SIGMA’s New CEO Shares Challenges the Fuel Industry Faces

Scott Berhang, formerly with OPIS, started in role on April 1
SIGMA's Scott Berhang
Photograph courtesy of SIGMA

Taking the reign as CEO of SIGMA, a national trade association representing fuel marketers and convenience-store chains in the United States and Canada, is the cherry on top of a long career for Scott Berhang, he told CSP Daily News. And his goal this year is to help educate others on during a transformative time for the fuel industry.  

When Berhang, SIGMA’s CEO as of April 1, heard that Ryan McNutt was leaving the organization in September, he said “the clouds opened up.”

“Just the idea of being able to work in an organization that promotes advocacy, in an organization that is about education, working with people that I have known my entire career, I was like ‘I want this job’,” Berhang said.

Berhang (pictured) has 43 years of experience across the spectrum of downstream fuel operations, working with Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) for nearly 40 years and doing consulting work with The Berhang Group.

Founded in 1958, SIGMA serves to further the interests of the industry while providing value and services to its members in the United States and Canada, like hosting educational events and networking opportunities. Approximately 260 corporate members command more than 40% of the petroleum retail market, selling approximately 75 billion gallons of motor fuel each year.

Over the next year, Berhang said he plans to focus on revamping SIGMA’s education, and working with members and sponsors to learn what they need from education going forward as the industry changes. One of those changes that companies are facing is succession planning and a new mergers and acquisitions landscape.

“The ‘old regime,’ that’s been there for all these years is beginning to retire, or they’re selling off, or their either introducing it to a new generation or different people are buying those companies,” he said. “Buying fuel is not like buying pencils—it’s not like buying coffee or paper towels—it’s a very, very complicated commodity to purchase. It’s very volatile, there’s a lot of layers to it. So, I think that that’s something that is a big piece of this. Succession is a huge issue.”

The move toward alternative fuels and the way that affects fuel buying is another challenge operators are facing, as well as fuel supply. As there are more requirements to make more cleaner-burning fuels, the refining system is taxed, which makes supply more tenuous than it used to be, Berhang said, and understanding compliance mandates is huge.

“Honestly, in my 45 years of doing this I don’t think there’s been a time where there’s so many fundamental changes that are happening to this business, and when you throw on the new generation that’s coming up and how they have to market fuels and the challenges they’re going to have, that’s really why it’s a transformative time,” Berhang said.

But the changes are part of what makes Berhang enjoy working in this industry.

“The success in this business is asking yourself as you’re driving into work on Thursday, what happened in the markets on Wednesday?” he said. “Cause no two days are ever going to be the same.”

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