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Aging, poorly maintained pipelines present ‘major risk’ to safety for Pemex

Many have been in operation for more than 30 years and are corroding inside and out

Pemex’s pipelines are old, damaged and lack maintenance, a situation that increases the risk of a major disaster, state oil company officials have acknowledged.

Pemex has almost 17,000 kilometers of pipelines across Mexico, including stretches that traverse urban areas and rivers.

According to a report by the newspaper El Universal, which obtained sensitive company information, large sections of pipeline have been in operation for more than 30 years and are corroded internally and externally.

The newspaper also said that landslides are exerting pressure on some sections of pipeline they are not designed to withstand.

The deputy director of transport for Pemex’s logistics division (Pemex Logística) told a state oil company board meeting in July that the majority of pipelines have been in service for lengthy periods of time and that resources must be allocated to carry out inspections and repairs. Juan Francisco Rivera Cavazos warned that the old pipelines pose a “major risk” to safety, El Universal said.

The official spoke of a 2010 pipeline explosion in San Martín Texmelucan, Puebla, that claimed the lives of 29 people and said that Pemex must do what it can to avoid a repeat of a major disaster. There have been dozens of explosions on Pemex pipelines since then, including one in Hidalgo in 2019 that killed well over 100 people and one in Puebla last Sunday that claimed one life.

Many of the disasters were caused by illegal taps on pipelines by petroleum and gas thieves. The current government claims to have significantly reduced fuel theft but more than 30,000 illegal taps have been detected since it took office in late 2018, according to Pemex data.

El Universal also reported that Pemex Logística’s pipeline maintenance chief said in an internal document in December 2020 that pipelines in central Mexico were not being properly maintained.

Carlos Iván Mancilla said that if they continue to operate without adequate maintenance, fuel leaks will occur and Pemex infrastructure and the safety of employees could be placed at risk.

However, Pemex Logística didn’t receive any resources for maintenance and repairs in 2020, he said. El Universal said that other Pemex infrastructure, such as pumping stations, also require maintenance and repairs.

The state oil company was carrying out at least 11 projects to improve its pipeline network but their funding was suspended by the current government, the newspaper said, citing information from the Finance Ministry’s transparency website.

With reports from El Universal 

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