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

(Xinhua)

16:21, November 02, 2011

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.

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