A MAJOR underground pipeline that carries oil from Southampton to Birmingham has been targeted by thieves for the second time in two months.

Now 150,000 litres of fuel have leaked out of the Midline pipeline and contaminated the countryside.

As reported by the Daily Echo a major investigation was launched in April after 38,000 litres of fuel were found in a barn on the outskirts of Romsey.

Now the Esso pipeline, which starts at Fawley refinery, has been targeted by thieves in Wiltshire.

Fuel has leaked into soil near the River Kennet after a farmer disturbed a hose that had been connected to the pipe and then covered with soil.

Esso is leading the efforts to contain the spill and is drilling at the site to try to discover what is happening to the fuel beneath the surface.

An Esso spokesman said that the raid had not had an impact on the Fawley refinery and the pipeline was only closed briefly for repairs.

It is understood that Wiltshire police have arrested two men in Somerset after they were discovered with a large amount of illicit fuel but the force has not confirmed if the two incidents are linked.

In April Hampshire police arrested two men, aged 32 and 34, in Salisbury in connection with the first theft and they were released on bail until July.

But a police spokesman said that they were not part of the investigation in the most recent offence.