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The scourge of pipeline theft

Author : Alan Franck, Editor, Hazardex

20 October 2016

Around the world, the deliberate theft of product from pipelines is a growing concern. Even with depressed oil prices, the lure of a quick profit that can be derived from illegally tapping into pipelines to remove product is driving many billions of dollars of losses around the world every year. 

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In Nigeria alone, the Government estimated in 2014 that pipeline theft and vandalism was costing the country more than $9 billion dollars a month. Pipeline theft in Mexico rose 52% in 2015 after a 44% increase in 2014, according to a sustainability report by Pemex, Mexico's state-owned oil company.

Indonesia's equivalent, Pertamina, estimated that theft from just one of its oil pipelines, Tempino-Plaju, cost it $40 million dollars annually.

Nor is the problem limited to developing countries with limited police resources. Pipeline theft is becoming an ever-increasing problem in Western countries.

In the UK in 2014, more than 1.4 million gallons of fuel were siphoned off near Sevenoaks in Kent from an Esso pipeline linking the Fawley refinery in Hampshire to the Purfleet oil terminal in Essex. The alleged perpetrators are facing charges and face sentencing later this year, but this was just the most spectacular of a string of fuel thefts across the country in the last few years.

In the US, losses from oil theft reached almost $1 billion in 2013 and have grown since, according to estimates from the Energy Security Council, an industry trade group in Houston.

It is against this background that in the November issue of Hazardex we publish excerpts from the latest report on oil spillages from Concawe, the European pipeline health, safety and environmental monitoring organisation. These show that the recent upsurge in theft threatens to undo decades of successful efforts to reduce oil spillage from pipelines across the continent.

It seems likely that companies that can offer effective and innovative solutions to counter this scourge will see an ever-expanding market for their products in the future.

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