Surge in Heating Oil Thefts Reported in UK

Surge in Heating Oil Thefts Reported in UK

British authorities are reporting a surge in the number of heating oil thefts as global oil prices soar.

Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show a 4 percent jump in reported heating oil thefts during 2010 to 2400 cases, reports.

Devon and Cornwall had the most cases (836) and Northern Island – which has the highest prevalence of heating oil use in the country – had the second highest tally (727).

Crude prices have risen 40 percent in the last year and heating oil prices have jumped by 55 percent due to a combination of geopolitical events, surging international demand from the likes of China and a falling US dollar. The freezing winter just endured by Europe and North America also saw prices spike as demand rose.

Heating oil thefts have also been reported in the US since prices hit record levels in 2008, but they are far more common in the UK. Earlier this year a group of farmers in Essex resorted to hiring private security firms to watch their properties after a spate of thefts of fuel and machinery. Only last month British police warned over 1.5 million rural residents to be extra vigilant to the risk of heating oil theft, recommending homeowners increase security by fitting tank alarms.

Sgt Richard Crosby, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said heating oil theft was a difficult crime to detect.

“The key is prevention – using extra locks, security lighting, keeping oil tanks near houses and asking neighbours to keep a watch on your home.”

There are numerous locking and security devices on the market for heating oil tanks. It is now possible to have electric devices fitted to your tanks, which emit a siren alert when fuel levels drop dramatically, signalling a possible leak or theft.

Atkinson Locking Filler Cap
The Atkinson Locking Filler Cap

There is a huge array of heating oil tank security devices on the market to protect you from thieves.

UK heating oil components supplier Atkinson Equipment Ltd says it is not surprising to see a rise in heating oil thefts when prices are near-record levels.

“When the price of any consumable increases, so too does its attractiveness to thieves, Heating oil is no different in this regard. Given the high energy prices during the past few years, it is hardly surprising that the number of reported incidents continues to rise.”

However, the logistics of transporting the stolen fuel is difficult for the thieves and suspiciously cheap fuel oil has a limited resale market.

“That said, it makes sense for fuel oil and heating oil users not to be complacent and to make the criminal’s life as difficult as possible. Fuel tank manufacturers and oil equipment suppliers have been quick to respond to increased reports of fuel oil thefts and there is a wide range of locking devices and alarms available.”

Anyone concerned about heating oil theft should contact their local police force for more information on how to minimize the risk of fuel theft or speak to their heating oil dealer.