Calibration, More or Less

Calibration, More or Less

Calibration, More or Less

By Rob Bateman

In the fuel dispensing business or any business that sells a commodity, quantity measurement accuracy is very important. It’s a completely understandable concept that the client gets what they pay for and it goes without saying that a vendor should receive a reasonable return on the sale of its product.

So, what can get in the way of this exchange? If you believe in Murphy’s Law, “what can go wrong will go wrong,” especially as it relates to a mechanical and often digital devices. You know the subject deserves attention.

As a vender of petroleum, you know that if you are, for technical reasons dispensing more fuel than the client is paying for on any given day you could be a popular destination for your client’s friends and a grump when you look at your monthly bottom line.

Or, on the other hand, if you are dispensing less, everyone from Port Alice to Peggy’s Cove will know you as a crook.

In terms of dollars and cents, what could this mean?

So, let us cite some real-life examples. Say number one dispenser on your site is out (not in your favour) by the maximum allowable by Measurement Canada of 100 ml per 20 litre run or one litre every 200 litres (.005 per cent) and this dispenser sees a volume of 10,000 litres per day. You are giving away 50 litres a day from this dispenser. The price of a litre of regular gas is say $1.10 so being out by this amount means a loss of revenue of $55.00 per day or about $1,650 per month and $20,000 in a year.

Now this example represents a fairly high-volume site but with six dispensers, this could mean giving away $120,000 a year if all dispensers are out by 100ml per 20 litre run.

The federal government in its’ efforts to protect the consumer has legislated that you calibrate your dispensers once every two years. Measurement Canada performed this type of testing for a small fee for many years but about five years ago, with lots of notice, exited this business. Measurement Canada now only provides the teaching and qualifying of third party technicians to perform the testing and the certification of metres. More importantly, they also now perform surprise audits on all fuel dispensing businesses. A fail of a dispenser may result in an expensive penalty and a shut-down of the site or part of the site for a specified amount of time until the problem has been rectified. If it takes several weeks to fix the problem, it could be expensive.

Third party petroleum service providers can be contracted to inspect and certify compliance or adjust the metres.

Not all petroleum service businesses perform this function and not all service providers that do testing can complete required adjustments or replace metres. Temperature compensation equipment (ATC) needs attention as well.

It would be great benefit to check that your service provider can do both. In some instances, a service provider will fail the dispenser and leave. Then you have to make an appointment for another provider to make the adjustments or repairs.

Some petroleum service businesses are Weights and Measures Canada registered and they teach the weight and measures program. Others are accredited only and perform the service and certify the equipment.

The weights and measurement course provided by Measurement Canada is expensive and time consuming and the equipment required for proper calibration is also expensive and must be re-certified regularly. So, it’s not a business all service providers will take on.

Most petroleum service businesses have a shortage of qualified technicians and can barely keep up with their current work. Only experienced and well-trained petroleum service technicians are capable of taking on this role.

If you need to have your system re-certified don’t wait until the last minute, plan in advance. A surprise audit by Weights and Measures Canada could be painful.

Metre calibration is also important for industrial/commercial fuel dispensers (works yards and card locks) as well because managing fuel consumption is important in order to account for vehicle efficiency and to prevent theft.

In other businesses, we call the discrepancy in quantity sales whether by theft or equipment error, leakage. Not a good term in the fuel business for sure but the cost is nonetheless real and fixable.

A discrepancy of only 100 ml per 20 litres can go unnoticeable for a long time and the cost of verifying accuracy is nothing compared to the loss. Often these metres can be out over 200ml per 20 litre runs. Why wait until the certification expires? Choose to have the inspection and certification completed annually and make sure your service provider employs registered petroleum equipment service technicians.

Rob Bateman is the former president of Western Oil Services Ltd, Western Oil Services(Eastern)Ltd. and B.C. Petroleum Contractors Association. He now acts as a consultant to Western Oil Services Ltd. Rob and his wife reside in North Vancouver in Summer and California in the winter.

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