Gas stations in Mexico are running dry after the state-owned oil company cracked down on rampant fuel theft

Mexico Oil Gas shortages linesReutersMotorists queue for gas at a Repsol gas station in Guadalajara on Monday, January 6Reuters

  • Mexico shifted some gas distribution from pipelines to trucks, in order to curb rampant theft by criminal gangs.
  • The changes led to shortages and long lines at gas stations in at least six of the country's states.
  • State-owned Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, said it was working to fix the delays.
  • Shipping fuel by truck is much more expensive than via pipeline, an oil analyst told Reuters, and the issues could affect Mexico's broader economy. 

Widespread gasoline shortages have been reported across Mexico, according to the Associated Press, as people scrambled to fill their tanks after a change in delivery methods resulted in delays.

State oil and gas company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex,  was urging consumers not to panic and hoard fuel, while promising that the disruption would soon normalize in the six affected states.

Mexico Oil theft gas shortagesReutersA fuel dispenser is pictured with a banner reading 'Out of service' at a gas station of state oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), which is closed due shortage of fuel, in Guadalajara, Mexico, January 6, 2019.Reuters

The move to distribute more fuel on trucks, directed by newly installed President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, was meant to curb rampant fuel theft, which has grown to nearly $3 billion every year by criminal gangs who can tap vulnerable pipelines.

"I ask citizens for understanding and support, because we need to solve this problem together. We are trying to get it resolved soon," Lopez Obrador said in a televised speech on Friday, according to Reuters.

Photos posted online by Mexican drivers showed long lines at gas stations.

"I've gone to 10 gas stations and nothing, there's none at any of them," Alan Delgado, who was trying to fill his Buick truck at a BP gas station in Guadalajara, told Reuters. "This is a serious and critical situation because it complicates work and businesses."

Diego Sinhue Rodríguez Vallejo, the state governor of Guanajuato, north of Mexico City, said on Twitter that he had been in touch with Pemex's CEO and that he expects full service to be returned by Sunday.

Shipping fuel by road or rail can be about 12 to 16 times more expensive than via pipeline, Gonzalo Monroy, an oil analyst based in Mexico City, told Reuters.

"If this keeps happening and expanding to other parts of the country, the Mexican economy is going to have a very tough first quarter," he said. 
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