Founded in 1944, Franklin Electric first started manufacturing submersible pumps for petroleum products in the 1960’s. Service stations in 1960 had shown no basic variation for 35 years, but they have changed a lot since then. We asked our product managers to give us insight into the trends that have affected service stations.
Filling stations have been around since 1888 in Germany; early filling stations were roadside dispensers using hand pumps. The first off-road canopied station was built in 1913 in the USA but these did not become widespread until the 1950s.
Once purpose-built sites were constructed off-road additional automotive products and services were added to create service stations. The first 24-hour convenience store opened in 1962. By 1971, only 6.8% of all convenience stores sold motor fuels; today, 83% of convenience stores sell fuels, and U.S. convenience stores sell an estimated 80% of all the motor fuels purchased in the country. In the early 1990s hypermarkets – large supermarkets, discounters and mass merchandisers like Walmart and Costco – begin to sell fuel. Today, there are approximately 5,000 hypermarket stores selling fuel, representing an estimated 12% of fuels sold in the USA.
The history of USA service stations shows a trend from basic filling stations, to service stations to convenience stores and eventually hypermarkets. It’s worth noting then that ‘service station’ has a different meaning in and out of the USA. In the USA a filling station that also offers services such as oil changes, free air for tires and mechanical repairs to automobiles is called a service station. Until the 1970s the vast majority of gas stations were service stations; now only a minority are. In the UK, a 'service station' refers to much larger facilities, usually attached to motorways, which provide food outlets, large parking areas, and often other services such as hotels and shops in addition to 24-hour fuel supplies and a higher standard of restrooms. UK service stations do not usually repair automobiles.
The first self-service dispensers were introduced in the USA in 1947, although they still required an attendant to reset the pumps after each fueling and also collect the money at the fueling island. By 1964 the first remote self-service station is created, eliminating the need for an attendant at the pump and ushering in the modern era of self-service fueling. By the 1970’s the majority of service stations were self-service. The design of dispensers also differs inside and out of the USA; in Europe and Australia the customer selects one of several color-coded nozzles depending on the fuel required, while in most stations in Canada and the USA the pump has a single nozzle and motorists select the desired product by pressing a button. In 1982 pay-at-pump is introduced in Europe and it introduced in the USA in 1986. Only 13% of convenience stores have the technology by 1994, but 80% of convenience stores are using the technology by 2002, and virtually all stores do today.
Piping and Containment
The construction of filling stations in terms of piping and containment from the early 1900s to the 1960s remained generally unchanged. Steel pipe was used for the product lines and fuel was delivered using hand pumps or suction pumps, depending on the location and the time of construction of the station. In the USA, when filling stations reached their end-of-life the entire area would be filled in with concrete and a new station built elsewhere.
By the 1980’s, steel pipe has been recognized as prone to corrosion. Steel pipe began to be replaced with fiberglass pipework in some areas. Fiberglass pipework proved difficult to join in hot or cold environments due to the messy glues and epoxy required, and could also be brittle. Eventually, semi-rigid pipework systems such as APT and UPP became increasingly popular. Lightweight, easy to install and featuring advanced electrofusion technology, semi-rigid pipework rapidly became regarded as industry standard in the UK, USA and parts of Europe. Many parts of the world still use steel pipework, particularly in countries with less stringent environmental protection laws, but the overall trend shows steel being phased out.
By 1960 submersible pumping equipment had grown to 28 to 30 percent of all pump sales. In 1988 Franklin Electric founded FE Petro, applying their submersible pump expertise to create submersible pumps for fuel products. In part due to the increasing popularity of submersible pumps and pressure systems IN 1995 FE Petro™ introduced variable speed submersible turbine pumps (STPs), the first of their kind for the petroleum industry. With faster fill times during peak hours and power savings during non-peak hours, FE Petro™ brand variable speed STPs allow station owners to maximize profits while minimizing operating expenses
After the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970 in the USA, making the newly-established Environmental Protection Agency responsible for protecting and improving the nation’s air quality, service stations began to focus more on environmental obligations. In 1973 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues regulations calling for the incremental reduction of tetraethyl lead (TEL) in gasoline. TEL had helped reduce engine knock and spurred the way for the development of high-power, high-compression engines. Starting in 1975, U.S. automakers respond by equipping new cars with pollution-reducing catalytic converters designed to run only on unleaded fuel.
In 1988 in the USA underground storage regulations were passed, requiring all operators to upgrade their storage tank systems with spill-prevention and leak detection equipment within a decade. Tens of thousands of stations close their operations over the next decade rather than invest in the costly upgrades, while convenience store owners invest millions of dollars to ensure that their underground storage tanks are compliant with current regulations.This heralded a shift in mindset from annual checks to detect leaks to real-time leak prevention with Electronic Leak Detection systems and a move towards double wall pipework to prevent leaks.
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