A Family-Fuelled Future
A Kiwi family enterprise of more than 40 years, Fuelchief and its ultramodern, industry-leading SuperVault tank look set to define the future of fuel storage across the APAC region
Writer: Tom Wadlow | Project Manager: Josh Hyland
Family businesses form the backbone of New Zealand’s economy.
Accounting for well over half of the nation’s employment and contributing a significant portion of its gross domestic product, these firms can rightly be regarded as the socioeconomic lifeblood of Kiwi society.
From agriculture and winemakers to hi-tech manufacturers and boutique hoteliers, families up and down the North and South Islands work tirelessly to ensure that New Zealand’s economic machine keeps on moving in what have been unprecedented times during the course of 2020.
In the energy space, Fuelchief continues to stand proud as native family-ran enterprise.
Set up by Joe Deck, it represents a culmination of 40 years of hard graft across many disciplines, and today stands as the proud proprietor of what is widely seen as an industry-leading large-scale fuel tank provider – offering the SuperVault.
“I grew up in the regional New Zealand town of Motueka, which is located near Nelson at the top of the South Island of New Zealand,” Deck says, recounting how the business came to fruition.
“The area is known for its agricultural and horticultural industries and I did my apprenticeship as a mechanic servicing vehicles and machinery within those industries. Having this background has been something I’ve been able to draw on many times over the years – plus, understanding machinery and how each part works has enabled me to connect with key clients and understand their needs.
“My father was involved in this servicing industry from the late 1960s, but changing times and markets brought about the need to sell the family business and move on to something wider than just the community we lived in. We tried a few different things but finally settled on the fuel storage industry due to it being a wide requirement across many regions within our reach.”
A key moment arrived in 2009 when the duo purchased a small fuel accessories distribution business to add to their existing range of fuel tanks.
Another acquisition was made in 2017 when the firm bought out Advanced Fuel Tanks Ltd, the manufacturer of the specialist range of SuperVault fire-rated tanks.
Deck explains that this product has been the steppingstone for Fuelchief to approach customers in other countries, the fact he deals with multiple markets providing an extra point of interest to the CEO who believes that fossil fuels still have a key role to play in the world’s ongoing development.
“Fuel is an interesting product to work with,” he says. “Every country has wildly different views on how to legislate it, and it’s quite interesting to see the variations and approaches from governments around the world – yet we believe it’s our challenge to meet those varying needs and that’s the bit we continue to find interesting, and it’s very satisfying to be able to offer highly practical solutions across Asia Pacific.
“Many from the public would believe the use of fossil fuels is diminishing, yet statistics prove otherwise and we’re now becoming involved in some large projects requiring the storage of hundreds of thousands of litres.
“I have been favoured over many years with experiences across a wide range of industries including the farming and horticultural sectors, mining, and structural and civil engineering. I enjoy the fuel storage industry the most because of its wide-ranging market capture which brings our team in touch with a broad base of clients looking to improve their bottom lines through being more efficient.”
Joe Deck at Fuelchief Christchurch
“We have been contacting consulting engineers, architects, electrical engineers, land developers, builders, electrical contractors, and generator suppliers and educating the market on the distinct advantages we can bring to their project with the aforementioned Fuelchief SuperVault...
SuperVault – a global standard-bearer
This is exactly what the company’s flagship product, SuperVault, can offer.
Carrying the most formidable certification of any above ground tank in the world, it exceeds regulations for fuel storage in every market and can be deployed in critical infrastructure projects globally, especially where space is tight or where fire-rated solutions are needed.
“This beauty of the SuperVault is that it can be custom engineered and offers elite fire-rated, bulletproof, impact-resistant technology and is fabricated and tested in accordance with SwRI 95-03, which makes it the safest and most durable tank in the world,” Deck proudly states.
“In many circumstances where diesel or petrol needs to be stored for commercial buildings, the SuperVault has proven itself tenfold and is becoming the industry standard for tanks in buildings. In New Zealand it has been written into legislation through its SwRI 95-03 compliance.”
Indeed, Fuelchief has worked in tandem with many major data centres, governments and organisations to deploy the SuperVault – anywhere where safety and maximum uptime is critical. Organisations include Air BP, BECA, Aurecon, Air New Zealand, Prince Charles Hospital, Canterbury District Health Board and Citibank, among many others.
