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Thread: Volume Plus Servos and unknown Biodiesel Blends

  1. #1
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    Volume Plus Servos and unknown Biodiesel Blends

    I've posted ad-nauseum about this in the past in the industry section under "Future Fuels", as it was my opinion that this industry supplier was not doing the right thing for the biodiesel marketplace in Australia.
    However, I should probably post something up here as well about their retail outlets "Volume Plus".
    As no doubt most of you now know, Volume Plus have been dispensing biodiesel for some time. The only problem is that it is still an unknown quantity/quality. Thus far, no one has been able to get a definitive answer from VP as to what blend of biodiesel they are distributing. Answers have varied from B5 to B80 and I would not be too surprised if B100 were being supplied. The official answer I got from VP, after some time chasing them with no response (see the future fuels thread) was that their plant in Moama was not always able to supply enough biodiesel, so they had to vary the mix each delivery, depending on the supply they had. Additionally, the distribution of the tanker to each station could not be used to give an exact answer either on the blend supplied to that servo. I'm sorry, but I have a hard time believing that any company, however big or small could be so out of control of their supply chain so as not be aware of the mix of fuels each one is dispensing.
    So, I'll cut to the chase, I am NOT HAPPY as a consumer that we are being deliberately misled. I am very happy that biodiesel is entering the mainstream marketplace, but I am not happy about the way it is happening. We've all discussed the possibility of the ethanol debacle and the distinct possibility that the current practice of VP may cause the same bad press for biodiesel.
    I am not sure how to address this issue. I'd like to seek the legal opinion on selling unlabeled blends, or to threaten to report them to some sort of higher power that would make them tell the consumer their blend. However, I don't want to discourage the only current biodiesel retailer in Sydney.
    I'll stop ranting now and post up some images so that this post may have some value:

    Attachment 252
    This is the bowser at VP in Wentworthville. For a few weeks, they had no fuel from here. This photo was taken just before they ran out. I am not sure of the arrangement between VP and what are possibly independent franchises, but possibly this servo had not paid their bill, hence the lack of delivery. You can see the sign sticky-taped to the bowser. Although it is marked "distillate", the sign says they are dispensing a biodiesel blend that meets Australian Standards.

    Here is a close up of the sign:

    Attachment 250
    "This pump is dispensing biodiesel blend. The biodiesel is manufactured to Australian Standard as Fuel Standard (Biodiesel) Determination under section 21 of the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000."

    The pump itself was a little worse for wear and the old rubber hose was clearly not synthetic and was already showing signs of corrosion, with the rubber easily rubbing off onto my hands.
    Attachment 249
    The next time I went back to this station, they had no supply, so I had to travel to another one in Guilford, which was slightly cleaner and had the same arrangement with an ambiguous sign on the bowser and no comment from the station attendant.
    Attachment 251

    It is easy to see how people can fill up without noticing the sign. When I returned to Wentworthville some weeks later (after confirming on the phone first that they had fuel), I found the sign had suffered a little from the weather.

    Attachment 253

    The sign was actually completely impossible to read now, so does that make us any less wise about the blend that we are getting.

    Looking at the fuel coming from the nozzle and judging by the smell from my exhaust, I am sure that it is a high blend of biodiesel (I reckon over B50), but I am still not happy about not knowing as a consumer what I am getting .
    Last edited by Robert; 20th July 2006 at 11:55 AM.
    Robert.
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  2. #2
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    Re: Volume Plus Servos and unknown Biodiesel Blends

    That certainly is concerning, particularly if this sort of practice were allowed to happen in colder climates where viscosity causes some big problems.

    However, I agree that supplying biodiesel should be encouraged at servos. It's a difficult line to draw - when do you stop freely encouraging them and demand some sort of restrictions and order?

    If we wait until biodiesel is more mainstream, it's foreseeable that people's cars will be damaged in the process, and we'll get negative publicity about biodiesel.

    Would it be possible to try to work with this company at all? I think making enemies this early in the game would be a mistake. Perhaps a meeting with some of their senior management might be worthwhile. Let them know that you appreciate what they are doing, and as a consumer advocacy group, will give them publicity in the media, as long as they build some strategies for controlling their processes, and fix up their signage. Stress the point that communication is essential between the consumers and them to build trust.

