April 5, 2019 [Caribbean Business] – After a $50 million investment, Total Petroleum Puerto Rico Corp. inaugurated Wednesday two 300,000-barrel fuel storage tanks it constructed to expand capacity equal to what executives said was six weeks of sales.
The company will now have 600,000 barrels available at its facility in Guaynabo. “The interest for this project is for [Total] to have more storage to be more resilient in case of experiencing another weather event. We all know that having large-capacity storage is necessary in case of an emergency. Today we have twice as much as we had when Hurricane Maria struck,” said the general manager of Total Petroleum Puerto Rico, Pierre-Emmanuel Bredin.
“This expansion makes us more competitive because up to today we had to have the tanks almost empty to receive a new ship with fuel because it arrived just in time and sometimes caused the ships to stay out at sea so while the tanks were emptied in the terminal to make room. That involved an operational cost, but that will disappear now and we will have a better operation,” Bredin explained.
As part of the investment, an amount was allocated to address the environmental factor with a new water system as well as safety, including new levels to address issues such as fire extinction. Both matters represent about 40% of the overall cost of the project.
An innovation in the connection design of the two new tanks allows any overflow to move to the second tank. This feature reduced the need to build an outer cover of greater containment, a breakthrough for future company projects of a similar nature.
The project was initially tendered and won by the local contractor Lord Construction, which began its work in January 2017. The construction had been scheduled to be completed and put into operation in March this year. Around 130 people worked on the project, with some 200 workers on the construction site.
“This important investment in the last two years signals Total’s commitment to Puerto Rico. It allows Total, as an important player in responsible energy, to strengthen our roots in the Puerto Rican market. It also represents a clear demonstration of our commitment to deliver our products and services to our customers every step of the way,” said Momar Nguer, president of Total Marketing & Services, a division of Total Group with 31,000 employees in 109 countries.
“The expansion of the terminal in Guaynabo serves to highlight the ability of [Total Puerto Rico] to execute an industrial project, and we are proud to have completed the project on time, within budget and, most importantly, without accidents,” Bredin said.
Meanwhile, the executive said, Total is also investing $20 million to remodel and renovate its service stations, nearly 90% of which were affected by Hurricane Maria. The work includes remodeling stations roofs as well as the labeling that includes the identification of fuel prices for sale.
In addition to the investment, the company has focused on redoubling emergency response plans based on the experience from María. Its new emergency plan is a new benchmark for Total’s operations around the world.
As part of the plan, it purchased more trucks of different sizes to facilitate the delivery of diesel and gasoline to stations and industrial customers, in addition to directly supplying its customers’ commercial diesel generators. In addition, the supply of lubricants was extended to supply trucks, industrial fleets and generators.
The new response plan includes enabling external areas in the terminal to serve retailers as well as having areas at the stations for customers of the fleets at certain times.
To questions from the press about fuel prices, Bredin said that “in the supply chain, our part is small; there are many other elements that impact the price such as the international market in all countries of the world and the movement of prices. Our goal…is to have more customers all the time, so whatever efforts we can make, we make.”
Regarding customer demand and the company’s sales on the island, Bredin said the market had dropped, probably due to the high outmigration to the states.
“There are other important works that are going to start with the reconstruction of Puerto Rico and that is going to positively impact the market, so it’s a bit of a low moment, but normally that should come a little later,” he said.
Although Total only established itself on the island in 2004, the executive said it holds 17% of the market share. The company has consolidated its presence in the oil, lubricant and aviation businesses. It has more than 200 service stations, as well as aviation terminal facilities in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas. In addition, it has 70 convenience stores under the Bonjour brand.