Over the coming weeks, motorists and citizens alike will notice countrywide facelifts taking place at all the service stations that many of us grew up knowing as Texaco and Esso. Those household names, which competed over the decades in the distribution of petroleum products are now being replaced by the names Unopetrol and Puma, respectively.
The buy-outs came as a result of the owners of the previous companies having more interests in bigger countries, hence, the Central American interests have stepped up to the plate and have hit the ground running, replacing the red at Texaco and the blue at Esso service stations with bright, colourful facelifts and expansions specific to their respective brands.
In the case of Texaco, that company has been bought out by Unopetrol, which is based in Honduras, while Esso was bought out by Puma Energy, which is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, but controls the fuel distribution industry in many countries around the world, including all of Central America.
Unopetrol has taken over seven Texaco branded fuel service stations here. It also happened at a time when Texaco’s license to operate in the country expired. Unopetrol’s intention is to expand and acquire three more service stations, with one of the retailers already on board. The company also no longer uses the wholesalers which Texaco employed. Instead, it purchases directly from its own distribution company, saving itself money.
Puma, meanwhile, has acquired 10 of the nation’s service stations once operated by Esso. The company has marketing and supply businesses El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, and now Belize. Soon after the company made its presence known, however, motorists had started to raise concerns over the quality of its fuel products and the prices at which they are sold.
Puma shot back quickly saying that its “fuel supply business in Belize is ruled by stringent standards in the industry. The grade of diesel fuel that Puma Energy supplies in Belize complies with specifications agreed for Central America”, and that it firmly stands behind “the high-quality fuels that we provide to both retail and business customers in Belize.
“Product quality extends to fuel feeds and maintenance, and we adopt industry-leading processes and invest in the latest capital equipment to ensure we only deliver high-quality fuels which is free of contaminants, safely, reliably and at a fair price to all our customers.”
To keep things under control, the Belize Bureau of Standards has commissioned a technical committee that will study existing quality standards in other countries and see how they can be applied in Belize. Holding these companies to specific standard of quality, however, will be a tricky issue, since Belize is not yet equipped with the necessary equipment to test the product. So how the new fuel distributors carry out their business over the coming years will be interesting, especially in this day and age when fuel prices are perhaps the highest they’ve ever been in history.