Armed groups seized control of one of the largest gas wells in the Burgos Basin, just south of the U.S. border, on May 23rd, and continue to hold the facility. The seizure of the well, known as Gigante Numero Uno, in Nueva Ciudad Guerrero, Tamaulipas happened at the same time as five Pemex engineers were kidnapped in the same region. These natural gas wells are particularly valuable because they produce petroleum condensate as a byproduct, sometimes called ‘natural gasoline’ which can be used directly without refining. According to PRI Deputy Eduardo Bailey, who recently visited Pemex installations in the region, Pemex has had to reduce production because of threats to its personnel and roadblocks in the region. Some of Pemex’s contractors in the Burgos basin, including Schlumberger, Halliburton, Weatherford, and Petrobras have had their personnel kidnapped for ransom; Schlumberger also had 15 trucks stolen in the past few days. (Reforma 6/9, Reforma 6/10)
Probably not coincidentally, Pemex just announced it filed suit in U.S. District Court in Houston against five U.S. companies for allegedly receiving stolen condensates and other hydrocarbons. The U.S. companies are BASF Corporation, Murphy Energy Corporation, Trammo Petroleum Inc., Valley Fuels, and US Petroleum Depot, Inc. According to Pemex’s press release,
The lawsuit clearly describes how organized criminals are using threats against workers in Pemex Exploration and Production in order to steal from storage facilities or to hijack tanker trucks, in order to later sell the contraband condensate in the United States, where it was acquired by a variety of companies.
Bloomberg Business Week has an extensive story on the lawsuit.