Sun | May 19, 2019

Texaco goes solar

Published:Sunday | June 29, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Mauricio Pulido, CEO of GB Energy Jamaica, operators of the Texacoservice station network. - File
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Avia Collinder, Business Reporter

Mauricio Pulido, chief executive officer of GB Energy Jamaica, says its supply network has grown to 62 service stations in the year and a half since acquisition of the Texaco assets.

Pulido also boasted of gains in the aviation fuel market, which he said was two per cent at GB's takeover of the local Texaco network, but climbed to 17 per cent in 2013.

"For 2014 we are aiming to finish with 25 per cent of the market," said the CEO, who also told Sunday Business that his next market incursion target is the bunkering fuel segment.

But the petroleum marketing company's focus is not solely on building market share. It is also developing a renewable energy project in partnership with a three-year-old company called New Leaf Power & Conservation Solutions Limited to drive down cost of doing business across the network.

GB piloted the system on one of its Kingston service stations at 96 Molynes Road, from which Pulido says he is already reaping energy savings of 30 per cent.

GB Group acquired Chevron Caribbean's fuels marketing and distributing business, and aviation companies in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and St Maarten in December 2012.

The deal included a network of more than 200 service stations operating under the Texaco brand, as terminals and aviation fuel supply operations.

When GB Energy acquired Texaco Jamaica assets the marketing company was then supplying 52 service stations.

"Now we are supplying 62," Pulido said. However, just 54 bear the Texaco marquee, he told Sunday Business.

Of those 62 Texaco service stations, 35 of them are owned by GB Jamaica, of which two are operated directly by the company, while 33 are operated under licence to third parties.

"The other 27 have a supply agreement with us," said Pulido.

"We may say that in number of service stations we are the largest network in Jamaica."

In its push to contain costs, the company has initiated the installation of solar energy systems. The Molynes Road station was with a 19 KW photovoltaic system for day-time electricity consumption. Otherwise, the station remains dependent on power supplies from the national grid managed by Jamaica Public Service Company.

The agreement with New Leaf is for the roll
out of solar over two years and the aim is to cover the entire network,
but dealers are expected to invest in their own
systems.

GB has initiated talks with he Development
Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) in that regard.

"New Leaf is
being supported by the Development Bank of Jamaica to provide finance
assistance to our retailers to set up the system, based on their needs,"
Pulido said.

The Molynes Road system utilised 76
solar panels and cost $4.7 million, but the plan is to eventually
increase capacity to 45 KW, says Robert Wright, managing director of New
Leaf,

Wright says the Texaco project is similar to
one being done by poultry company Jamaica Broilers Group, which is
encouraging about 50 farmers to retrofit.

Under the
arrangement with DBJ, Texaco dealers will get up 75 per cent debt
financing, with the loans priced at eight per cent per year for seven to
10 years.

The cost per station will vary, depending
on the size of the operation, Wright said.

Pulido says
the results of the Molynes Road pilot will eventually be presented to
the Texaco retailers.

"It is up to them to take
advantage. The intent is to reduce the energy bill for everyone," the GB
executive said.

"So far the results have exceeded
expectations and we have started to see savings in the electricity bill
of around 30 per cent per month, and we expect this to increase to 50
per cent once we can start returning energy to the grid," he
said.

Under the pilot, which included an energy audit,
New Leaf installed the photovoltaic system and changed the main lights
of the canopy - which is the roofing over the gas pumps - to LED
lights.

The solar panels are positioned atop the roof
of the gas station's convenience store and so serves as a shade, which
reduces the use of the air-conditioning unit, Pulido
said.

"The utilities bill was around $500,000 before
installation, and has now been reduced to $350,000 and is expected to be
in the order of the J$250,000 in the coming months," he told
Sunday Business.

GB is also
projecting annual savings of about $3 million per station across the
network, for those who transform their energy
systems.

Pulido says he expects such savings will
benefit Texaco customers in the long run, saying "they will allow us to
increase the investment in the service provided to keep the consistency
and offer more fuelling positions".

Since GB's
Jamaican entry, the company invested $200 million in the Texaco network,
which Pulido said was spent on "operational changes and upgrades of
some stations which needed
reimaging".

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com