Pemex: Oil and Gas Theft in Mexico Soars Past 2010 Levels

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Mexico’s state oil company Pemex counted 32 illegal taps on their liquefied gas pipelines so far this year, equivalent to 64,000 barrels.

According to the subdirector of Pemex’s pipeline operations, 57 incidents of LP gas theft took place in 2010, reports La Jornada. So far in 2011, the company’s director says they have detected a total of 730 taps on all their energy pipelines, including gas LP, natural gas, gasoline and petroleum, amounting to 3.5 billion pesos (about $281 million) in losses. That figure could easily top $490 million in losses by the end of 2011, Pemex said.

This already surpasses the total of 710 taps registered in 2010, according to a figure cited by the Pemex director in June.

Criminal organizations like the Zetas are known to siphon oil and gas from Pemex pipelines, and have also targeted Pemex workers for extortion and kidnapping. Like Colombia’s oil sector, where workers are the target of rebel kidnappings and criminal bands siphon millions of dollars worth of crude from pipelines, in Mexico the oil business is increasingly pressured by organized crime. In their quest to diversify their income from drug trafficking, the Zetas have turned to human trafficking, extortion and oil theft, which is an especially low-risk trade that provides big payoffs.

Pemex has tried to take action this year against oil theft, and is moving to sue a U.S. firm accused of buying fuel stolen by gangs like the Zetas. The company is planning to invest in more high-tech security equipment to protect the pipelines.

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