Argus Media: Fuel Thieves Develop Sophisticated Methods to Steal LPG

Argus Media writes that fuel thieves in Mexico appear to have developed relatively sophisticated methods to steal LPG from trucks, moving beyond the relatively simple techniques needed for gasoline and diesel theft. Thieves are building and operating illegal transport trucks that are used to steal fuel, even from terminals and pipelines. Stolen LPG is sold to customers such as small LPG-fueled public passenger bus services, says Octavio Perez, president of the LPG distribution
industry group Amexgas.

The group tells Argus that thieves extracting LPG from pipelines are using sophisticated methods, carefully monitoring pipeline temperature, and using special machinery to tap the line. Valves are fitted to prevent venting, and following the theft the pipeline is welded shut. This indicates to Perez that engineers or other skilled professionals are taking part. “So imagine the scenario where we are having an illegal product sold in pirate vehicles in the streets,” he says. “Imagine the danger our industry employees are facing.”

Perez outlines that the problem is focused in the states of Tlaxcala, Veracruz, and Puebla, known as the “red triangle” for fuel theft. When the state-owned oil company Pemex shut down a gasoline pipeline in the region that was tapped regularly by thieves, they adapted and began to take LPG from another pipeline,” Perez reports. “What really worries us is the speed at which these thefts are growing.”

He explains that 5% of LPG market volumes in those three states were stolen last year, but this year thefts have grown to an estimated 15% of the region’s market volume. The thefts are costing Pemex and the industry as a whole more than $2 million a month based on wholesale prices alone, and in just those three states, says Perez.

Argus Media reports that Mexican authorities say rampant fuel theft costs Pemex about $1.6 billion a year through more than 1000 pipeline taps every month, including 1485 in April and more than 10,000 in the whole of last year. Most of the thefts are of gasoline or diesel, but officials say LPG is also among
the taps. Perez says the problem for LPG is growing so quickly that he expects other fuels will be hit soon.

(SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, July 9, 2018)