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Leighton O'Brien News and Events

The role of ATGs in today’s retail fuel environment

By Greg Salverson
VP, Global Business Development

In years gone by the Automatic Tank Gauge (ATG) was the right solution for the challenges of fuel management and environmental compliance. Locally automating a consistent practice for compliance and accurate measurement of stock levels was a sizeable step forward for the industry – but in today’s evolving retail fuel environment, it’s become more and more difficult for the ATG to be an automated ‘one stop shop’ for compliance monitoring.

The average ATG will generate 10 alarms per month depending on setup and location. According to a recent article by the industry standard for tank gauging, Gilbarco Veeder-Root, 30% of alarms actually require action at site. The other 70% of alarms can be ‘remotely resolved’, which is to say monitored until the false alarm stops or closed with a simple email telling the store to replace the paper in their ATG.

My personal experience suggests that closer to 80% of ATG alarms can effectively be remotely managed. Eventually the high rate of remotely managed false or unimportant alarms will cause the site or head office to either unnecessarily spend on maintenance visits or, eventually, ignore the ATG alarms.

I can personally recount many trips to visit customer sites and the ATG is in alarm. When I ask the site operator, “Why is that light blinking?” the typical response is the ATG alarm light is always flashing, or worse, they don’t know. Like the boy crying wolf, always yelling for help causes complacency, which leads to ignoring alarms and eventually potentially allowing large leaks to occur – not because the ATG failed, but because too many alarms cause the alarm to go unnoticed.

As the IoT (Internet of Things) continues to evolve, so too will the ATG’s role in a fuel network.  Accurately measuring the surface area of a tank is impressive. Monitoring interstitial spaces is important. Simple water alarms have evolved into water ingress analysis to determine root causes which not only reduces false alarms but makes remediation more efficient, saving costs. Combining ATG data with POS data enables flow rate monitoring with the same analysis to determine if flow rates dropped due to dispenser issues, product contamination, phase separation, engineering design and other causes – each requiring a potentially different response.

Using the same data companies can automate meter drift analysis from head office to plan meter calibrations based on cost/benefit analysis rather than a set date, recalibrate ATGs and validate deliveries to an accuracy of 0.3%. It can also improve wetstock management such as carrying less fuel while reducing runouts (stock outs/dry runs), and isolate actual leaks with central analytics that not only alert to losses but provide transparency to know it’s a real loss, then respond with the appropriate action.

ATGs are a valuable investment for every retail site, but as the IoT continues to evolve, there’s an opportunity for retailers to re-evaluate which ATG features are important and which features are better managed with transparent, centralised, certified software solutions.

We’d love to know: What is your view on the future of the ATG?

18.07.2016 – by Leighton O'Brien
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