An increase in Pemex pipeline theft now considered national security threat

Mexico’s oil company, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), says that illegal drilling by organized crime has become a national security issue.

Last year alone, Pemex recorded 4,127 illegal taps into their pipelines, up from 3,278 in 2013.

According to Francisco Fernández Lagos of Pemex, on average, every 3.5 kms gangs drill a new illegal extraction hole into their diesel, gasoline and crude oil lines and sell the products on the black market. The average last year was about 11 taps per day, but already in January, the average has risen to 13 taps per day.

While the theft runs throughout the entire country, the areas of Minatitlan-Mexico, Salamanca-Guadalajara, Madero-Cadereyta, Topolobampo-Culiacan Salamanca-Aguascalientes and Zacatecas are the most hardest hit. Since 2008, Pemex has recorded some 11,440 illegal taps along various areas of their pipelines.

Fernández says the level of the problem “is endangering national security.” He noted that some Pemex stations around the country have been forced to shut temporarily due to lack of product. He explains, “imagine the Tuxpan-Mexico pipeline where we transport 170,000 barrels per day, for a city that consumes 140,000 barrels and if the product remains 24 hours out of operation, we are complicating the operation and forces us to use the cargo tank, which is more expensive.”

The problem carries on: “in the section of pipeline Minatitlán-Puebla-Mexico, if I operate at a rate of 70,000 barrels per day and suspend its operation for 12 hours, and I fail to provide the 70,000 barrels and only come up with 35,000 barrels, this represents a large supply problem.”

The financial loss to Pemex is also staggering at 17.4 billion peso in 2014 alone. On top of the financial losses are also the costs of clean-up and repairs, making the total closer to 19.4 billion peso, which is equivalent to about 4.4 percent of Magana and Premium gasoline sales.

Fernández says that a new bill is being passed this month to ensure stiffer penalties for the crime of illegal connections. “We hope to be able to reduce these scourges afflicting the country, Pemex, gasolineros entrepreneurs and people of Mexico.”

Since 2012, Pemex has been working on installing a security system with high-tech equipment for carrying aerial surveillance via land and sea that will help strengthen surveillance systems against any internal or external act that endangers the physical and operational integrity of the facility.

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