    Just a suggestion

    oh, and perhaps suggest that they inform their staff a little better. When my bf went to a VP to buy some fuel and wanted to ask a few questions, the guy at the counter indicated he couldn't give a rats.

  3. #3
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    Re: Volume Plus Servos and unknown Biodiesel Blends

    Yep, I hear you Amber and I agree. I have actually tried for over a month to contact VP in the friendliest ways possible. The person I spoke to almost understood me, but his boss would NEVER return my calls. I had to stress several times that we were actually not just their customers and their market, but additionally we were their friends as we all wanted to buy their product. I really tried hard on this angle of common interests and trying to help them with free publicity etc. I kept stressing that I did not want to sell them anything, I just wanted honest info from them so I could help their public buy their product. Seemed to fall on deaf ears.
    Eventually, I got desperate and spoke to their receptionist. I was due to give a speech to the "alternate motor show" on biodiesel supply in Sydney, With only a day to spare, I had still got no answer from them so I had to send an angry, frustrated email to them basically threatening that if they did not communicate with me, I would have no option but to tell people "buyer beware" (you can see all this in that Future Fuels thread). It worked, the boss called me back and asked why all the agro, within a few minutes, we seemed to have an understanding. He made a few glib promises (like putting something about biodiesel on their website) and "staying in touch". He also gave me some very lengthy excuses about why he could not have any real knowledge of his supply chain, which I accepted and posted at the time, but on future reflection, I have realised it was probably complete BS. Since this, I hear that VP have joined the Biodiesel Association of Australia, who I am told also look unfavourably on their current retail practice. Hopefully this might bring them into line?
    I know that it seems counter productive to be whinging about them in here, but I am really frustrated at the contempt that they seem to be showing their consumers and I can only imagine the level of support they might offer if ever their fuel was blamed for a vehicle's problem. I've tried being nice, so this is what I am reduced to. At the end of the day, we are consumers and they are a company not "playing by the rules", so we need to inform ourselves to be careful. Having said that, I'm still buying the stuff, as I have not yet got around to organising the purchasing group to do another bulk purchase from Rutherford.
    As for educating the operators, I also raised that point to VP, who told me that this was also beyond their control as they were independent owners. I suggested point of sale information and they said "hmm, good idea, we'll look into that". I even offered to help get some made up for them. Not heard a peep and it would seem to be almost a policy that their signs fade, their operators are deliberately unhelpful and they keep their consumer in the dark.
    I seem to have got quite a chip on my shoulder about these guys now , so if anyone else wants to try tackling them again with a softer touch, maybe they'd get further.
    Robert.
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  4. #4
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    Re: Volume Plus Servos and unknown Biodiesel Blends

    Ah, right. I see. So the boss couldn't care less, and the independent operators he sells it to are probably ignorant.


    The only other thing I can think of is to start up a viable alternative - some sort of fuel co-op. Maybe with minitankers: http://www.minitankers.com.au or something like it. Sorry, I've run out of ideas.

  5. #5
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    Re: Volume Plus Servos and unknown Biodiesel Blends

    I suspect that their current methods are possibly more of a deliberate strategy than that they simply don't care. Not one that I agree with, but I think it must be the way they are thinking.
    Good idea re mini-tankers, however there is already some (off the record) stuff happening with them (not though me) and I'd rather wait until I've heard the end of that story (not for print here) until I investigated that further.
    Robert.
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  6. #6
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    Re: Volume Plus Servos and unknown Biodiesel Blends

    Hi Robert,

    Yep - I think I agree with your summary: VP are deliberately vague rather than hopeless, although I tend to always side with the theory of "incompetence rather than a conspiracy." But they do seem intent on going after the uninformed / blissfully unaware consumer, rather than BD users.

    As posted elsewhere, I have got more information in a face-to-face purchasing situation when I have said that I am a keen BD user - VP at Lewisham.

