The Asia Pacific Fuel Industry Forum is one of the premier annual events for the Australian Fuel Wholesale and Fuel Retail industry – an industry that employed an estimated 61,000 Australians and generated annual revenues of around $101B in 2022. The Forum is run by ACAPMA for the fuel industry and typically attracts between 300 and 350 delegates – many of whom are small to medium business owners or senior executives employed by Australia’s larger fuel businesses.
This year’s event will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. Proceedings kick off with a welcome ceremony on the night of 4 September 2023 followed by two days of conference sessions on 5 and 6 September 2023. The event concludes with a Gala Dinner on the night of 6 September 2023.
ACAPMA strives to ensure that the two-day APFI Forum delivers unique value to delegates, particularly fuel transport, fuel wholesale, petrol & convenience and petroleum contracting businesses.
“We realise that people in our industry are time poor and that they have a wide choice of conference events each year, said ACAPMA CEO Mark Mckenzie.
“Our goal in delivering the annual APFI Forum is to provide delegates with thought leadership and business insights that they cannot get anywhere else. That is why we spend so much time on developing an agenda that addresses the issues that we believe are top of mind for those operating in our industry”, added Mark.
The format of the 2023 Event has also been refreshed from past years. This year’s format incorporates new parallel ‘industry forums’ in the afternoons of both days to provide delegates with a choice of conference streams.
These parallel streams (or Forums) have been added in response to delegate requests for more time to be given to some major areas of industry interest.
Adapting to a Net Zero 2050 landscape
The Forum comes at a time when changes in Australian Government policy have created new challenges for businesses operating in the conventional fuel and convenience industry.
Top of the list is the likely impact of Australia’s Net Zero 2050 ambitions as this Agenda will inevitably result in the destruction in conventional fuel demand in the future. This challenge raises two important questions. How fast is this demand destruction likely to occur? What, if anything, can businesses do to reduce the impact of this change on the future viability of their businesses?
The good news is that the rate of demand destruction is likely to be gradual given a series of substantial constraints to the wholesale replacement of Australia’s 20 million strong national vehicle fleet with low carbon technology vehicles.
But that doesn’t mean we should be complacent. Our industry needs to be working on strategies to begin the transition of fuel and convenience businesses now.
Fuel business in Australia, and indeed around the world, are pursuing two principal responses to the challenges faced by a future Net Zero world. The first is forecourt energy diversification and the second might well be summarised as revenue diversification.
Forecourt energy diversification involves developing infrastructure to capture revenues from recharging the increasing numbers of electric passenger vehicles and fuelling hydrogen powered heavy vehicles in the future, as a means of offsetting projected losses in revenue from the sale of conventional fuels.
“This strategy sounds simple, but the early experiences of this strategy suggest it comes with significant economic and technical challenges”, said Mark.
“These challenges will be explored in considerable detail via a series of presentations by leaders from our industry and the national electricity supply industry on Day 1”, added Mark.
The second strategy of Revenue Diversification also sounds simple. Indeed, many might argue that this strategy has been pursued by petrol and convenience businesses for many years.
But the nature and extent of the growth in convenience revenue that will likely be required to offset declining revenues over the next 15 to 20 years cannot be achieved by continuing the product-centric convenience strategies of recent years.
Businesses pursuing the revenue diversification strategy will need to adopt wholesale changes in culture and process to embrace a modern small format retail concept where fuel is just one of a series of products sold – not the majority product.
“And that strategy also comes with very substantial strategic, economic and cultural challenges”, said Mark.
The challenges of this second strategy will be probed on Day 2 with speakers from the investment community and the Convenience Only community, including Macquarie Bank and the CEO of Spar. Mr Michael O’Loughlin (CEO of 360 Degrees Retail) will also give us a vision of Australia’s near-term industry future by sharing a perspective on who P&C has adapted to the low carbon mobility agenda in the UK and Europe.
Industrial Relations front and centre
But the challenges facing our industry aren’t just related to low carbon mobility. Nor are they solely the concern of fuel retail businesses – they are likely to impact businesses that support every aspect of the Australian Fuel and Convenience supply chain.
