Industry employees not immune to unrest south of the border.

Mexico's nationalized oil/natural gas operations have been stung by the continuing wars between the major drug cartels and the federal government, according to a report in Monday's Los Angeles Times from the fossil fuel production areas of the nation. The government-run operation, Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), has long been a very visible target for the drug gangs.

According to the report, the world's seventh largest producer of oil and natural gas is another of the major casualties of the escalating warfare. In May gunmen wearing military-like camouflage and tennis shoes kidnapped five Pemex employees at the front gate of the Gigante No.1 natural gas plant in Burgos Basin. The employees included a mechanic and pump specialist.

No trace of the five Pemex employees has surfaced. Another 30 employees of Pemex in the region also have disappeared, according to the LA Times report, which indicated that Mexico's gas production has suffered as a result.

San Diego-bases Sempra Energy operates the only North American West Coast liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at Energia Costa Azul about 60 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border at Tijuana in North Baja California, along with a gas-fired electric generation plant by Mexicali and several natural gas distribution utility systems spread around northwestern Mexico. These holdings prompt the question about what Sempra has experienced, if anything, since the drug cartel wars blazed out of control in the past 12 months?

A Sempra LNG spokesperson told NGI on Tuesday that the company has a standing policy of not discussing security issues publicly. "This is not the type of story we are interested in participating in," she said. It leaves to speculation whether the LNG facility or any of the other Sempra energy infrastructure in Mexico have ever been a target of the drug lords.

Mexico's biggest revenue source and representing a third of the nation's national budget, Pemex continues to suffer regular oil and gas thefts across the northeastern region spreading along the Gulf of Mexico and the Texas-Mexico border from Laredo southeast to the gulf.

Pemex earlier this year sued five U.S. companies in a move to try to recover damages for stolen petroleum products that the Mexican government estimates is worth more than $250 million.

Sempra would not say if they have lost any supplies or whether the thefts in Mexico's gas region have resulted in Pemex or the Mexican electricity industry needing to obtain added gas supplies from its terminal on the Pacific Coast of North Baja California.

©Copyright 2010 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.