Picoty is considering new business models – Le Journal des Entreprises
The Creuse family group Picoty (1.3 billion euros in turnover in 2021, 1,200 employees), which brings together 51 subsidiaries, has no shortage of projects in a context buffeted by inflation. Essentially known for the distribution of petrol in the 285 service stations of the Avia brand that it manages in the western part of France (Thevenin & Ducros taking care of the eastern part, i.e. 700 stations in all), the group based in La Souterraine seeks to reinvent itself to adapt to new market conditions.
This change is taking place in a context made more complex by the war in Ukraine. Like its competitors, Picoty must therefore adapt to the embargo on Russian refined products, active since the beginning of February. “We are forced to look for bigger boats which come from much further away with very sensitive and volatile prices. We are subject to the geopolitical situation and the price increase like the end customer”, affirms Caroline Schildt, director of the transition and sustainable development.
A new resort concept
His arrival in this newly created position at the end of 2021 reflects the group’s desire to “push the sliders of CSR and energy transition”. Picoty has therefore focused on a sustainable development policy, responsible for “defining the main issues. Among them, that of offering low-carbon alternatives and other customer experiences to our end consumers”, she says.
The Station A concept shares these objectives: presented as a new model of “local service station”, it offers fuel, biofuel and electricity terminals. But also the rental of electric vehicles (cars, bicycles) and a wider range of associated services: shop of local products, accessories and products for urban mobility, parcel relay, laundromat… The offer is centralized via an application allowing clients to book their services in advance.
A way for the group to beef up its service offering, at a higher margin than that of the sale of fuel. The first model of this type, a renovated Avia station (for 350,000 euros) opened in Gradignan (Gironde) at the end of 2022. Picoty hopes to create 10 others by 2024 and ultimately invest ten million euros to transform its urban gas stations. “Station A is part of our strategy to rethink our historical areas of activity. In 2035, we can predict that a third of fuel consumption will disappear with the rise of electricity, we are looking to equip ourselves to We are a little behind on the development of charging stations in our network, but there are around 100 today, including a third in New Aquitaine. We are aiming for 500 in 2025 and 5,000 in 2030. “, continues Caroline Schildt.
Although the heart of Picoty’s business (1.9 billion cubic meters of petroleum products distributed) will not disappear overnight, the group is seeking to position itself in new energies, aware that the energy transition will shake up its traditional markets.
The scheduled disappearance of the distribution of fossil fuels for cars will materialize with the ban on the sale of new thermal vehicles in Europe from 2035. Its distribution subsidiaries are thus considering diversification, in particular to anticipate “the announced end of fuel boilers. For the past year or two, they have been collecting used oils to transform them into biofuel”, underlines the manager. Evoking for the time being volumes that are still “very marginal”, Picoty works in particular with Dielix (service of Sarpi-Veolia) for the transformation of edible oils.
However, for certain energies such as electricity, the economic balances are not yet fully defined. “We are still thinking about the business model on a full electric. All these low carbon alternatives have varied margin levels and much lower than what we knew in fuels”.
First tests on hydrogen
The most recent project remains that of hydrogen. The group, which created an innovation subsidiary in 2020, participates alongside the Hautier transporter and the EIGSI engineering school in the LUZO program (for Zero Carbon Urban Logistics) led by Atlantech, the first low-carbon district of La Rochelle. The transport and vehicle rental offer provided by its subsidiary Somelac and hydrogen is produced by electrolysis backed by a field of solar panels, distributed by Picoty and intended to supply bicycles and scooters and around twenty utility vehicles.
Picoty is also a stakeholder in the CatHy project, scheduled for 2024, which aims to supply hydrogen fuel to heavier transport (road, rail, sea). This hydrogen (a hundred tons per year) not recovered is rejected by Envirocat, which manufactures in La Rochelle sodium methylate, a catalyst which transforms vegetable oils into biofuel. Picoty would handle storage and distribution. “The question of the investments of the various actors remains to be settled. The collective must put together subsidy files to make the price of hydrogen for use viable” specifies Caroline Schildt.
Finally, the group plans to open a first hydrogen station in Vendée soon and will apply in April for a European call for tenders (Alternative fuels infrastructure facility or Afif) to develop a network of hydrogen terminals in France. “Our objective, with all these investments, is to become a real guide to the energy transition of our end customers. To do this, we must help them understand the market and build their own energy mix. We are also seeking to build ours on our stations. The objective for 2023 will be to place our pawns on these new markets”. Huge construction site.