A Spatial Analysis of Moscow’s Fuel Stations

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Andrey Pirogov, a lecturer at the Lomonosov Moscow State University Business School, describes his project to map out and analyze fuel station locations in Moscow, Russia.

Access to quality fuel stations is important for drivers in Moscow.  Most car owners in the city have their own list of which fuel stations are good and which ones are good. Gas quality is such an issue that the Moscow Government provides a black-list and a white-list of fuel providers in Moscow.  The data was made available via its OpenData web site.

The problem with the data available is that there are a lot of address mistakes there are too few fuel stations included in these lists. For a city of 969 square miles (2,510 km²), only 13 fuel stations are marked as “bad” and 79 as “good”.  So I wanted to know how many fuel stations are in Moscow at all.

Mapping Fuel Stations in Moscow

As input data the OpenStreetMap (OSM) and the Moscow Government OpenData were used. The OSM data contains not only geotargeted points but also has attributive data like the brand-name of the fuel-stations. It took a lot of manual work to add dozens of fuel stations and to verify their location (on foot, by car, through Yandex (the Russian search engine), Google StreetView,  and with high resolution satellite images, etc). While I am not sure that the final map contains all fuel stations, the majority of them have been located and mapped.

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You can viewed the results of this project on the web GIS GeoMixer site.  This web map is hosted by the Moscow State University Business School server: http://geo.mgubs.ru:8080/api/index.html?permalink=KA1Y4&A96WP. MSU BS is a leading business school in Russia where I taught the course, “Geographical Aspects of Business”.  The “Fuel Stations” layer is presented on the “Social infrastructure Map of Moscow” which is actively used in the process of training.

Understanding the Impact of Fuel Stations in Moscow

The issue of the fuel stations locations was analyzed from the perspective of four aspects: spatial location, economic, environment, and road safety.

Spatial location of Fuel Stations in Moscow

Fuel stations localization is traced along the main highways which connect Moscow with the Moscow region and along the Moscow Ring Road.

Map showing fuel stations in Moscow, Russia.
Map showing fuel stations in Moscow, Russia.

I feel compelled to point out some strange places where fuel stations are clustered.


There are only two fuel stations inside of the Garden Ring Road (this is the innermost circular road in the first map above). In absolute numbers there are 600 fuel stations inside the Moscow Ring Road (the outermost circular road in the first map) and 1,145 if you take consideration all the fuel stations in the Moscow Region.

Economics of Fuel Stations

The next map below shows the distribution of brand-named fuel stations. The most popular fuel stations in Moscow are LukOil (100+), Gazprom, TNK, BP (60), Shell is only 13. Totally the half of fuel stations in Moscow are well-known brands and spread of fuel stations by brand appears to be equally distributed.

Map of fuel stations in Moscow by brand.
Map of fuel stations in Moscow by brand.

Environmental Impacts of Fuel Stations

Is a fuel station dangerous for health? These questions are rare at the environmental health discussion. More frequent questions are about waste incineration plants, separate collection of waste, poor fuel, etc. But the impact of fuel stations on the city environment and human health is a pressing question. There are several official environmental recommendations which refer to the decrease of the negative impact on the environment but they don’t work. The wide spread negative effects of fuel stations are the leaking of petrol during the fueling or unloading a fuel-servicing truck, gas emissions into the atmosphere, and tank breathing. Remember, hydrocarbons vapors are quite toxic.

If I was asked about what is a safe distance to a fuel station, I would answer 100 meters. Why? Because I smell gasoline vapors quite strongly when fuel-servicing trucks are unloaded at the nearest fuel station which is located 150 meters from my office. In the more economically developed country many of the fuel stations are equipped with the vapor recovery system (VRS). Such systems help reduce financial losses connected with leaking of fuel and fuel vapour. Many countries have special environmental regulations which regulate the usage of VRS and limit fuel station locations from being too near community infrastructure and facilities. Moscow can’t boast about the rules mentioned above, unfortunately.

The pollution radius is represented on the Pollution layer which shows a buffer of 200 meters around all fuel stations. As you can see there are schools, kindergartens and one hospital locate too close to fuel stations. Many more social objects are located at the radius of 200 m.

200 meter buffer around fuels.  The inset map shows the example of a school that is located within this buffer zone and is too close to a fuel station.
200 meter buffer around fuels. The inset map shows the example of a school that is located within this buffer zone and is too close to a fuel station.

The Road/Traffic Safety Aspects

Fuel stations are hazardous facilities; more fuel stations can lead to more road traffic accidents (RTA). The interesting research was done by the New Zeeland’s Land Transport Safety Authority in 2001.


As example, let’s discuss the typical location of the numerous fuel stations (FS) on the Moscow MKAD Ring Road. The four fuel stations discussed in the example below are marked on the map above.

FS # 1 is a source of RTA when moving vehicles from the north turn to the right at a time when a car is getting out off the FS.

The same situation is typical of the FS # 2.

FS # 3 is a flop! It’s really difficult to get into and to get out of the station. I have never fueled here.

The FS # 4 is well-known for locals as a short way when you don’t want to wait for the “green”. Look, there are four cars which turned to the left, but they don’t need any fuel, they are saving time (image below)

It was interesting to compare Moscow with some cities abroad. The data for such cities like Ne York, London, Paris, and Melbourne were downloaded from OpenStreetMap.

Map of fuel stations for the cities of (upper left), (upper right), (lower left), and (lower right)
Map of fuel stations for the cities of London (upper left), Melbourne (upper right), New York (lower left), and Paris (lower right).

Fuel Station location is a serious problem. This is not only because of the four aspects mentioned in this article. What is important for urban residents are safety, a comfortable urban environment, and a balance with architect. At the street-view example you can see an underground entrance.

There are a lot of people at all hours of the day. This fuel station is devilishly uncomfortable. Besides, this fuel station blocks an excellent view. It’s also dangerous taking into account unloading gas-tank truck.

To my mind, there is a great demand for changing current urban development policy which would regulate the location of fuel stations.

About the Author

Andrey Pirogov is a nontenured lecturer at the Lomonosov Moscow State University Business School, he is the author of an optional course “Geographical Aspects of Business” in the framework of the Bachelor of management program. Since 2008 Pirogov is the head of marketing department at a geospatial software company in Russia. His fields of interest are: geo-analysis, GIS education, marketing and management in geospatial industry.

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