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Petroleum Theft Growing in Mexico

Despite the millions of dollars spent trying to battle theft of oil, petrol, and diesel by Mexican criminal gangs, Pemex, the Mexican government’s hydrocarbon monopoly, has reported that the pilfering has actually continued to rise.

The amount of petroleum products stolen in the first half of this year is up 18 percent compared to 2011, totalling more than 1.8 million barrels.

Most of the criminal operations are coordinated by the Zetas, one of the largest and most violent gangs in Mexico. It is thought that they steal the hydrocarbons from places such as Mexico’s Burgos Basin natural gas field in the north east of the country, and then sell it to Houston-based refineries.

Pemex is currently trying to take a number of Houston companies to court for either knowingly or unknowingly trading in stolen petroleum products that have been smuggled out of Mexico since 2006.

Using sophisticated measuring systems which can detect drops in pipeline pressure, officials at Pemex discovered nearly 800 illegal taps during the first six months of 2012. In the whole of 2011 1,300 such taps were detected.

 George Baker, a Houston-based expert on Mexico’s energy industry, explained that this is not just small gangs siphoning off petrol from pipelines, the product is being stolen in huge amounts and in broad daylight. “That raises the question of how many holes are in the system from people looking the other way.”

It highlights the obstacles that face recently elected President Enrique Peña Nieto as he tries to achieve the significant reforms to the energy industry that he promised as part during his campaign.

By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com



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