BP Shuts Some UK Gas Stations
(Bloomberg) -- BP Plc said it has been forced to close some of its U.K. refueling stations because a shortage of truck drivers is disrupting deliveries.
The decision is the latest symptom of a worsening supply-chain crisis that threatens to derail the country’s post-Covid economic recovery. The shortage of delivery drivers has already left supermarkets around the U.K. unable to fill their shelves. The nation is also suffering from a gas and power supply crunch that’s putting companies out of business and threatening consumers with a big increase in bills.
“We are experiencing some fuel supply issues at some of our retail sites in the U.K. and unfortunately have therefore seen a handful of sites temporarily close due to a lack of both unleaded and diesel grades,” BP said in an emailed statement. “We continue to work with our haulier supplier to minimize any future disruption and to ensure efficient and effective deliveries to serve our customers.”
Exxon Mobil Corp. said in a separate statement that a “small number” of sites it operates for the supermarket Tesco Plc had been affected by the truck driver shortage. ITV News was first to report the move by BP, which has more than 1,200 U.K. service stations, serving more than 7 million customers a week.
The shortage of drivers and other workers hamstrung the U.K. food industry earlier this year, with stores running low on basics like milk and bread, tens of thousands of extra pigs piling up on farms and retailers warning that there will be shortages of some products at Christmas.
The country’s gas and power crisis has an entirely separate set of causes. Low levels of wind power generation, depleted gas storage and restricted supplies from Russia have sent prices soaring, putting out of business companies that supplied about 1.5 million households.
Yet, in a sign of the complex supply chains that underpin the U.K. economy, the energy crisis has also ended up hammering the food industry.
High gas prices last week forced fertilizer maker CF Industries Holding Inc. to close two plants that make carbon dioxide as a byproduct. That posed an imminent threat to the food industry, which uses the gas to stun pigs and chickens for slaughter, as well as in packaging to extend shelf-life and the “dry ice” that keeps items frozen during delivery.
On Tuesday, the U.K. government said it will provide “limited financial support” to help the company restart its facilities.
Britain’s multiplying economic difficulties threaten to erase the euphoria that accompanied the end of coronavirus lockdowns and leave policy makers with a delicate balancing act.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak wrote a letter to Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey on Thursday, in which he said that the recent period of above-target inflation is driven partially by “rising commodity prices, global supply bottlenecks and shortages.” Investors are bringing forward their bets on when the bank will hike interest rates.
Traffic data suggests that gasoline and diesel demand in the U.K. has rebounded in September as some workers start to commute again, using their car rather than public transport. London, for example, saw last week the worst traffic congestion since the start of the pandemic, according to data from satellite-navigation company TomTom NV.
According to data from the Department for Transport, traffic in the U.K. hit last week the highest level since the pandemic began, with the average road use running at 3% above pre-pandemic level. Traffic of big trucks was particularly intense, running at 13% above pre-pandemic level.
© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.
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