its 50th anniversary celebrations: “We’ve had a new logo designed and we’ve plans to mark the occasion with our employees, suppliers, and customers. I will enjoy spending time at both depots, I still love to be in the thick of it and I wish to thank our loyal customers, staff and suppliers for their business, service, and support over the past 50 years.

“Peak Oil is a local business that supports local businesses and I would like to thank Peak Ales for producing some commemorative beer bottles of their Chatsworth Gold and the ladies at Cake Corner in Bakewell for the splendid cake and cupcakes, which they made to mark the occasion. I’d also like to thank the wonderful photographer for taking such memorable photographs of our anniversary celebrations –

When asked what he has enjoyed the most about operating in fuel distribution, Tom said: “The challenge or working in a competitive industry coupled with the people that I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with.

The future of Peak Oil

After such a successful first 50 years in business, Fuel Oil News asked what the next 50 years will hold for Peak Oil. “We need to ensure that our customers continue to receive excellent service. We also need to continue to evolve and respond to the ever changing environmental and political needs of the sector. We’ve got to clean up the environment and reduce our emissions – we all have a part to play in this and Peak Oil will further explore low carbon alternatives in addition to our Renewable Diesel, which we launched in 2020.”

Asked how he likes to spend his free time, when he isn’t at the depot Tom replied: “I have always loved playing cricket for my local village team. I have played there with my sons and now my grandchildren are playing there. I’ve become more of a supporter than a player these days, but it still brings me a lot of joy.”

The Fuel Oil News team wishes Tom and the Peak Oil Team a very happy 50th anniversary and looks forward to covering the centenary!