Drivers in some parts of the country are facing difficulties filling up with diesel as petrol stations struggle to maintain fuel supplies.
It is thought that up to one in three filling stations in southern England has had to close due to supply issues caused by climate campaigners blockading major fuel depots.
Despite some motorists experiencing problems, drivers have been urged to continue to buy fuel as normal to avoid a repeat of scenes witnessed last year when drivers made supply issues worse by panic buying.
What is causing the shortage?
The current problems are being caused by climate campaigners from Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion who have blockaded at least 11 refineries and fuel terminals in the south of England since 1 April.
The groups say they want to disrupt fuel supplies to London and the south-east of England and will continue their actions until the Government agrees to stop all fossil fuel investment.
Activists have glued themselves to the road outside the facilities, chained themselves to pipes and dug tunnels around refineries to disrupt operations, which has led to delays and problems getting fuel to filling stations.
The problem is piling pressure on fuel companies which are already facing relatively low diesel supplies due to global market demand and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has also pushed up prices for petrol and diesel.
Diesel production slowed at the start of the pandemic and is now struggling to keep up with rising demand as industry returns to normal.
Neil Crosby, senior oil analyst at OilX, told the BBC: “Stocks of lots of fuels are relatively low, but diesel in particular, in Europe, in the US and in Asia as well.”
He added: “The demand for diesel has been very strong up until the crisis, and that also contributed to that. There’s just an imbalance between supply and demand.”
In addition, a fifth of the UK’s diesel supply comes from Russia. With Russian ships banned from docking in the UK and the Government working to stop all oil and fuel imports from Russia this year, the country needs to find other sources of the fuel and is competing with many other nations trying to cut ties with Russia.
The UK Petroleum Industry Association said that fuel companies were implementing contingency plans to deal with a reduction in supply from Russia and that fuel suppliers were working with the Government to deliver the fuels the UK needs “while adjusting long-term supply routes to reduce reliance on Russian crude oil and oil products”.
What areas are affected?
Currently, the problems are largely limited to the south-east of England, with London, Essex, Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire among the most badly affected areas.
Drivers have reported issues at many filling stations and the Campaign for Fair Fuel claims that as many as a third of petrol stations in southern England have had to close due to supply shortages.
However, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) urged drivers not to panic buy. A BEIS spokesperson said: “All fuel supply points are fully operational and we are working closely with industry to ensure that supplies are maintained. The public should continue to purchase fuel as normal.”
The AA also urged drivers to behave responsibly to avoid causing problems, saying the current issues were no worse than the effects of a bad storm.
An AA spokesperson told MailOnline: “There’s no need to rush to the station. If your station is closed, you will probably find another one near you that isn’t.
“While the blockades have undoubtedly had an impact, the closures appear to be localised and not nationwide.
“The only impact they’ve had so far is the equivalent of a bad storm, the fuel industry is more than capable of dealing with such disruptions.
“The great thing about oil tankers is that they’re mobile and can simply unload at other ports which aren’t being targeted.”
How to check supplies near you
One way to check which filling stations near you have petrol and diesel is to use Google Maps.
Look for petrol stations near you and then click on them. This will show you how busy they are.
If a station has a large bar for the current time that means it is busy or busier than average and there is likely fuel in stock. If there is a small bar that means it is less busy than usual and could be out of fuel.
Using confused.com’s online price comparison site will also allow you to find the cheapest fuel near you based on your postcode.