By Neelam Rahim
Illegal fittings discovered on Sunday on a Transnet fuel pipeline between Jameson Park and Alrode in Gauteng caused a leak that left emergency workers scrambling to contain the spread of diesel, water and sewage.
The incident comes amid a pointy spike in fuel theft as prices skyrocket.
In response to questions from Fin24, Transnet Pipelines didn’t specify what proportion of diesel was spilt. It said emergency crews were dispatched immediately but had difficulty containing the fuel spill because of an upstream sewer leak, flooding the area with sewage.
Ultimately, the corporate said the illegal fittings were found along the N3 near Mapleton, Boksburg.
Petroleum products contain several potentially toxic compounds, and diesel pollution can cause serious environmental and health hazards through water contamination. Cleaning up fuel is expensive and complicated.
This year, criminals haven’t caused a diesel spill for the first time. In March, thieves trying to steal diesel from a pipeline between Durban and Heidelberg caused pollution within the Meul River.
Transnet said its security intervention had halved the number of such incidents over the past year. However, the pipelines department told Fin24 on Tuesday that, despite the first positive results, “incidents of theft have increased dramatically”, with over 40 thefts reported since April.
He will still work with enforcement, he said.
The state-owned logistics company’s fuel pipelines transport all of SA’s oil. Therefore the line between Jameson Park and Alrode is a component of a multi-billion-dollar multi-product network project designed to last over 70 years. But Transnet is grappling with an increase in theft and vandalism, forcing it to deal out billions to shield its infrastructure.
Fuel theft has been a severe problem for the corporate, leading to the loss of innumerable litres of fuel, damage to infrastructure and damage to the environment. In 2019/2020 alone, 8.5 million litres of fuel worth 102 million rubbles were lost thanks to theft.
Transnet Pipelines chief executive Michelle Phillips told Fin24 that a special joint task force had been founded to analyze illegal activities associated with fuel theft.
“The leak from the illegal fittings was plugged, and containment measures were put in place to reduce damage to the environment, a task made difficult by the water and sewerage within the area,” she said.