Saturday, June 15, 2024

LP gas thefts soared in 2020; economic cost estimated at US $1.4 billion

Illegal taps on LP gas pipelines soared above 20,000 last year, contributing to losses of more than 30 billion pesos (US $1.4 billion) due to gas theft, according to the president of the LP gas industry association Amexgas.

Carlos Serrano told the EFE news agency that there were more than 23,000 illegal taps on gas pipelines in 2020, up from 12,581 in 2018 and 13,136 in 2019.

Approximately 60% of all illegal taps detected since the turn of the century were discovered during the past three years. Serrano described the problem as “extremely serious” while noting the immense cost of LP gas theft.

“Armed groups are taking control of the [distribution] routes and imposing conditions that don’t benefit the final consumer and place society at risk,” the Amexgas chief said.

A security chief for a gas distributor told EFE that theft also takes place in Pemex storage and distribution centers due to corruption and that gas company vehicles are targeted.

The man, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisals from organized crime, said the states most affected by gas theft are Veracruz, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Hidalgo, Querétaro, Mexico City, México state and Guanajuato.

“In those states … the main impact on companies is the theft of vehicles and equipment they use to distribute gas. Tanker trucks and portable tanks of gas are stolen,” he said.

The security chief said that commission agents play a key role in getting stolen gas to businesses and people’s homes, explaining that they while they normally purchase gas from legally established companies they sometimes turn to criminal groups to get the product more cheaply and increase their profits.

He also said there are groups that obtain money from gas distribution companies in exchange for providing protection to them in the areas they operate. Once an organized crime group controls gas distribution in a certain region, it imposes its own conditions on all links of the supply chain and the consumer, he said.

“They affect the final consumer – the housewife, the hotelier, the tortilla maker and the baker. They force them to buy a certain quantity of gas every month … at a certain price, even one that is above their commercially viable cost,” the gas company employee said.

A legal representative of another gas company told EFE that the authorities are flagrantly violating their responsibility to prosecute criminals that operate in the gas sector and prevent theft from occurring.

“Until now we have no knowledge of any investigative file that has been initiated because of these crimes [even] when they are committed flagrantly and reported by entities such as Pemex,” he said.

Theft of petroleum from pipelines has generated losses in recent years that ran into the tens of billions of pesos for the state-owned oil company. But the federal government says it has drastically reduced the problem and that the losses are now a small fraction of what they once were.

Source: EFE (sp) 

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