Mexico Accuses U.S. Companies of Buying Stolen Natural Gas Products from Drug Cartels

Friday, June 03, 2011
Mexico’s national oil company, Pemex, is suing a collection of American oil and pipeline companies claiming that they have purchased stolen natural gas products from drug cartels.
In the northeast of Mexico, drug bandits have been hijacking tanker trucks carrying natural gas condensate from the Burgos oil field. Pemex insists the thefts are “encouraged and facilitated” by U.S. companies, primarily in Texas, that have “knowingly or unwittingly” bought the stolen gas and then sold it in the United States. Three of the companies, Big Star Gathering, Superior Crude and F&M, are accused of having “actively and knowingly participated in a conspiracy to import and market the stolen condensate in the United States.”
The thefts have cost Mexico at least $300 million since 2006, according to the plaintiff. Pemex provides the Mexican government with about 40% of its annual revenue. The enormous Burgos Field includes 2,827 wells.
Natural gas condensate is a mixture of hydrocarbon liquids produced with natural gas and used as “feedstock” for refineries and petrochemical plants.
The remote location of the oil fields and a certain amount of official corruption have made it relatively easy for the drug cartels and other criminals to hijack tankers on their way to a central storage facility near Reynosa in Tamaulipas state, often at gunpoint.
The Mexican government has already arrested 140 people involved in the thefts, including two Mexican customs agents, who were jailed for allowing shipments with fake export documents to pass into the United States.
In the words of the complaint, “In a reversal of the classic Western movie, Mexican criminals have sought refuge with their ill-gotten gains by crossing the Rio Grande to the North, where the Mexican government has no authority to follow.”
However, investigations in the United States by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) have led to condensate-related convictions in Texas.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
Cartels Ravage Natural Gas Field for Sale in U.S.A., Mexico Says (by Cameron Langford, Courthouse News Service)
PEMEX v. Big Star Gathering et al. (U.S. District Court, Southern Texas) (pdf)


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