UK petrol prices rise to pre-pandemic levels as lockdown eases

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A notice telling people to stay 2 metres apart is seen at a petrol station, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Stone, Britain, April 28, 2020. REUTERS/Carl Recine

LONDON (Reuters) – UK demand for road fuel – mainly petrol and diesel – has risen two and a half times over since the start of 2021 as the country posted the fastest pace of vaccinations in Europe, and fuel prices have returned to pre-pandemic levels, data shows.

Fuel consumption dropped significantly as the UK government announced in March 2020 tight restrictions on mobility and ordered people to stay at home.

Diesel sales nosedived according to official data, from 12,000 litres per day in sampled filling stations in mid-March last year to 1,400 litres a month later, while petrol sales fell from 7,000 to 1,100 litres in the same period.

However, official data released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy last week showed the consumption of both road fuels has increased almost 150% since Jan. 1.

Average diesel sales in filling stations have risen from almost 2,500 litres at the start of the year to almost 6,500 litres, and petrol sales from almost 2,400 to around 6,000 litres.

“Road fuel was struggling the first weeks of May with -6% week on week growth,” said Rystad oil market analyst Simen Nut Hansen Eliassen.

“However, we have recently seen a 2% week on week growth for the week of 17 May and 9% week on week growth for the week of 24 May, pushing total road fuel demand 4% above pre-pandemic levels landing on around road fuel demand of 850,000 barrels per day.”

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From May 17, people were permitted to meet up indoors for the first time in months, and pubs, cafes and restaurants were allowed to accept customers indoors.

Some other European countries are seeing the same positive trend, said Eliassen, due to successful vaccination strategies and the effect of warmer weather as summer sets in.

The price of unleaded gasoline in the United Kingdom has reached 129p a litre, the highest level since August 2019, according to RAC Foundation figures.

The diesel pump price was at 134.50 per litre, the highest level since January 2020.

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