Theft of liquefied petroleum (LP) gas has cost the state oil company and other suppliers as much as 8 billion pesos (US $415.9 million) this year, according to the head of an industry group.
Luis Landeros, president of the LP Gas Distributors Association, told a press conference yesterday that propane theft doubled in the first eight months of 2018 compared to the same period last year.
He said that 70% of the financial damage has directly affected Pemex, meaning that the state-owned company has lost an average of 770 million pesos (US $40 million) in revenue per month.
Private distributors have seen economic losses of around 330 million pesos (US $17.1 million) monthly.
Landeros said that gangs of fuel thieves known as huachicoleros have extended their criminal activities to theft from LP gas pipelines and that as a consequence at least 17 distribution routes have been closed this year.
However, he added that the crime is also a problem on the nation’s highways.
“[In our figures] we’re including theft from semi-trailers, tankers and trucks transporting gas cylinders. We estimate that in the central region of the country, around 23,000 tonnes [of gas] are being stolen every month and that on a national level it could reach up to 58,000 tonnes,” Landeros said.
He predicted that another 17 distribution routes will be closed before the end of the year, mainly in the region of Puebla, Veracruz and Tlaxcala known as the Red Triangle. Robbery of trains is also a growing problem in the area.
Jaime Ayala, president of another LP gas industry association known as Amexgas, said that in addition to financial losses propane theft has also caused the loss of 14,000 direct and 50,000 indirect jobs.
Around 200 gas tanker trucks have also been stolen this year, he said, which huachicoleros then use to distribute their illicit product.
Ayala charged that police operations to recover the stolen tankers have been ineffective because only 10% have been returned to their rightful owners, adding that arrests have had no positive impact on the incidence of gas theft because most criminals only spend a few days in custody before they are released.
Both Ayala and Landeros said they will seek a meeting with future energy secretary Rocío Nahle to discuss strategies to combat the theft of gas and its commercialization on the black market.
Petroleum pipeline theft also continues to plague Pemex and create insecurity problems in several states.
The crime is considered to be the single biggest factor behind a soaring homicide rate in Guanajuato, which recorded the biggest surge in sheer murder numbers of any state in the first seven months of this year.
Pemex CEO Carlos Treviño said in April that fuel theft costs the state oil company 30 billion pesos (US $1.5 billion) a year and there is evidence that some of Mexico’s notorious drug cartels have diversified into the lucrative illicit practice.
Source: Milenio (sp)