Theft threat?

When the price of crude oil rises, reports of oil theft increase. Alex Porter spoke to distributors about the situation in their area
A recent article on the Fuel Oil News website reported that police in Leicestershire had found that fuel to the value of £16,000 had been stolen in the region over a period of 60 days. In Wales, statistics revealed the equivalent of a theft a day by the end of 2011.
The impact on business
Neil Kovac, sales manager at Leicestershire-based Brobot Petroleum said: “Whereas buyers would have previously purchased larger tanks in order to buy more fuel at once, buyers are becoming more wary of purchasing and storing large amounts.
“This is especially true for the agricultural community in and around the Leicestershire region. More and more farmers are spreading their deliveries out. This obviously impacts upon our delivery costs and for the farmer, makes them more vulnerable to running out of fuel.”
Duncan Lambert, general manager of Rix Petroleum, agreed that, as well as a lack of funds, rising levels of theft are partly responsible for smaller volume orders.
“A big problem is that each time our 30-foot tanker parks outside a property to make a delivery, we advertise that a new batch of oil has just been delivered. But what can we do? Alarms, locks and fancy gauges are available; however, if the thief wants it, they’ll get it!”
“In response to this developing trend,
GB Oils made a strategic decision to establish a range of oil monitoring and security products and bunded oil storage tanks to help keep our customers protected,” explained Sara Richardson, GB Oils.
Grossly exaggerated?
Not all distributors believe that instances of oil theft are as widespread as suggested.
“Whilst there has been an increase in isolated thefts of oil, I think that, due to publicity around theft, some customers automatically believe that because the smaller quantity they’ve purchased hasn’t lasted as long as their usual larger purchase, their oil must’ve been stolen!” said Mark Nolan, owner of Nolan Fuel Oils.
Stevenage Oils has been working with Hertfordshire police to distribute leaflets making consumers aware of thieves, but owner John Cooper described reports of oil theft as “grossly exaggerated.”
“People hear about a theft, and then assume the same has happened to them when they’ve actually just run out. Oil does get stolen, and plenty of products have been sold to try and combat that – but there’s no point having a very secure lock when the tank itself is plastic!”
“We’ve not seen any evidence that the threat of theft is eroding confidence in oil heating, but it would be wrong to be complacent,” advised Malcolm Farrow, OFTEC marketing and communications manager. As an industry we must do everything we can to help customers secure their oil tank.”
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