EL RENO — Authorities continue to investigate a series of crude oil thefts in at least six Oklahoma counties. One man has been arrested in the theft of oil worth up to $100,000, but investigators still hope to identify who was buying it.
“That's what the ultimate goal is,” said Kent Chrisman, Devon Energy Corp.'s director of security and administration.
Canadian County Sheriff Randall Edwards said Yukon resident Mark Dale Bass Jr. was arrested earlier this month after investigators saw him take about 100 barrels of oil from a tank battery near Rush Springs.
Bass' tanker truck, and the stolen oil in it, were seized Oct. 5 when he was arrested, the sheriff said. A subsequent search of the 34-year-old's home yielded a large quantity of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.
“We are now trying to account for every barrel of crude oil taken and get the companies reimbursed for their losses,” Edwards said. “Any time you have something that negatively impacts our oil companies like this, it hurts all of us.”
Bass, who has not been charged with a crime, is free on $5,000 bail. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Edwards said investigators witnessed and documented oil being taken from six different counties after receiving theft reports from Devon Energy in early August. Colorado-based QEP Resources Inc. and Cimarex Energy Co. also filed theft reports.
Chrisman said Devon had been losing 50 to 100 barrels at a time, so he directed retired Oklahoma City police investigator Ken Rickenbrode to look into the thefts. Rickenbrode worked with local law enforcement agencies to investigate the thefts.
The investigation eventually led to Bass, a truck owner who used to work for a wastewater hauler hired by Devon.
Chrisman said oil field thieves often have experience in the industry so they know what to steal.
He said Bass' time with a service company made him familiar with Devon's operations.
Bass also has his own tanker truck, so he could take oil away from well sites, authorities said.
Devon has lost more than 500 barrels of oil to thieves since this summer, Chrisman said. The stolen oil was worth close to $100,000.
“Oil field theft is rampant right now,” said Tom Jordan, manager of corporate security at Oklahoma City-based Chaparral Energy. He said more thieves are taking crude oil.
“A lot of it is our fault,” Jordan said. “We made it readily available to them. It's right out there for them.”
Most tanks are not monitored and sit close to roadways.
“If you have a tank truck, you have a license to steal,” Jordan said.
Energy company officials work together to combat theft.
“There's nothing proprietary about oil field security,” he said. “Devon's thieves are our thieves. We share information.”