The Road to Zero: James Twohig
Valero says it will take time for Ireland to reduce its dependence on fossil fuel, but the company – which markets fuel in Ireland under the Texaco brand – is committed to orchestrating positive change now.
In an interview with Ireland’s Forecourt & Convenience Retailer, Valero’s director of operations in Ireland, James Twohig, sets out how the industry is moving toward zero carbon.
Recent measures include the increase in the Biofuel Obligation from January 1 and the drive to switch from E5 to E10, he says.
“Our industry has been managing change for the past 100 years and will continue to adapt and transform as we go forward into the future,” Mr Twohig says.
“With environmental and climate change concerns and the urgency of these to the fore in more recent times, there is no doubt that the challenges facing us are greater now than at any time previously. Government policy and legislative changes are more frequent and society’s expectation is for us to play a central role in addressing climate concerns.
“Our industry’s aim is for Ireland to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. This means fundamentally altering the way we do business and the liquid fuels we provide.
“Society has used fossil fuels as a provider of cheap and reliable energy over the last century and reducing our dependence on these will take time. Indeed, while we believe that this step change will only start to gather tangible momentum after 2030, we are committed both as an industry and as a corporation to orchestrating positive change now.”
Mr Twohig says the fuel industry called on Minister Ryan last year to mandate the introduction of E10 to improve the transport industry’s carbon footprint.
“Switching from E5 to E10 in Ireland would result in an annual industry reduction in CO2 emissions of 90,000 tonnes. This would be in addition to the reduction of 330,000 tonnes of carbon that biofuel blending currently achieves,” he said.
“The increase in the Biofuel Obligation from 11% to 13% on 1st January 2022 is just one step that has been taken and further initiatives are planned for future years that will see a reduction in the environmental impact of road fuels in this country.”
Mr Twohig said Valero is also committed to reducing its carbon emissions.
“Already a leader in the production of renewable fuels as the world’s second largest renewable diesel producer and corn ethanol producer, with more than $3 billion invested, a further $2 billion is scheduled for investment on low carbon projects over the next three years,” he says.
“We are also on track to offset/reduce 63% of our global refining GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions by 2025 with a view to increasing this to 100% by 2035.
“We recognise that low carbon fuels are part of the energy mix and are steadfast in our commitment to positive change. We know that our market will require less petroleum and more lower carbon fuels in the future and are working to ensure that all Valero refineries, including the one that is local to us in Pembrokeshire, Wales, have the capability to meet progressive renewable fuel requirements.
“As our industry undergoes significant transition in the years ahead, so will we. Our business is focussed solely on the supply of fuel and as a significant fuel supplier currently, Valero and the Texaco brand will continue to be part of the energy story,” Mr Twohig says.
A qualified mechanical engineer who has held roles in several UK and Ireland companies before joining Texaco (Ireland) Limited in 1992 as an Area Sales Manager, Mr Twohig has a comprehensive knowledge of all areas of the business.
He has worked across the industry, from lubricants to commercial sales, retail and fuel cards in both the UK and Irish markets and is now responsible for Valero’s business in Ireland.
“Valero is a wholesale supplier of quality fuel to independent service station operators throughout Ireland. We operate under the Texaco brand and our products, which have been available in Ireland for many decades, are renowned and trusted for their consistent high quality, reliability and performance,” he says.
“Our strategy is to partner with operators who maintain high standards and provide a compelling, quality store offering to their customers. We believe that this, combined with our quality fuel offering and the renowned strength of the Texaco brand, delivers a very compelling offering to the Irish motorist.”
The pandemic has been very disruptive across the industry and especially so for service station operators who have been trying to navigate these unprecedented conditions.
“As fuel volumes initially plummeted and many operators felt it necessary to change their store focus from ‘convenience’ to ‘grocery’, a challenging site environment developed for some. Many have had to become adept at managing over the shorter term, being adaptable and changing direction as the hour or day requires in order to keep their forecourts open and their stores running,” Mr. Twohig says.
“Valero’s response is to work with individual operators and to provide support as necessary. We view our business as a multitude of long-term partnerships with our operators and are aware that their success within their local communities ultimately results in Valero enjoying a successful business in Ireland too.
“We’re fortunate to be a Fortune 500 company so have been able to withstand the profound impact that the pandemic has had and have thankfully been in a position to provide support where required,” he says.
The other key event that has been impactful for Ireland as a country has been Brexit.
“With a significant lead in to the country’s departure and a close working relationship with our UK colleagues already in place, our lead-in and planning times were set over the longer term and executed as we originally envisioned. We’ve been subsequently fortunate to enjoy a seamless transition to an EU with Britain,” Mr Twohig says.
“As our company is a significant importer and provider of energy to the country, we also had the comfort of working closely with the Irish Revenue Commissioners to ensure continuity of supply across all sectors of our business.”
Valero’s overall strategy for the years ahead remains simple, Mr Twohig adds.
“With our longer-term view, we will work to welcome more strong, independent service station operators to the Texaco brand and to meet their expectations by delivering a quality fuel offering in a simple and professional manner,” he says.
“Working closely with our current operators remains a steadfast priority as well and we’ll continue to assist them with their business and growth objectives.
“Finally, we intend to give back to the communities from which we draw our livelihoods through our Valero Volunteer Programme, our Texaco Support for Sport initiative and our renowned Texaco Children’s Art Competition, which celebrates its 68th anniversary this year and is widely recognised as the longest running arts sponsorship in this country.”
Mr Twohig concludes by laying out the company’s strategy for navigating business in the future.
“Our commitment to energy transition and to being a better and more considerate environmental performer is robust,” he says.
“Within our Irish business, we need to remain focused and execute our long-term retail strategy with consideration and efficiency. We are committed to being a quality fuel supplier and to supporting strong, independent service station operators in a professional and proficient manner with a recognisable and trusted brand.
“We want to enhance our relationship with operators further, to continue to offer a competitive position through the use of the Texaco brand, and to be more flexible in our dealings so that as life evolves, their businesses, and in turn ours, will continue to grow in a safe, environmentally friendly and profitable manner,” he says.
To read the full interview in Ireland’s Forecourt & Convenience Retailer yearbook, click HERE.