Spillages caused intentionally or maliciously now represent 10-15% of all European spillage events in a typical year¹.

Pipeline thefts are becoming increasingly widespread. It is no longer a problem just affecting developing countries. Increasingly, there is theft occurring in Europe, alongside more widely reported incidents in Latin America, China, India, Nigeria, and Russia.

A report² compiled by Concawe outlines some of the theft incidents that have taken place on European pipelines in recent years:

“A hole was drilled into the line to steal gasoline, however at the same time a large amount of product was spilled. An area of about 100 m2 was contaminated. Because the soil was sandy no oil could be recovered and all contaminated soil had to be removed and disposed of which took one month.”

"In 2 separate incidents within 6 weeks, the same multi-product pipeline was targeted by thieves who installed a small bore connection. Some spillage occurred as a result of the illegal connection being left open or being damaged. Total volumes of 30 and 166 m3 were lost although it could not be accurately established what proportion was carried away by the thieves and how much was actually spilled on the ground.”


Pipeline theft and vandalism lead to:

  • Loss of revenue up to several million dollars per year
  • Loss of lives due to safety breaches such as explosions
  • Damage to the environment if product is spilled and left undetected
  • Reputational damage which can take years to recover from

Theft sizes are reducing as thieves are aware of the presence of theft detection systems, which in turn is challenging the sensitivity of current technology. Thieves are often experienced and use sophisticated equipment and methods to avoid being identified. The size and duration of each theft is usually kept below the flow meter detection limit, making it extremely difficult for flow balance based methods to detect the theft.
Reliable and sensitive theft detection is becoming ever more important in order to minimize product loss and limit the potential damages.

Watch a video about the Atmos Leak and Theft Detection Suite here.

Enquiries about theft detection are kept strictly confidential so clients can feel secure when contacting Atmos International. Enquire now.




¹CONCAWE: Theft: Malicious or intentional spillage events: a brief review of recent trends 2014-04-03 J.F. Larivé. Page 5

²CONCAWE: Performance of European cross-country oil pipelines. Detailed description of reported spillages 2005+. Page 8, page 21

Atmos offers a number of systems recently developed in house which are ideal for use against pipeline vandalism:

Theft Net

One of the downsides of online theft detection systems is the stand-off between sensitivity and false alarms: as the sensitivity is increased, the alarm thresholds become closer to the process noise of the pipeline which has the potential to cause false alarms. This can be costly but also dangerous if it results in genuine alarms being ignored. To redress this, Atmos experts are trained in the latest techniques for spotting theft in action. We now offer this to clients as a unique offline data analysis service – Theft Net. Through this service, our ability to interpret data improves theft location down to meters, and enables clients to have highly sensitive detection equipment without the worry of false alarms. This saves clients time and loss, and helps them capture criminals in action and prosecute. Theft Net is used in conjunction with Atmos’ range of hardware and software based theft detection products. 

Hardware solutions available from Atmos International:


This revolutionary battery-based theft detection solution has been designed for pipelines previously in a detection ‘black hole’ – for example, in areas without power or communications, or where standard detection units are undesirable for aesthetic reasons (as in National Parks). Small and unobstructive, it can be hidden near suspected tapping points, yet has the sensitivity of permanent detection systems.

Atmos Portable Data Logger for Leak and Theft Detection

This portable and autonomous data logging solution can be rapidly deployed and installed on pipelines where leaks or thefts are suspected. Once the data has been collected and sent to Atmos, it is analyzed to identify and locate leak and theft events using the most advanced processing techniques available. The system is supplied in handheld peli-cases making it fast and cost effective to implement.

Atmos Hydrostatic Tester

Atmos Hydrostatic Tester is a hand held system that utilizes different configurations to identify leaks and illicit tapping points on pipelines. The system is connected to the pipeline and determines if a leak or theft is present during initial pressurization and hydrostatic testing. It then provides a graphical indication of whether the leak/theft is to the left or right of the current location. The user can move along the line as directed by the data to find the point of the leak or theft.

Software solutions available from Atmos International:

Atmos Wave

Atmos Wave detects the rarefaction wave caused by a leak in a pipeline. When a leak occurs, a rarefaction wave travels in both directions along a pipeline. Using fast response pressure meters Atmos Wave filters the pressure signals to find those with the frequency and magnitude of a leak. The time at which the pressure signal reaches each pressure meter is used to determine the location of the leak extremely accurately.

In addition to the standard leak detection capability, Atmos Wave has a unique module that can detect thefts accurately. Atmos Wave has the following main features for theft detection:

  • Detection of the opening or closing of theft valves
  • Detection of slowly opening theft valves
  • Work under all operating conditions

The accurate location of thefts makes it much easier for pipeline operating companies to identify illegal tapping points, thus rapidly preventing further loss of product.

Atmos Wave Flow

Atmos’ newest LDS uses elements from both volume balance and rarefaction wave methods. The sophisticated system uses a multi-element model to reduce uncertainty and improve performance. Atmos Wave Flow can potentially detect a theft as quickly as 2 minutes with sensitivity as small as 0.1% of the flow rate. This means even the smallest of tapping points can be detected using this system. 




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