Recent and looming changes in Australia’s Industrial Relations Laws will create new challenges in workforce management. These changes come at a time when businesses are facing significant pressure to increase wages of existing staff and/or recruit staff in the face of labour shortages.
These issues will be the subject of a comprehensive discussion during the afternoon of Day 1.
Continued focus on the provision of petroleum contracting services.
The Covid-19 downturn, rising business costs, and a sustained reduction in the demand for services in recent years is creating significant challenges for petroleum contracting businesses – in much the same way as the construction industry is being impacted by current economic conditions.
These issues will be top of mind during this year’s Contractors Forum which will be conducted with a revised format in the second half of Day 1. A series of speakers will lead delegates in a discussion of the key technical, workforce, and business issues facing Australia’s petroleum contracting sector.
A renewed focus on fuel wholesale and fuel distribution issues
The 2023 Agenda features a dedicated discussion of the strategic issues impacting the Australian fuel wholesale and fuel distribution sectors. Speakers in this session include Karen Bow who will discuss the Master Code Review for Australian Road Freight Operations and Evan Newell of TASCO, who will share a perspective on the nature of the current challenges for Australian fuel distribution businesses.
A major part of the session will be devoted to a discussion of the Albanese Government’s Tranche 2 Industrial Relations reforms, which are expected to result in the establishment of a new form of the infamous ‘Truckies Tribunal” that was abolished in 2017.
As with the Contractors’ Forum and the IR Forum, this Forum will include a panel discussion with all speakers to provide delegates with an opportunity to engage with speakers in a whole-of-forum discussion.
Transitioning from ‘Convenience’ to ‘Small format retail’
Given the challenges of the Net Zero agenda, and the likely consequent adverse impact on fuel revenues in the years ahead, the future viability of our extensive national Fuel & Convenience network will likely depend on a transition from the current concept of ‘Convenience’ to one of ‘Small format retail’.
Such a transition requires a fundamental rethink on the way we deliver convenience products and services to Australian consumers.
But first, we need to understand the nature of the gap between present day convenience and future small format retail. What are the differences? How do we get there? And what are the likely benefits in terms of future profitability of our existing businesses?
These questions will be canvassed by a series of speakers during a dedicated forum on convenience innovation in the afternoon of Day 2 – a discussion that will set aside past discussions about what products do we sell to one focussed on how should we change the way we sell in the future?
A series of networking events for all delegates
As always, the APFI Forum is not all work. The 2023 event kicks off with a welcome reception in the evening on Monday 4 September 2023 where delegates will be given the opportunity to enjoy drinks and nibbles while catching up with others.
Day 1 commences with a business breakfast for all delegates and concludes with the new APFI Food Festival. This evening function will showcase the food of our industry in a relaxed environment with drinks and entertainment, allowing delegates to network in a casual setting.
Day 2 starts with a second business breakfast and concludes with the APFI Gala Dinner. The Gala Dinner is a formal affair (business attire) and includes the presentation of the inaugural Australian Fuel and Convenience Industry Awards (See AFC Awards – APFI Forum 2023). The popular cocktail bar make a welcome return from last year, allowing delegates to relax with colleagues and new friends following the formalities of the dinner and awards.
The two-day event also includes the opportunity to inspect the offerings of a series of business services providers, including a new ‘business networking’ session in the middle of both days that will allow exhibitors to showcase their wares in an innovative way.
Further information about the 2023 APFI Forum
“We have worked hard to once again assemble an event, in terms of a conference agenda and enjoyable social events, that provides a unique opportunity for businesses in our industry to come together to discuss how we collectively position ourselves for the future”, said Mark.
“But importantly, this event is ACAPMA’s opportunity to connect the leaders of Australian fuel businesses – big, medium and small – with those organisations and regulators that are likely to have a direct influence over the shape of our industry in the future”, added Mark.
To view the 2023 Conference Programme in detail and/or register for the 2023 Event, please visit the event website at www.apfiforum.com