Who’s pumping your gas?

Jun 04, 2015   | Categories: Canadian Fuels Association, Refineries
When you fill up your car with gas, you’re often buying a well-known brand like Esso, Suncor or Shell. Canada’s three major refiners’ brands appear on nearly 38 per cent of all gas stations in this country.

But most of the time, you’re not buying gas directly from the refiners. In fact, according to new research by The Kent Group, a petroleum industry analyst and data provider, 81 per cent of Canadian gas stations are owned by independent businesspeople and non-refining marketers. That’s up from 70 per cent just nine years ago.

Times have changed – now buy your gas and groceries too

Gas pumps first appeared in Canada over a century ago. In days gone by, they were often connected to auto repair shops.

Over the years, cars have become increasingly complex machines, and the corner repair shop/gas station is a much rarer entity.

Today, most of us fill up with gas in front of a store or car wash.

According to The Kent Group, the number of retail sites operated by non-refining fuel marketing companies is steadily increasing. They specialize in gas station management, convenience stores and other services.

This shift allows oil some companies to focus on what they do best: refining. Those companies are rethinking the vertical integration of years past, when they were involved from the wellhead to the gas pump.

Retailers representing refiners’ brands

Across Canada, a wide variety of retailers are operating the pumps today. Sobeys, for example, operates the Shell retail brand in Quebec and Atlantic Canada. Valero Energy sold its Ultramar retail operations to CST Brands. Imperial Oil is considering selling its remaining 500 company-owned stations to a wholesaler.

Parkland Fuels is another good example of a company taking over fuel retailing. Their proprietary brands are Fas Gas Plus and Race Trac, and Parkland also is a retail branded distributor for Esso and Chevron. Parkland operates a network of more than 800 gas stations.

Canada has approximately 11,800 gas stations, operated not only by regional fuel distributors but by ‘big box’ marketers such as Canadian Tire and Costco. Such distributors have a growing influence on the fuel retail market because they sell huge volumes of gas, despite a relatively small number of sites.

Indeed, the number of gas stations in Canada has been steadily falling for over 20 years. However, fuel sales are on the rise, as fuel retailing is being taken over by marketers representing the major brands.
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