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Last week, we looked at how gasoline gets from crude oil to the pump at the station. But how does the station even get there in the first place?
I checked in with the folks in our Network Planning Group ("network" referring to our network of stations, not our computer network) to see how they plan the growth of our station network. I expected to see a lot of Sim City being played. Surprisingly, that was not the case. They use a lot more math and science rather than a city planning game where you can wipe out your downtown with an alien attack. Score one for the Network Planning Group!
Darryl was my contact there; he explained to me the lengthy process for getting a Petro-Canada station into a neighbourhood.
Choosing the Geographic Locale
First, Darryl and his group have to choose a geographic location. They are looking for growth patterns - to understand where future guests will be located. They use Stats Can data and other demographic and population trend information to narrow to a specific zone where growth is expected to occur.
Selecting the Specific Site
Once they've chosen the neighbourhood, "our real estate team locate & secure vacant properties or connect with local developers to find the best site”. A variety of criteria are considered when selecting the build site: traffic patterns (what do the turn-ins look like from the primary and secondary arteries), number of rooftops in the area, “unobstructed visualization of the property from a distance” (i.e. you can see the gas station coming up from a few blocks away instead of coming upon it unexpectedly and speeding right by it), and future land use of surrounding properties - will the area be a "destination" or a wasteland.
These criteria are plugged into the NPG's top-secret "site selection algorithm" or predictive model (ok, maybe not as James Bond as it sounds) to make sure the economics are sound.
They also have to confirm that their ideal site is zoned "commercial" (those are the blue zones in Sim City) and that municipal ordinances allow for a gas station to be built - cities are starting to limit the number of commercial properties that can be built. So competition for sites can be fierce!
Deciding What to Build
Once the land has been secured, the NPG works with Engineering to build the new Petro-Canada station. The number of pumps that are installed at a site is based on the predictive model. And typically, the size of the convenience store will be the same at all locations. The size of the property will determine whether or not there is a car wash and what kind of car wash it will be.
Then bulldozers come in and the building begins. This whole process can take 2 -5 years, depending on the current development stage of the neighbourhood. But at the end, there is a shiny new Petro-Canada station. And hopefully no alien attack.
Thanks so much to Darryl and the Network Planning Group for talking to PumpTalk. Are there other areas of the oil and gas business where you'd like a glimpse "behind the scenes"? Let us know in the comments below!
- Rose R.