Another key attraction to the product is that it has been designed to withstand the extremities of the globe’s various climates. Fuelchief has SuperVault tanks deployed at Scott Base in Antarctica, while it also performs in blistering desert heat without the need for additional bunding.
This is because SuperVault’s thermally efficient inter tank material insulates the inner tank from the elements of nature and fire, as well as providing secondary containment. The secondary containment conforms to the highest international requirements and is both pressure and vacuum testable on site.
Indeed, in the area of testing, it is fair to say that the SuperVault has been put through its paces.
“Around the world, new codes of practice and legislation often require all fire rated tanks to be either SwRI 95-03 (four-hour) or UL 2085 (two-hour) approved,” says Deck. “The SuperVault is both. It is the only four-hour fireproof petrol tank certified for above ground, according to the Texas-based Southwest Research Institute’s 95-03 multi-hazard test.
“During this test, despite being subjected to fire, hose stream, projectiles and heavy-vehicle impact, the integrity of the SuperVault’s primary tank remained intact. This tank is also a popular choice for solvents, which often has the same flashpoint as petrol.
“It is the only fire-rated tank in the world that can be repaired and re-used after an incident such as a fire or impact has occurred. This cannot be said for other tanks, as the integrity of any tank certified to UL-2085 (two-hour) will be deemed to have been compromised and will not be compliant after the event.”
So, given all of these credentials, the objective for Deck and Fuelchief is to keep spreading the word.
He continues: “The power of education never goes astray, so we are slowly educating and encouraging key stakeholders such as architects, electrical engineers and project managers to insist on SwRI 95-03 for fuel tanks that are to be placed in and around buildings, as this is not only the most compliant option for them, but the long-term investment choice. These tanks have a 30-year warranty.”
A diversified future
Another key part of spreading the word, not only about SuperVault but Fuelchief’s entire range of tanks, involves the advancement of an agent programme.
Deck plans to grow this outreach initiative through the course of 2021, which centres around partnering with agents across the Asia Pacific region who can reach a wider range of potential clients, utilising and building a stronger local contact base.
Such agents are already likely to be working in the industry, but will not have had the advantage of pitching solutions such as SuperVault to their clients.
Fuelchief is also looking to grow its presence in the power generation market, which is witnessing heightening demand for diesel-powered back-up generators for large building complexes. Critical fuel storage is mandatory in these situations.
“We have been contacting consulting engineers, architects, electrical engineers, land developers, builders, electrical contractors, and generator suppliers and educating the market on the distinct advantages we can bring to their project with the aforementioned Fuelchief SuperVault – noting its huge benefits for the environment and legislative compliance, now and in the future,” Deck explains.
“In our opinion, it is a sensible decision, and one with a lot less implication, to make the SuperVault choice. We are now in an age where the public is much more aware of the potential risks of pollution and flooding and we have very strict regulations covering fuel storage, and the consequences and penalties for any neglect can be huge.”
To accomplish these expansion objectives, Deck is all too aware of how important his team of 25-plus staff will continue to be.
While the CEO has spoken at length about the credentials of the SuperVault, he firmly believes that the real strength within the company is its team, who bring a wealth of knowledge and industry-leading service levels to both local and international customers.
And though the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted what were previously deemed normal ways of working, Deck explains that Fuelchief is built around a diversified culture of loyalty, commitment and drive, underpinned by an open-door idea sharing policy.
The conversation soon turns to the CEO’s thoughts on how to fulfil Fuelchief’s undoubted growth potential.
“Our long-term success requires a total commitment to exceptional lean manufacturing standards, investment in our employees, and educating the market of changes and better ways to store fuel for their business, as well as innovation and productivity,” Deck says.
“Working together effectively with a willingness to embrace new ideas and continuous learning allows us to be at the forefront of our industry. We believe that to succeed requires the highest standards of corporate behaviour towards our employees, suppliers, clients and the world in which we operate.”
While Deck acknowledges the difficulties brought about in 2020 that nobody could have foreseen as 2019 drew to a close, he views 2021 as the year to innovate and succeed, helping more customers to achieve operational gains while taking the pain of non-compliant fuel storage away.
He concludes: “Over the last 40 years, we have satisfied clients with thousands of refuelling solutions across several nations, and we invite you to join the conversation so you can achieve better operational excellence. We strive to offer impeccable service, which is challenging at times, but all things that are worth doing well sometimes require that little extra. Our team is ready to help by going that extra mile.”