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Downstream Petroleum

Downstream Petroleum

The UK Petroleum Industry is also referred to as the downstream sector. It is made up of over 200 companies involved in the refining, distribution and marketing of petroleum products. They range from large multinational oil companies, as well as involving supermarket chains, company owned and independent retailers through to small single site filling stations in rural areas.

The main product of the downstream sector is transport fuels (aviation kerosene, diesel and unleaded petrol) which can amount to 60% of a refinery output. The market for transport fuels in the UK amounts to about 50 million tonnes per year and this is split into commercial and retail markets as well as aviation. The commercial market includes industrial transport (cars, trucks, buses, trains), marine (cargo ships, fishing boats) and agriculture (tractors etc) ,as well as Government; which includes public services and military vehicles.

The industry employs over 150,000 people directly, and several thousand contract workers. The workforce is employed in stabilising, refining and manufacturing, and in distribution and forecourt retailing. This essentially means a chain that firstly removes light gases from the crude oil that is extracted from the earth, refines the crude oil and then sells the refined product through various outlets which includes petrol stations.

The industry is also creating new “greener” fuels such as bio-diesel/ bio ethanol made from renewable sources such as vegetable oils / sugar beet, to reduce harm to the environment. The UK Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA) has also said that by 2009 vehicles will become even more clean and less polluting. Hybrid vehicles are likely to become more common, particularly in urban areas. (A hybrid car is a vehicle which operates using a mix of petrol and electric power and causes less pollution).


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