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The Singapore police have arrested seventeen people and have seized millions of dollars in cash after a raid prompted by a complaint about a theft from Shell’s biggest refinery in Pulau Bukom. Among the detainees, there are “a limited number of Shell employees,” the police said as quoted by Reuters.
Eleven of the seventeen men were charged with criminal breach of trust at the refinery, Singapore media reported, adding that two Vietnamese nationals were arrested in a related case. The two had received 1,260 metric tons of crude oil despite having reason to believe it was stolen, the Straits Times reported.
Almost US$2.3 million was seized during the raid, as well as a small tanker with deadweight of 12,000 tons. Shell reported the theft last August, but has declined to say how much oil the thieves had stolen from the refinery.
Pulau Bukom is Shell’s largest processing facility in the world in terms of crude oil distillation capacity, which stands at half a million barrels of crude daily. The complex also includes a steam cracker with a capacity to produce over 900,000 tons of ethylene annually.
Last December, the Pualu Bukom site suffered a fire, but the damages were limited as Shell quickly extinguished it, reporting that there would be no impact on its customers.
Singapore is a major global oil trading hub and the biggest oil refining center in Southeast Asia. Much of the city-state’s wealth comes from the oil industry, and Shell is among the sector players with the longest presence there.
Thanks to its status as an oil hub, Reuters notes, Singapore is also a center for illegal oil trading, with oil siphoned off tanks and stolen at sea. There was a sharp increase in oil theft between 2011 and 2015, according to data from the Regional Cooperation Agreement for Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery. Since then, thefts have been on the decline, but remain a concern, especially in the South China Sea.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.