(Updates throughout with police information)
By Alex Lawler
LONDON, April 21 Exxon Mobil shut one of
Britain's main underground fuel pipelines, it said on Monday,
after police found a stash of diesel they believe was siphoned
off by thieves.
Police arrested two men, aged 32 and 34, in connection with
the theft. Media reported that more than 30,000 litres of
diesel, worth 41,000 pounds ($70,000) at pump prices, was
Police launched their investigation on Thursday after a
large quantity of diesel was found in a industrial storage unit
at West Wellow, Hampshire, southern England, where the thieves
are thought to have tapped into the 14-inch pipeline.
The Midline Pipeline runs north from Esso's Fawley oil
refinery near Southampton to its terminal in Birmingham, central
Two men from the Salisbury area were arrested late Sunday
and were being held in custody for questioning on Tuesday,
"Lines of enquiry include establishing the exact amount of
fuel stolen and examining the suspected sophisticated method
used in this alleged theft," police said in a statement.
"The fuel is stored safely and securely and is being
retrieved by engineers from the nearby Esso refinery."
Exxon, known as Esso in Britain, said in a statement: "Esso
is committed to the very highest standards of safety. The
pipeline has therefore been closed down, and our specialists are
working to check it and, if necessary, effect any repair."
Stealing oil from pipelines is relatively rare in Britain,
but the theft of metals such as copper cable has led to
communications and rail network disruptions. In Nigeria, theft
from pipelines is estimated to cost the government up to $1
billion per month.
Esso is making alternative supply arrangements and does not
expect its retail customers to be affected by the pipeline
closure, a company spokesman said.
The pipeline has a spur to Birmingham Airport, although this
is rarely used now as most fuel supplied to the airport goes by
road, he said.
(Additional reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by Robin