The extent, severity, and risk of pipeline product theft is a major concern to the oil and gas industry, and the world community. In many cases organised crime uses modern technology to steal large quantities of valuable material from hazardous product pipelines. The activities of illegal tapping by cutting into pipelines can cause pipeline ruptures and explosions, leading to human casualties, destruction of property, and damage to the environment.
Pipeline operators now frequently contend with more sophisticated criminals who are well organized, work in teams, and often have industry knowledge. They use a variety of tactics, including burying long hoses and allowing vegetation to re-grow before withdrawing product, as well as withdrawing product at a very slow rate, usually well below the flow meter accuracy level. Product thefts have steadily increased on UK pipeline networks since late 2013, with one theft a week being detected in 2014. Thieves use specialist equipment to monitor if the pipeline is running or not, and may take very small samples (anywhere between 10-3000 liters) so that they only steal the more saleable product from multi-product pipelines.
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Fuel thieves in Mexico drilled 10,363 illegal taps into state-owned pipelines in 2017, or an average of about 28 every day.