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UK's January road fuel sales recover to highest for month since 2020


Gasoline, diesel sales still 16% below pre-COVID levels: BEIS

UK's pre-COVID fuel sales had been contracting by 0.7% per year

  • Author
  • Robert Perkins
  • Editor
  • Adithya Ram
  • Commodity
  • Oil

The UK's road fuel sales recovered from seasonal lows in January to hit their highest average for the month since COVID-19 lockdowns in early 2020, according to official government data.

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Great Britain's fuel sales averaged 14,960 liters per filling station in January, up 4% from December levels and 3% higher than the year-ago average, according to the UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Feb. 2.

January fuel sales were 16% lower compared with the UK's pre-lockdown average fuel sales of 17,766 liters per station in early 2020. In 2022, Britain's average road fuel sales were 2.6% higher than in 2021 but remained 13% below pre-COVID levels despite returning close to pre-COVID levels in late May 2021.

The UK's road fuel sales have been largely in structural decline after peaking more than a decade ago. The UK's fuel consumption in the transport sector has mostly fallen since 2007 and had contracted on average by around 0.7% per year in the three years to 2019, according to historical BEIS data.

The post-pandemic fuel demand uptick comes as average pump prices have softened significantly since soaring to record highs in July 2022 on the back of Russia's war in Ukraine, low regional stocks, and a lack of global refining capacity.

UK gasoline prices at the pumps averaged around GBP1.49/liter Feb. 2, according to automotive services company RAC, down from record highs of GBP1.91/liter ($2.32/liter) on July 1, 2022.

S&P Global Commodity Insights estimates that the UK's gasoline and diesel/gasoil demand will average of 249,000 b/d and 569,000 b/d, respectively, in 2023, compared with 285,000 b/d and 653,000 b/d in 2019. Overall, the UK's oil demand is expected to average 1.31 million b/d this year, down from 1.35 million b/d in 2021.