Consumers buying less fuel at the pump despite more cars on the road

In the last 10 years, average fuel prices have almost doubled, rising from 73.68 p/l to 136.26 p/l for unleaded petrol, and 75.57 p/l to 142.39 p/l for diesel. The latest Retail Marketing Survey, conducted by the Energy Institute (EI), shows there are more registered UK vehicles on the road than ever before, yet total fuel sales have dropped by 6% since 2002. 

A cutback in fuel sales suggests improvements in engine performance and fuel economy, combined with changes in driver behaviour. This is supported by diesel sales out-performing petrol for the second year running. 

The number of forecourts in the UK stood at 8,693* sites at the close of 2012. This is compared to 1967’s all-time high of 39,958 forecourts. [*It should be noted that this figure does NOT represent an increase on last year’s figure of 8,480 sites as a major reorganisation of the market occurred during the reporting period (the acquisition of the Total retail network and fuel distribution business by Rontec and subsequent sale of a number of sites to Shell, GB Oils and others) leading to some undercounting for the year 2011.]

The Retail Marketing Survey, published with the EI’s April issue of Petroleum Review, provides a comprehensive, statistical overview of the UK forecourt market. Data is broken down by company, region and forecourt facilities. The survey is based on statistics relating to end-2012 and does not reflect changes since that date. The figures are cross-checked with numbers from market analyst Experian Catalist.

Key findings of the survey show:

  • There were 8,693 operational filling stations in the UK at end-December 2012.
  • Petrol sales fell marginally to 13.42mn tonnes by the close of 2012 – down from 13.86mn at end-2011.
  • Diesel sales totalled 13.86mn tonnes by year-end – down slightly from 13.91mn tonnes a year earlier.
  • Total 2012 road fuel sales fell slightly to 35.35mn tonnes – down from 35.61mn tonnes in 2011.
  • By the close of 2012, unleaded petrol prices had averaged 136.26 p/l (versus 133.6 p/l in 2011); while diesel prices closed the year at an average price of 142.39 p/l (versus 138.90 p/l).
  • Registered UK vehicles once again broke records, rising from 34.67mn in 2011 to reach 36.71mn by end-2012, with each forecourt supplying an average of 3,993 vehicles.
  • Site number breakdown by sector in 2012:
    • oil company sites decreased  by 151 to 5,159
    • main retailer sites increased  by 423 to 1,233 (due to major reorganisation mentioned earlier)
    • supermarket sites increased by 7 to 1,317
    • smaller retailer sites increased by 2 to 62
    • other unbranded sites increased by 37 to 922
  • The four largest oil company operations by number of branded forecourts were (2011 figures in brackets):
    • BP – 1,220 (1178) up 42
    • Shell – 1,028 (845) up 183
    • Esso – 907 (890) up 17
    • Texaco – 787 (840) down 53 

This year’s supplement also includes articles looking at security of supply and the resilience of the UK fuel retail sector, and the findings of the recent UK Office of Fair Trading inquiry into pump prices for petrol and diesel.

The 2013 Retail Marketing Survey is available, priced £98, from the Energy Institute.
To order your copy, please contact: Chris Baker, t: +44 (0)20 7467 7114; e:   

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For further information, please contact:
Katie Crabb, Communications Manager, Energy Institute
t: +44 (0)20 7467 7173, e:  

Notes to editor: The Energy Institute (EI) is the leading chartered professional membership body for the global energy sector, responsible for the development and dissemination of knowledge, skills and good practice towards a safe, secure and sustainable energy system. Supporting all those working in and studying energy, and with over 16,000 individuals and 250 companies in membership, it offers learning and networking opportunities to support career development. Delivering professionalism and good practice, the EI addresses the depth and breadth of energy in all its forms and applications, providing scientific and technical knowledge resources for industry. For more information, please visit


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The Energy Institute (EI) is the chartered professional membership body for the energy sector, supporting over 19,000 individuals working in or studying energy and 250 energy companies worldwide. The EI provides learning and networking opportunities to support professional development, as well as professional recognition and technical and scientific knowledge resources on energy in all its forms and applications. The EI’s purpose is to develop and disseminate knowledge, skills and good practice towards a safe, secure and sustainable energy system. In fulfilling this mission, the EI addresses the depth and breadth of the energy sector, from fuels and fuels distribution to health and safety, sustainability and the environment. It also informs policy by providing a platform for debate and scientifically-sound information on energy issues. The EI is licensed to award Chartered, Incorporated and Engineering Technician status, Chartered Scientist status, and Chartered Environmentalist status. It also offers its own Chartered Energy Engineer, Chartered Petroleum Engineer and Chartered Energy Manager titles. A registered charity, the EI serves society with independence, professionalism and a wealth of expertise in all energy matters. In a competitive world, the professional body is a vital partner to individuals wanting to boost their career or to organisations wanting to contribute to the advancement of industry knowledge.



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