Mexican gasoline thieves steal $1B from Pemex every year – Houston Chronicle

By David Hunn


Thieves are tapping into the pipelines of Mexico’s state-owned oil and gas company, Pemex, with such frequency and taking so much gasoline, the company is losing well more than $1 billion a year, leaving some U.S. companies with second thoughts about entering the market, a Rice University expert said this week.

The number of pipeline taps has risen from about 200 in 2006 to nearly 7,000 last year — almost 20 break-ins a day — according to an analysis of Pemex figures by Rice postdoctoral fellow Adrian Duhalt.

Losses have risen from under $1 billion in 2009 to $1.7 billion last year.

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Mexican authorities have long taken a “hands-off approach,” Duhalt said in the paper, “Looting Fuel Pipelines in Mexico.” But the problem’s gotten in worse in recent years. Three years ago, Mexican officials deregulated the country’s oil and gas market and broke Pemex’s monopoly, inviting outside companies to take part, with hopes of spurring exploration and production and boosting the country’s sagging energy profits. But that action also encouraged gasoline theft, Duhalt said.

Now, he warns, the country must get a handle on the problem, or lose business.

“In the eyes of investors and trading partners, the increase in fuel theft in Mexico raises serious concerns related to the local business environment and the ability of Mexican authorities to implement effective changes within the energy sector and to guarantee investments, especially in onshore projects,” he said in the report. “Confrontation with criminal gangs seems to be as certain as the government’s inability to prevent the thefts.”

Duhalt suggests both a crackdown on thieves and also a larger effort to improve living conditions in areas where gasoline theft is especially frequent.

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