Written by Oscar Villa, Edited by Sriniketh Sukumar
Despite of being one of the top oil companies in Latin America, Pemex large scale operation is not safe from corruption and theft. The Mexican oil company has been facing the hazardous issue of individuals stealing oil and gas from its many miles of pipelines, for as long as anyone can remember. The thieves, or so called “Huachicoleros” main objectives include stealing fuel from different pipelines by drilling holes on the pipes and then extracting the gasoline from them. Indeed, Mexico’s politicians and other high ranking officials of the law would rather “look” the other way instead of facing this problem. However, the recently elected Mexican president, Lopez Obrador, proposed drastically to eliminate theft from pipelines, an issue that could lead to highly dangerous scenarios.
In addition, Pemex employees in charge of distribution of fuel through tucks commit fraud by making false orders and fake demands. According to Pemex, in 2018, 58,200 barrels of fuel are stolen every day, which corresponds to an approximate loss of 66,300 million pesos. While the Mexican authorities insist that there is no gas crisis, the reality is that gas stations in high demand cities like Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Michoacán and Mexico City, didn’t have enough fuel for the citizens. Some analysts calculate that 5,500 tank trucks would be needed to transport about 200 million liters of fuel around the country. This would cause the price of gasoline to rise, due to this increased cost of transportation. President López Obrador argues that there is no shortage of fuel because there are enough gas reserves and what people are experiencing is a problem with the fuel distribution. Either way, Mexican citizens suffer a shortage of gasoline across the country.
Since 2006, the “Huachicoleros” involved an individual or a group of individuals obtaining fuel illegally from pipeline sources – this gained momentum when different cartel organization saw this activity as a great business opportunity. 15 million of liters of gasoline were obtained as a result of closing 70 gas stations that were not giving the proper amount of gas and/or did not have the proof of legal supply. In other words, “huachicoleros” would sell illegal gasoline to different gas stations, who would in turn sell it to the public. With fewer gas stations open for the public, and a poor fuel distribution structure, citizens were the main target that suffered greatly. On average, the month with the lowest gasoline demand is February, at approximately 766,000 barrels per day (about 121 million of liters per day). Between February and November, the demand rises to 804,000 barrels per day, which further increases to 849,000 barrels per day in December. Many people questioned the president’s method to eradicate this problem on the month with the highest fuel demand. After closing all the pipelines as well as the constant monitoring of tank trucks, which some people argue was one the main causes why they were never reliable, had a strong negative effect on the citizens. There was no gasoline in the gas stations, and tank trucks were scheduled to provide gasoline to the gas stations which were delayed by 2 or 3 days, after which people started to panic: The lines would appear endless and nobody knew when more gas supplies would arrive.
In conclusion, the impact and the dependence that our society has regarding hydrocarbons is critical, within a few months nearly the entire society was close from collapsing because of the lack of energy. One possible solution is to take over Pemex by stationing the military on every refinery, and a second solution would be to cut all the gasoline supplies through pipes. In theory, the idea of cutting the supply would stop the individuals, who are civilians for the most part, and other mafias and or cartels, of stealing the fuel from the pipes. However, such solutions aren’t feasible, or profitable for PEMEX, which wants to protect its investments and ensure that fuel is efficiently being delivered to its wide customer base.