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UK fuel supply crises eases further as military drivers prepare to restock pumps

Highlights

Empty pumps drop to below a third of total

150 army drivers ready to drive fuel tankers

Essar offering more deliveries from refinery

The number of UK fuel stations hit by delivery shortages and panic buying fell to less than a third on Sept. 29 as the government said the military was preparing to start driving supply tankers to the pumps in the coming days.

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UK pumps without fuel fell by 10 percentage points to about 27%, the UK's Petrol Retailers Association, or PRA, said, down from around two-thirds of sites at the weekend.

The PRA, which represents 65% of UK forecourts, said regular restocking was taking place at its 5,500 independent member sites and that it was "expecting to see the easing to continue over the next 24 hours".

"We would urge the public to remember that fuel stocks remain normal at refineries and terminals, and deliveries have been reduced solely due to the shortage of heavy good vehicle drivers," the PRA's executive director Gordon Balmer said in a statement.

Separately, the UK's business minister Kwasi Kwarteng said some 150 military drivers are ready to drive fuel tankers to help ease the fuel supply issues in the coming days.

Panic buying at UK fuel stations was sparked last week after reports that a small number of pumps had run dry due to a long-running shortage of tanker drivers to restock retail networks.

The UK's Road Haulage Association has estimated that about 20,000 European drivers have left the UK since the country's exit from the European Union, bringing the total shortage to 100,000.

UK demand recovery

Essar Oil, the owner of the UK's 205,000 b/d Stanlow refinery, on Sept. 28 said it had offered pump owners additional supplies to ease the recent fuel constraints. It said it successfully increased its own vehicle shifts from 52 per day in early August to over 70 and expects shifts to surpass 80 by the end of October. Essar said road fuel sales volumes from its Stanlow, Northampton and Kingsbury terminals over Sept. 25-26 were up 22% against a "normal" pre-Covid weekend.

In the last week of August, the UK's road fuel sales had recovered to 94% of pre-lockdown levels, according to the last official data. Sales of gasoline and diesel in the week to Aug. 29 averaged 16,545 liters per fuel station, according to the data, with both diesel and gasoline at 92% and 96% of pre-crisis sales, respectively.

The country's gasoline sales averaged about 300,000 b/d in 2019, while diesel sales averaged about 550,000 b/d, according to estimates by S&P Global Platts Analytics.