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Tanker drivers steal gas from employers amid China's diesel shortage

11-02-2011 16:26 BJT

KUNMING, NOV. 2 (Xinhua) -- The trade of refined oil on Yunnan's black market is worth nearly 100 million yuan (15.7 million U.S. dollars) in real market terms per annum, according to provincial industrial association for oil circulation.

In October, Yunnan police busted the operators of three illegal refined oil storage sites and seized 10 tonnes of diesel worth around 4 million yuan. Three people have been arrested and the case is still under investigation.

Police are increasingly focusing on the illegal gas trade as unprecedented diesel shortages hit China.

Shortages usually arise every September and October, the traditional peak months of diesel use, but this year the situation is worse.

Over 10,000 of China's 44,000 private-sector gas stations, which account for nearly half the nation's gas stations, face diesel shortages, said Zhao Youshan, chairman of the Commercial Petroleum Flow Committee of China.

Yunnan police say refined oil is traded on the black market across China, particularly in Beijing and Shanghai and the provinces of Hubei and Hunan.

One major source of diesel on the black market is from tank truck drivers, who surreptitiously remove fuel from their trucks' tanks, said a person who refused to be named in charge of a branch of PetroChina in Yunnan.

A lead seal makes it difficult to steal fuel from the tank, but drivers can get around the problem by working in cahoots with oil depot workers.

"At first I had no idea about it at all, and then I followed other drivers' example after I discovered them doing so. Later we discussed with each other which oil depots and workers were flexible to 'cooperate with' us and how to avoid inspections from the company," said a tank truck driver who gave his surname as Wang, a common Chinese name.

Another source of the illegally traded diesel comes from thieves who siphon gas from the fuel tanks of trucks.

Diesel is often stolen from heavy trucks on the highway, said Nie Jiyou, the deputy police chief of the district of Qilin, Qujing city.

Dai Zhonghua, a truck driver said he and other drivers were afraid to park their vehicles late at night at highway stops. And if they had to, they would park their trucks very close to each other, side-by-side, to make it difficult for thieves to access the fuel tank.

"But even by doing so, my truck's fuel tank has been prized open three times this year and I've lost nearly 10,000 yuan worth of diesel," said Dai.

To counter the diesel shortage, China Petrochemical Corp (Sinopec), China's largest oil refiner, has said it will raise its refinery output by 2.8 percent to 18.3 million tonnes in November.

And the National Development and Reform Commission on Oct. 8 lowered retail fuel prices for the first time in 16 months by 300 yuan a tonne.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: Xinhua

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