Rising fuel prices spur growth in theft-prevention, monitoring technology

Petroleum fleet managers look for ways to combat incidents of theft, hijackings

MultiSeal accepts bulk tankers to be divided into multiple compartments (for instance, one compartment with 6,500 liters (1,717 gallons) of fuel oil, a second compartment with 10,000 liters (2,641 gallons) of unleaded gasoline, and so on), each sealed, monitored, and verified in the MultiSeal computer. Each truck and each compartment can be monitored remotely via a GPRS (general packet radio service) device as simple to operate as a cell phone.

Vapor regulations in the early 1990s helped drive electronic systems in Europe because they eliminated the need to open the tanker domelid and the use of dipsticks.

Those regulations, along with the ability to monitor all operations simultaneously, in real time, is one reason ConocoPhillips adopted the FMC Technologies sealed-parcel-delivery system for its 80 branded tankers in Germany.

Before adopting sealed-parcel-delivery, ConocoPhillips used multiple meters to measure the quantities of diesel and gasoline filled in separate compartments for multiple-site delivery. The standard-size ConocoPhillips tanker has a 43,000-liter (11,359-gallon) capacity and up to four compartments ranging in size from 3,000 to 18,000 liters (792 to 4,755 gallons). Today the meters are gone from the trucks; replaced with the electronic sealing system.

"This system lets me see everything a driver is doing without being overwhelmed with paper," says Karl C Strack, ConocoPhillips' senior advisor for road transportation. "We have better tracking of our haulers and transport companies because the electronic sealing systems are connected to headquarters. I can track everything from my office."

Aiding ConocoPhillips' decision to adopt MultiSeal was the company's participation over the past decade in a five-company cooperative relationship with Shell, as well as with three equipment and technology companies, to establish electronic monitoring standards. The cooperative is called E7. Based on E7 standards, the MultiSeal system is one reason ConocoPhillips has had the best stop-loss system in the business for the past five years.

"In the late 90s when electronic sealing systems were introduced we ran a one-year test on the first truck before the approvals came through," says Strack. "The results showed MultiSeal helped us track deliveries more accurately, save time delivering each stop, and account for moisture and other variables that can affect volume. We're after lighter trucks for better efficiency and that's one reason we like MultiSeal."

Equipping the ConocoPhillips trucks with MultiSeal is a running process. "We will continue to equip trucks with MultiSeal over the coming years, as costs allows," says Strack. "I feel that our haulers will also."

ABS Bonifer Transport in Offenbach, Germany, has more than 100 tankers equipped with MultiSeal and has used the system for the past 10 years.

"Prior to sealed-parcel-delivery we used meters, or in some cases, nothing at all," says President Andreas Bonifer. "We were looking for a system that would help us do more with less staff and that would allow us to be more than just a delivery service, to be a logistics partner, if you will, to our customer."

Bonifer tested MultiSeal for six months before adapting his entire fleet. The MultiSeal system was installed on the Bonifer fleet over a 15-month period.

"We found that we were able to save time because MultiSeal allowed us to discharge accurate volumes faster than before," he says. "There was no guessing about volume and no time lost trying to deliver exact amounts."

After reviewing literature about the MultiSeal system fleet manager Pate sees how the system can benefit the US transport industry. "I love the fact that it shows a clear statement for the full compartment and then another for the empty compartment," he says. "That's the kind of proof I'd like to give customers."

FMC Technologies does not yet sell MultiSeal in the US market but may in the near future. One major UK Oil Company indicated that with the design changes they could make to their tanker specification by fitting MultiSeal, pay back time would be around one and a half years.

Security key

Accurate measurement and logging is just one aspect of tanker security. Personnel management is another. The vast majority of gas thefts from tank trucks occur when employees either leave voluntarily, or are terminated, from a bulk transport company. Why?