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Oil theft attempt causes major spill from Brazil pipeline

10 December 2018

At least 60,000 litres of oil spilled into Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay and a nearby river on December 8 after an attempted robbery on a pipeline, according to a statement by Transpetro, part of the state-run oil and gas group Petrobras. The company said the oil had spilled into the Estrela River and immediate action by emergency teams ensured 75% of the oil had been cleaned up by the morning of December 10.

Stock image
Stock image

According to Reuters, Transpetro and Petrobras have become frequent targets of theft in recent years as gangs steal millions of dollars a year of oil and derivatives for resale on the black market. Pipeline theft is part of a larger crime wave in Brazil, provoked by the nation’s worst recession on record.

A dismantled criminal network operating near Rio de Janeiro stole 14 million litres of fuel in 2016. After investigating a wave of killings in the northern suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, police followed a tip near the Duque de Caxias oil refinery that lead them to discover a system of tubes buried underground that was being used to steal fuel from Petrobras.

The total value of the oil stolen by the crime group last year was estimated to be equivalent to about $11 million.

Authorities said at the time that operations such as this were occurring all along southern Brazil between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

This is also a huge problem in other Latin American countries. In 2016, Mexico’s state oil company Pemex lost more than 2.2 billion litres of fuel worth an estimated $1.5 billion.


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