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The Fuels Market of 2040

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The 2014 annual meeting of SIGMA: America's Leading Fuel Marketers immediately tackled the future of fuels in its opening general session Monday at the Omni Nashville hotel.

Entitled “A Thought Leaders’ Forum,” the session featured predictions by Nick Jones, energy advisor in the strategic planning department at Exxon Mobil Corp., regarding what the fuels market will look like in 2040.

That was followed up by reactions to the data by Michael Ports, president of Wooster, Ohio-based Ports Petroleum Co. Inc.; Tom Robinson, president of Santa Clara, Calif.-based Robinson Oil Corp.; and Stewart Spinks, chairman of the board and founder of Greenville, S.C.-based The Spinx Co. Inc.

According to Jones, demand for fuel will increase by 35 percent worldwide in 2040 compared to 2010, with commercial activity driving the demand. The Asia-Pacific region of the world will be a major source of this demand.

In the United States, however, fuel demand will decrease when looking out to 2040. “There is about a demand of 8 million gallons per day for fuel today,” said Jones. “That should decrease to 5 million gallons in 2040.”

The ExxonMobil executive added that North American hydraulic fracturing will make a difference come 2040, with it being the fuel of choice for 10 percent of the heavy-duty fleet, while diesel will maintain a strong 90-percent market share.

The panel of convenience store and gas station retailers found Jones' projections interesting, but Ports noted that the fuels landscape is impossible to predict and the other panelists agreed.

“If we can figure out [the fuels landscape for] the next three years, we’re in good shape,” said Robinson.

“So many new technologies are coming out, making it very difficult to predict the market on a macro basis,” Spinks added.


When the conversation shifted focus to the viability of E15, an 88-octane fuel containing a blend of 15-percent ethanol and 85-percent gasoline, neither Ports nor Spinks seemed enthusiastic about the future of this alternative fuel.

Ports noted that although E15 will continue to be marketed as a viable fuel, he believes there are too many infrastructure problems standing in its way.

Spinks said his company offers E85 at several of its North Carolina and South Carolina Spinx stores, but it’s a “low-moving product.”

“You have to take customer demand into account,” he stated. “… We took a big risk with E85.”

Conversely, Spinks reported the c-store retailer has found success offering E0, as opposed to E10 (now considered traditional petroleum under the blend wall).

Robinson is legally prohibited from offering E15 in California and therefore was not asked to discuss the topic.

The SIGMA 2014 Annual Meeting continues in Nashville through Wednesday, featuring plenty of more educational sessions, meetings and group activities.

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