    Hopefully our concerted efforts will start to improve their retail practice.
    I would still love someone to test a sample to see what blend we are dealing with. Well done Robert, on all our behalf. I think I would be as frustrated as you, with the constant BS you have been fed.
    Unfortunately the "stay low, say nothing" approach to customert relations is all too prevalent in some corporate cultures.

    In the meantime, I'd be interested in another purchasing group outing - if only to have a reliable back-up supply, as I have found VP's supply to be all over the place.

    cheers

    Geoff.

  7. #7
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    Re: Volume Plus Servos and unknown Biodiesel Blends

    I believe that one of our members has already grabbed a sample of the VP blend for testing, I'm not sure if he'll make the findings public on it, but I think it may still be a week or 2 away. I'll certainly be hoping to publish the info, if he's happy to do so. As for the purchasing group... gotta do something soon. I'd like to have some method of folk to have biodiesel by the time we get this picnic going.
    Robert.
    Site Admin.

  8. #8
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    Re: Volume Plus Servos and unknown Biodiesel Blends

    Well Guys, i would be interested in this buying group. I have not yet put BD in my tanks yet because i cant find the stuff. Basically what i need to know as of todays date 27th July 2006. where would you recommend the purchase of fuel for my hilux. I have also noticed that fuel is graded. This is completely nw to me. What do i look for if for some unknown reason i get lucky and actually find this fuel.

    The other question what should we expect to pay at the bowser say compared to the buying group.

    Cheers


  9. #9
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    Re: Volume Plus Servos and unknown Biodiesel Blends

    Robert

    You seem to have had some challanges with VP.

    Really strange cause my experance with the VP at Ingleburn has been very positive. I know the 3 operators there very well, when you put 80L of diesel in a work van every 2 days since Jan you tend to get friendly.

    The main older operator at Ingleburn is very helpful and has always told me the shippments that they get in what blend they are, when it was delivered etc. And yes they have issues were somedays the load that comes in is straight dinodiesel and most of the time it is a B50 blend. So working out what the blend is that is being pumped at any one time would be nearly impossible.

    The biggest issue with Ingleburn is that it is a 24/7 station and goes through a tanker load of diesel every 2 days or so and busy times they can get a load a day just to keep up with demand.

    I can see your frustration though if we fill up at minto VP which is less that 2km away from ingleburn we get the same blank looks of who cares etc, so I can understand that side of the view.

    I think the Ingleburn one is better cause the main operator wants to take an intrest in bio-diesel and is intrested in what people think of the fuel and how well it operates in the engines. I am always happy to chat with him.


    All the VP are owned by a single owner the company as far as I have been able to find out they are not franchise stores, I would be happy to give this guy a go in getting back to management of VP if you want me to try and see if we can get a fruitfull relationship going with them if people are intrested.

    I find it frustrating that they don't want to supply information freely and I can see this could cause HUGE problems with bio-diesel in the future if it becomes a PR nigthmare I think a softly softly approach could be the way to go and get a meet with the guys who matter. Get the local operators informed and intrested( i know some never will) if we can achive some of this I am sure we could get somewere.

    Now onto further subjects of Bio-diesel I would be into alternate supply of bio. I was planning on going to rutherford in the near future to get 1000L at a time as the rate at which I go through it I would be back and forth every month or so. The only issue I am waiting on at the moment is storage of the bio when I get home. It does not cause any real issues as it is afterall only Veg Oil but I still needed a tank and someway clean to pump it into cars which wasn't a messy hand pump

    I would be up for looking into this further and maybe getting a larger supply closer to sydney to save the need to travel to rutherford to get supply.

  10. #10
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    Unhappy Re: Volume Plus Servos and unknown Biodiesel Blends

    Hi Guys,

    It seems to me to be very much on the nose, that demeanor does not strike me as legitimate nor a viable attitude. Surely its these kind of people who can do a lot more harm than good. I would not buy from them with your money never mind my own. They can do the scene a lot of harm. I would not want to give them any encouragement, although they would be more likely to respond to negative approaches. Sometimes we can cut our own throats by being so amenable. WHAT HAVE THEY GOT TO HIDE???????

    LOL

    Dillyman
    Last edited by dillyman; 31st July 2006 at 09:15 AM.

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