Motorists urged to avoid panic petrol buys

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Motorists were last night warned not to panic buy fuel before Christmas after it emerged that shortages were forcing sporadic closures on some forecourts.


Motorists were last night warned not to panic buy fuel before Christmas after it emerged that shortages were forcing sporadic closures on some forecourts.

Yesterday Sainsburys in Pound Lane, on the outskirts of Norwich was shut because supplies of unleaded and diesel had dried up and the supermarket giant had also closed its forecourt at North Walsham.

Shortages had occurred across the board with BP stations affected and garages in Attleborough.

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But industry insiders said that the shortages were only temporary caused by a combination of a disruption to supplies following a refinery fire in October and increased seasonal demand.

Customers were also urged to shop around and not panic buy.

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Chris Hunt, director general of the UK Petroleum Industry Association, said the blaze at Coryton refinery in Essex, was continuing to affect supplies.

“There are the odd disruptions at one or two service stations, but it's now coming back again,” he said. “While it's been out of action we've been shipping in to the refinery from the continent and we had a half a day delay with a shipment.

“There's no panic, no shortage, nothing to worry about,” he said. “At this time of the year there is an increase in demand and sometimes petrol stations forget to put in their extra order in, so you find forecourts running out.

Philip Dingle, an executive member of the Petrol Retailers' Association, stressed that despite the odd blip, supplies were still reaching the pumps and urged customers to fill up responsibly.

“What petrol companies are trying to do is eke it around,” he said. “It's all now starting to settle down. It's not that there isn't any fuel, it's that everybody isn't getting it at once.

“We were out on Friday but back up on Saturday and we are all right again now.”

“If everybody starts filling up there could be problems,” he added. “If that triggers panic buying then all hell could break loose. Once it kicks off it's very hard to catch up again.”

A BP spokesman said: “We are continuing to experience some shortages of product following the fire at Coryton Refinery, which serves our sites and BP customers in the South East of England.

“The shortages of product are as a direct result of the refinery still not operating to its full capacity since the fire on October 31. We continue to be reliant on importing both petrol and diesel in order to ensure continuity of supply in what is extremely busy time of year for us. We apologise for any disruption this is causing for BP customers.”

A Sainsbury's spokeswoman said: “We are doing everything we possibly can to ensure our customers have petrol. Supplies are likely to return to normal tomorrow.

The news comes amid two reports warning that rising fuel prices could keep motorists out off the road at Christmas and that prices were likely to remain volatile.

A survey by the RAC found that 58pc of drivers were less likely to travel to reach loved ones this festive season compared with last year.

And with average petrol prices now at more than £1 a litre 49pc of drivers are predicting they will spend less time on the road this Christmas than last.

The AA's Fuel Price Report for mid-December shows average UK petrol prices have reached 102.81 pence per litre, up 1.3p on last month, and diesel 107.95, up 2.51p. Strikes in French refineries and military action on the Turkish-Iraq border suggest that prices could remain volatile in the short-term.

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