Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Tapping device found on Esso pipeline after fuel theft

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Media captionThe stolen fuel was discovered by police in an industrial storage unit at West Wellow, Romsey

One of the UK's main underground pipelines has been shut after 30,000 litres of diesel was stolen.

The fuel was discovered by police in an industrial storage unit at West Wellow, Romsey and it is believed to have been stolen from Esso's Midline Pipeline.

An Esso spokesman said a tapping device had been found on the pipeline.

Two men, aged 32 and 34, both from Salisbury, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to steal fuel on Sunday and released on bail.

The tapping device was discovered a few hundred metres from where the fuel had been found.

Esso said the pipeline was "secure".

The company's oil refinery is in Fawley near Southampton.

The two men were bailed on Monday until 10 July, pending further inquiries.

A statement from Esso said there was "no leak of product" from the pipeline which was closed as a precaution after the discovery of the fuel store.

"Esso is committed to the very highest standards of safety and our specialists are now working to remove the tapping device, and repair and test the pipeline and restore it to normal operations as soon as possible,

"Interim alternative supply arrangements are in place and we do not anticipate any impact on our retail customers," it said.

'Early stages'

The Midline Pipeline runs from the refinery to Esso's terminal in Birmingham.

The fuel was discovered by the unit's owner at about 19:30 BST on Thursday.

A statement from Hampshire Police said: "The exact quantity and circumstances surrounding the accumulation of fuel are central to the investigation, and detectives are focussing on identifying those responsible.

"The fuel is stored safely and securely and is being retrieved by engineers from the nearby Esso refinery.

"The investigation [is] still in its early stages."

The Midline pipeline was built in the 1980s and runs underground, carrying fuel through Wiltshire to the Midlands, including Birmingham International Airport.

Officials from the Environment Agency and health and safety experts have attended the scene to ensure the safety of the area.

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