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Well prepared for Brexit

12 February 2019

With Brexit looming, LPG supplier AvantiGas is well placed to cope with any supply chain disruption that may ensue. Managing director Dean Ewart explains to HSS editor Simon Duddy that the company draws largely on North Sea supplies.

Everyone has their own opinion on Brexit, as we rapidly count down to the date when we leave the European Union. It's difficult to predict what they outcome will be, but as businesses face uncertainties, LPG supplier AvantiGas says it is confident that managers of forklift trucks can continue to rely on its LPG supplies.

Managing director Dean Ewart explains: "It is very hard to predict but essentially for us, one of our main supply points is a terminal in the UK that draws largely on North Sea supplies and the other is a UK refinery. So actually Brexit from a physical supply perspective won't have an impact on our ability to deliver LPG to the market."

Dean also sees LPG as an environmental alternative compared to diesel powered trucks. Under Euro-Stage V regulations, applicable on new forklifts from the start of 2019, all IC engine forklift trucks, both diesel and LPG, have to comply with very strict standards, regardless of engine size. While nitrous oxides must be tackled with a catalytic convertor in LPG trucks, unlike diesel models, they will not need to eliminate particulate matter, meaning the financial penalty for meeting the new regs will be lower for LPG than diesel.

"LPG is greener than diesel and performs very well in terms of the green agenda," says Dean.

"I think with electricity there's a slight difficulty in the sense that people perceive electricity to be to be a very green product but if you look at generation, a great deal of the UK's energy mix (around 30%) is still powered by burning gas."

While burning gas for electricity is unavoidable at present, forklift fleet managers certainly want to avoid burning through fuel for their trucks.

"I think LPG stacks up well against all alternative fuels from a cost perspective," says Dean. "It's about 40% cheaper than diesel, so it's a significant saving. Compared to electricity, it's less of a cost advantage, it's more about practicality.

"For lead-acid battery powered electric forklifts, you've obviously got a time-consuming charging regime. With LPG, trucks can be refilled very quickly, so you don't have the downtime worries."

In addition, refillable gas cylinders from AvantiGas have a gauge to inform the user when they're running low.

Nuclear challenge

In January, a proposed nuclear power plant in Angelsey was shelved. It was one of a batch of six new nuclear power stations the UK planned to build. Only one is under construction, with the rest cancelled or under threat. This may seem remote from the concerns of forklift fleet managers, but more erratic electricity generation could lead to scarcity and higher prices.

Dean says: "This could prove to be an opportunity for LPG in that it is a stable, practical fuel. Users know where they are in terms of price and supply. Electricity prices can vary sharply during the day, and this may become more pronounced in the future. It can be expensive or require tricky management for facilities managers to keep on top of costs. With LPG, there isn't this fast-moving price fluctuation."

Making things easier for the customer is uppermost for AvantiGas.

The company is thinking carefully about the balance between supporting customers through the convenient digital channels increasingly demanded and making sure a real person is on hand to help customers when necessary.

"I think improvements in the industry can always be made in terms of developing the digital aspect because people nowadays are so used to operating digitally. But we definitely want to kept the human touch and make sure customers can get hold of someone to talk to."

AvantiGas also supports a number of resupply models, according to customer need.

"We get to know our customers and their needs, ensuring we understand their usage to enable us to deliver LPG on a regular basis to customers. Alternatively we can give the customer full control where they order from us when they feel it is necessary."

As with its strong position on supply regards Brexit, AvantiGas' top priority is ensuring a consistent supply to customers.