LABACE Convention News

Fuel Suppliers Respond To Fast-rising GA Demand

 - August 12, 2013, 12:00 PM
Nearly all aviation fuel in Brazil–both avgas and jet-A–originates from state-backed oil group Petrobras. The Brazilian refiner insists it supplies fuel competitively to business aviation retailers Air BP, Shell and its own subsidiary, BR Aviation.

While the name on the side of the refueling truck might say Air BP, BR Aviation or Shell, what’s inside it at any airport in Brazil all comes from the same source. All discussions of aviation fuel in the country must start with Petróleo Brasileiro (Petrobras), the national oil refiner of Brazil and the official supplier of Jet-A and avgas. Petrobras produces approximately 70 percent of the Jet-A used in the country and imports the remainder in its effort to supply the three major distributors.

In addition to selling fuel to multi-national distributors such as Air BP and Shell, the state-backed group also provides fuel through BR Aviation (Stand 2002), a business unit of Petrobras Distribuidora, which is in turn a Petrobras subsidiary. But, despite that seemingly-close business relationship, the aviation fuel landscape in Brazil is a level one according to the company. “Petrobras Distribuidora has no financial advantages compared to other fuel distributors in the purchase of aviation products,” said executive manager Francelino Paes, who noted that BR Aviation must purchase its products from Petrobras as well, at the same price as the other distributors, therefore allowing pricing competition to occur.

Unlike the North American FBO model, each distributor operates its own fleet of trucks, (more than 500 nationwide in the case of BR Aviation, which according to the company currently commands nearly 60 percent of the market share) and their workers perform into-plane fueling operations rather than the FBO staff. The companies provide fuel for all aircraft at the airports from the largest commercial jetliner to turboprops and helicopters. At most of the larger airports in the country there is more than one provider operating, and with certain exceptions each manages its own fuel supply and tank farm.

“In locations with significant movement of volume, distributors operate through a pool,” said Paes. “Assets and investments are shared between distributors and administered by one of them, such as in São Paulo (Guarulhos–Governador André Franco Montoro International Airport), Rio de Janeiro (Galeão–Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport) and Brasilia (Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International Airport), among others.”

BR Aviation is active at 103 airports in Brazil, followed by Raizen, a joint venture between Shell and Cosan, which sells aviation fuel under the Shell (Stand 1006) brand at 57 airports which account for approximately 95 percent of the aviation fuel market demand in Brazil. “Though the market is fully deregulated, Petrobras virtually supplies all fuel for companies based in Brazil,” said Leonardo Ozorio, Raizen’s general aviation national sales manager. “We can import as well but at this time we have not explored this option yet.”

Air BP (Stand 5004) has facilities at 19 of the country’s airports and is well on its way towards its plan for Brazil according to a company spokesman. “Air BP has an ambitious growth plan for the South America region,” said Ricardo Paganini, Air BP South America PU Leader. “In Brazil our main goal is to be present at the 20 most important commercial aviation airports across the country while also developing various supply points to increase competitiveness to our business. Looking over the general aviation and private jets market, we intend to build up demand at some specific areas through project partnerships with third -parties.”

Though the distributors serve both the commercial and private aviation sides, at larger airports they do attempt to provide differentiated service. “We have a clear focus within our operations to provide a differentiated service to customers on general aviation/private jets,” said Ozorio. “In the big airports such as Congonhas, Guarulhos, Santos Dumont, etc., we have a dedicated refueling truck and operators, avoiding conflict with commercial airlines, but in most cases we manage to avoid conflict, trying to anticipate the demand with our customers.”

The levels of general aviation continue to rise in Brazil as evidenced by the fuel use. “The consumption of general aviation in Brazil has increased significantly, and in 2012, the increase was about 15 percent compared to 2011,” said Paes. “This growth was quite significant when compared with the growth of other segments of aviation, which was approximately three percent, and was driven mainly by developing regions outside the major economic centers.”

That assessment was echoed by Raizen’s Ozorio: “We cannot provide specific data in terms of volumes, but we can say that general aviation represents five percent of the total aviation business in our company (the other 95 percent is supplying airline operations), but it has been growing at least by 10 percent on an yearly basis for the last five years, far more than the country gross domestic product.”

That last statistic is a crucial one for the sustained growth of Brazil’s business aviation fleet use according to Paes. “Aviation is closely linked to the evolution of the GDP, the growth of the economy, so, the regional development of Brazil and the diversification of economic activity beyond the traditional urban centers, drives the Brazilian fleet to new regions,” he told AIN. “Furthermore, the Brazilian government launched at the end of 2012 the ‘Investment Program of Logistics: Airport’ for development of regional airports, covering 270 airfields throughout Brazil. We believe that this initiative will promote an increase in the number of aircrafts, since the improvement of airport infrastructure will enable the expansion of the use of the executive fleet.”

In addition to the distributors, global fuel re-seller World Fuel Services (Stand 5007) is also active in the private aviation fueling market. It recently added Celso Azuma as its new São Paulo-based sales executive to handle business aviation sales and supply in Brazil. The company noted that its fuel volumes in both Brazil and the rest of South/Latin America have shown steady growth so far this year and it is one of its better performing regions.