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UK road fuel stocks back at normal levels as sales drop after panic buying

Highlights

Fuel stocks return to normal 45% of site capacity

Gasoline, diesel sales dip to 83% of pre-COVID levels

Fuel stocks at service stations hit record low in late Sept

Stocks of road fuels at British filling stations have recovered to historical averages, according to UK government data, three weeks after panic buying drained inventories in most of Europe's second-biggest economy to record lows.

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Gasoline and diesel inventories at British pumps were at an average 45% of site capacity Oct. 17, the highest since mid-May and in line with average levels seen during 2020, according to data from the UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published Oct. 21.

Service stations in Northern Ireland were not affected by the panic buying seen elsewhere in the UK.

Average fuel stock levels at pumps in Britain slumped to a record low 15% of capacity on Sept. 25, two days after news broke that a small number of pumps had run dry due to a long-running shortage of tanker drivers to restock retail networks.

At one point, up to two-thirds of British sites had run dry of fuel supplies as motorists queued at pumps to fill their tanks, while refiners and the UK government scrambled to restock filling stations.

Sales of road fuels have slowed significantly since the panic-buying, when sales spiked to double the previous average sales per site on Sept. 24.

Sales of gasoline and diesel in the week to Oct. 17 averaged 14,811 liters per fuel station, according to the data, down from 15,173 liters in the previous week and a surge to 21,427 liters in the last week of September.

Sales below average

UK fuel demand had remained little changed at around 90% of pre-COVID-19 levels since mid-2021, and hit a post-pandemic high of 97% of pre-lockdown levels in the first week of August.

With average sales dropping back after the bout of panic buying, however, average road fuel sales in Britain stood at 83% of pre-COVID-19 levels in the week ending Oct. 17, the BEIS data showed.

Road transport accounts for more than half of oil demand in the UK, with gasoline and diesel meeting around 98% of transport energy needs. 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.

The UK's total oil demand is expected to recover fully to around 1.55 million b/d by year-end 2021, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.