04 Oct 2018 By Russell Dupuy

How well do you understand your fuel loss?

In the unique world we live in, it can be hard to define what is ‘normal’ and what is not. And it’s no different when it comes to fuel.

When it comes to fuel loss, there are two different kinds – ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’. Both can cause serious complications for businesses. Unfortunately, it’s impossible for even the most experienced site manager to tell the difference between them using onsite methods. Dip testing and inventory control just won’t cut it.

It’s a scary thought that you could be suffering fuel loss and not even know it. So, what is the best way to understand potential fuel loss, and stop it in its tracks?

‘Normal’ and ‘abnormal’ fuel loss – what’s the difference? It might seem like any unaccounted fuel loss in your tanks is a sign that your tank is leaking, or your pump dispensers are broken– but that’s not quite true. There are some instances in which your fuel loss/gain is actually considered ‘normal’. It’s often caused by things such as:

  • Evaporation, contraction and expansion of fuel due to fluctuating temperatures,
  • Minor discrepancies due to the limitations of measuring equipment, and
  • Meters that are not set to strike.

These are common occurrences that can be rectified easily or are just part of the naturally-occurring properties of fuel. They should always be considered when managing and reconciling your fuel inventory.

Abnormal fuel loss is caused by problems or faults within your systems – the most sinister being a leaking fuel tank. Many fuel site managers attribute only large amounts of fuel loss to a leak- but this is not always the case. Some leaks can be as small as two litres a day – meaning you might not even notice you’re missing fuel. With leaks this small, it’s easy to mistake ‘abnormal’ fuel loss as ‘normal’.

What’s at stake?

Big or small, leaks of any size can cost you big time – especially if you aren’t proactively monitoring your tanks. Consequences include:

  • Fines from the EPA that can be as high as $1 million,
  • Extensive clean-up costs,
  • Loss of product and revenue,
  • Loss of customers due to poor fuel quality, and
  • Pump/tank closures.

The same can be said for normal fuel loss. One fuel site experienced a discrepancy and, thinking it was the result of a leak, almost issued a site investigation which would have cost them a significant amount of money. Fortunately, they didn’t go ahead – the fuel loss turned out to be normal all along.

As you can see, there are serious financial costs that arise from poor fuel tank monitoring.

The only way to know if your fuel loss if normal, or the result of something sinister within your tank, is through consistent and accurate leak detection.

Don’t look the other way

Unfortunately, many fuel site owners and managers ignore their fuel loss, thinking that a fuel leak simply ‘won’t happen to me’. But fuel loss is a symptom of something amiss in your fuel inventory – it shouldn’t be ignored. After all, there are many expensive reasons to take fuel management seriously.

Fuel tank owners/operators are required to employ a leak detection method. EPA regulations state that the leak detection method that you’re using needs to be able to detect a leak of +/-18.2 litres per day or more. But even a leak smaller than this can get you in trouble if you’re not putting in the effort to monitor your fuel.

It’s time to ask yourself:

  • Are you currently using a certified system that observes this regulation?
  • If you did encounter a fuel tank leak, would you be able to prove you’ve done your best to find it as quickly as possible?

You need a system that will provide accurate and timely feedback allowing you to assess your fuel loss and further investigate if necessary. Without one, you won’t know if you’re encountering a big problem, or overreacting to a small one.

SIRA: Choosing the right leak detection method

While it’s impossible to completely stop your fuel loss, using effective leak detection will allow you to respond quickly, and appropriately, if there are signs that your tank is leaking.

Statistical Inventory Reconciliation Analysis (SIRA) is a simple, cost-effective leak detection solution.

While inventory control only monitors what’s going in and out of your tank, SIRA uses complex algorithms to determine what loss is normal and what loss is abnormal. This means you won’t be spending on unnecessary extras or nervous when receiving any surprise visits from the EPA.

Getting the most out of your SIRA

Your SIRA report is only as reliable as the data you submit. The only way to ensure you have complete visibility over your fuel inventory is ensure you are submitting consistent, accurate data to your SIRA provider. This is especially important if you’re measuring your fuel using a dipstick.

However, if you’re managing multiple fuel sites over several locations, you need to ensure that you have real-time access to all fuel site information.

Using a cloud-based fuel management solution, like Fuelsuite, allows you to access remote fuel data from a site level. This allows you to ensure that you’re submitting quality data to your SIRA provider – therefore receiving the most accurate leak detection report.

If you’d like to find out more about improving your leak detection and fuel management, get in touch with EMS today

To discover the SEVEN ways Fuelsuite can help you monitor your remote fuel sites from anywhere in the world, download the ebook now