The downstream sector in Italy is undergoing a slow but profound change: the major players are making way for hundreds of small, medium-sized and large service station owners. Alternative fuels, electric vehicle charging and non-oil activities are all attracting growing investments.
Oil&nonoil – S&TC (Fuel Storage & Transport) (www.oilnonoil.it/en/) is the only fair held in Italy, and indeed the Mediterranean area, specifically for the fuel distribution and mobility services industry. As always, the event, which also attracts visitors from the neighbouring Balkan states, does not fail to highlight the new developments shaping the future of the network. Indeed, for years its brand name has been accompanied by the tagline “Energy, fuel and mobility services”.
Oil&nonoil, taking place at the Veronafiere fairgrounds from 9 to 11 October, is a key date in the calendar for the entire industry; it is sponsored by all the relevant business associations and also supported by the specialised press.
The fuel distribution network in Italy, driven by the need to reduce the number of installations and embrace the terms of the Directive on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure (DAFI), is currently going through a period of profound structural and regulatory reform. In addition, the industry is seeing a progressive increase in the importance of independent businesses, which are moving into the space left vacant by the big oil companies. Indeed, the big players are gradually abandoning the downstream sector in order to invest more in extraction.
Several independent operators have acquired greater weight within the markets - usually interregional ones, and only rarely at national level - by purchasing the service stations placed on the market by Esso. They include the Euro Garages group, which has purchased almost 1200 stations. The industry is expecting Euro Garages to adopt a new business approach, particularly with regard to marketing and the “non-oil” sector, which has traditionally been less well developed at service stations in Italy.
At present, just four big names - ENI, Api-IP, Tamoil and Q8 - remain present on the network, mainly the motorway network, with a total of around 460 stations. Meanwhile, 53% of service stations present on the rest of the Italian network are under the ownership of private operators, even though, in some cases, these operators have preferred to entrust their management to the oil companies.
Nevertheless, the need to purchase fuel at competitive prices is stimulating private operators to look after their own installations and existing non-oil activities. Oil&nonoil focuses a great deal on the presentation of studies, research and debates on the Italian and European fuel distribution scenario.
The topics coming under scrutiny will include – and these are just examples – changing trends, within the Italian market, in the penetration and distribution of gaseous and liquid fuels (LNG, compressed natural gas, LPG fuel), which have a lower environmental impact, and the development of electric mobility and its effects on the network.