Shell Chemical LP, ConocoPhillips Co. (COP) and Marathon Petroleum Co. won dismissal of a lawsuit claiming they unknowingly bought stolen natural-gas condensate from a smuggling ring that Mexico’s national oil company has been unable to stop on its side of the border.
Pemex Exploracion y Produccion, the state oil company’s exploration unit, brought several lawsuits against U.S. refiners in Houston federal court, claiming they facilitated a black market in natural-gas liquids, even if the companies didn’t know they were buying from thieves.
Pemex said armed bandits have stolen more than $300 million in condensate from the Burgos field in northern Mexico since 2006, trucking much of it across the border in hijacked tankers. The smugglers have eluded Mexican army helicopters and troops summoned to defend the oilfields, according to court papers.
U.S. District Judge Simeon Lake in Houston ruled today that the refiners’ purchases of allegedly stolen natural-gas liquids occurred more than two years before Pemex sued, which placed the transactions outside of Texas’s two-year statute of limitations on the sale of stolen property.