Posted: 15 Feb, 2018

State-owned pipelines company, PEMEX, detected a total of 10,363 illegal taps in 2017, an overage of 28 illegal tapping-points detected per day. Authorities in Mexico estimate the number is higher considering the undetected illegal taps, which also represent a considerably higher volume a fuel loss. The 2017 number is alarming when we consider that the number of perforations found in 2016 was 6,873. Thefts increased by 50 percent in 2017.

Per reports from Mexico, illegal vendors and some established gas stations are selling the stolen fuel. PEMEX announced in one statement that authorities estimate as many as 70 gas stations are selling fuel presumed stolen. The government estimated in 2016 that PEMEX’s monetary loss for the stolen product was about $ 1 billion, there is no estimate yet of the losses in 2017. Drug cartels are one of the main destinations for stolen fuel. The military reportedly arrested thieves In various locations who carried heavy firearms such as assault rifles and 50-caliber sniper rifles.

The risk of catastrophe from these thefts is high since the thieves use hand-drills to perforate the pipeline and jury-rig hose connections to fill containers. Then they carry the containers to fill tanker trucks. There have been reports of major environmental damage in Mexico and different countries; fires or explosions with human lives lost triggered by pipeline product theft gone awry. Product thefts in Mexico are usually detected when third-parties see the spill, or by pressure drops or when the theft leaks cause a fire.

It is important that pipeline operators have reliable leak detection systems with a minimum false alarm rate, which works under all the pipeline operating conditions. However, in cases were thieves extract product from the pipeline at rates lower than a detection system’s detection threshold, it is important to add a theft detection service where theft detection engineers are trained to analyze pipeline data and detect the tiny pressure disturbances caused by thefts at low flow rates. For example, Atmos International’s Theft Net service has been very successful in reducing pipeline theft all around the world. Atmos Theft Net engineers reduced pipeline product theft in the UK by 76% from 2015 to 2017 and to virtually zero in 2017.

Atmos International has different solutions for pipeline theft detection. More information here.