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Police crackdown on pipeline fuel theft in Latin America

Published by
World Pipelines,

Over 1000 police officers took part in the nighttime operation last Thursday in Latin America, which saw over 25 tanks of fuel stolen from pipelines recovered.

Police – checking a pipeline product theft location reported by theft detection engineers from Atmos International using Theft Net technology – found a truck loaded with large tanks of fuel and saw the thieves flee the area. The dragnet of police roadblocks set up to capture fuel thieves harvested a much larger haul than expected.

The illegal tap would have been hard to find without the Theft Net technology, as the high-pressure hose was buried under the highway and routed onto private property.

Product theft from pipelines is now an enormous problem all over the world. Organised crime is using modern technology to steal valuable material from hazardous product pipelines. In many cases, illegal taps are poorly crafted and leak product. This damages the environment or, much worse, can cause a catastrophic explosion in a populated region. Repairing each illegal tap is very expensive as the spilled must first be removed using foams and other products to neutralise and absorb the product.

Atmos International’s innovative data analysis service, Theft Net, uses specialist engineers to interpret data collected from the pipeline to accurately locate the illegal tapping point within a couple of metres so the pipeline operator can dig with the confidence that they are exactly above the illegal tap. Collaborating closely with this pipeline operator, Atmos has already located over 70 illegal taps in the past six months.

“We have a lot of experience detecting and locating product theft from pipelines all around the world,” explained the Operations Manager who leads the theft detection team in Latin America. “We feed that experience back to our research team in the UK, and team up with the development engineers to continuously improve the specialised hardware and software we use. They build us a better mousetrap.”

Already a world leader in pipeline leak and theft detection for the past 20 years, Atmos has used that know-how to design more efficient theft detection technologies. Several years ago, Atmos deployed this combination of hardware, software, and skilled engineering analysis on virtually every refined product pipeline network in the UK and reduced the number of thefts detected by 99% in just over a year.

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