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The Times: Surge in demand leaves fire-hit fuel stations running on empty: “A spokesman for Shell said: “There are some shortages at stations in south-east England and into the Midlands. It is connected to Buncefield.”: Thursday 29 December 2005


By David Rose


MOTORISTS are facing winter fuel shortages as petrol stations struggle to cope with a shortfall in supply after the Buncefield oil depot fire.

Fuel retailers confirmed yesterday that some garages in southeast England had been without fuel for almost a week and others were running short because of a seasonal surge in demand.


Despite previous assurances that the blaze at the Hertfordshire depot would not affect supplies, disruption caused by the fire was exacerbated by a peak in petrol sales over the festive period, leaving distributors struggling to refill their pumps.  


Dozens of garages throughout the South East and the Midlands have experienced shortages, especially in North London and Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Bed-fordshire.


The worst hit chains are Total and Texaco, joint owners of the Buncefield site, although others such as Shell and BP have been affected.


Heavy damage to the Buncefield depot caused by the fire forced suppliers to bring in fuel from elsewhere and lorries are being forced to travel longer distances. Deliveries were cut back on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, retailers said. A spokesman for Total said yesterday: “Some of our service stations are experiencing short-term supply issues as we re-order our distribution following Buncefield, but we are working hard to resolve the situation.”


The spokesman said that “less than 100 forecourts” had suffered shortages, while Texaco also said that the number of affected sites had reached double figures in the run-up to Christmas.


“It is a small proportion of our 1,100 petrol stations in the whole of the country, and in line with the seasonal increase in demand at this time of year,” a Texaco spokesman said.


Large parts of the Buncefield plant were destroyed in the fire. Texaco said that the damage at the country’s fifth largest oil storage facility had not helped its efforts to keep forecourts supplied as demand for fuel rose during this week’s cold snap. A spokesman for Shell said: “There are some shortages at stations in south-east England and into the Midlands. It is connected to Buncefield.”


A Shell station in West Kensington, London, has had no petrol since last Thursday.


Other stations in the capital supplied by BP and Texaco also reported lack of unleaded or diesel fuel yesterday.


Petrol suppliers advised people not to panic buy and predicted that supplies would be back to normal within days. Ray Holloway, spokesman for the Petrol Retailers’ Association, said: “We had a headache before Christmas, which is now the hangover after Christmas.”


Other businesses have also felt the effects of the Buncefield blaze. McDonald’s, which closed a supply centre in Hemel Hempstead after the fire, has posted notices in some London restaurants warning customers that some items are unavailable. 


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