Mexican scientists are developing a coating from coconut oil to protect pipelines from rust in an effort to find a replacement for the products currently being imported by state-owned oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, the research project's director said.

The compound is in the experimental stage, but it "has been shown to be competitive" against commercial products available in other countries, such as Britain, project director Jorge Ascencio said in a statement.

The project is being carried out at the Physical Sciences Institute, or ICF, in the central state of Morelos with the support of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, or UNAM, the National Science and Technology Council, or Conacyt, and the government of the southern state of Guerrero.

The oil from coconuts, which are abundant in Mexico's tropical areas, separates the water that damages pipelines from the petroleum, Ascencio said.

The compound is added to the flowing petroleum to displace the water, protecting the pipeline's interior, the researcher said.

"We call it Coco-Guerrero Inhibitor. It is the equivalent of an imidazoline (a corrosion prevention substance) and what comes next is learning how to make it on a large scale and at low cost," Ascencio said.

Researchers are currently working with native and hybrid coconuts, which are abundant in Guerrero, especially in the town of Marquelia, the physicist said.

The last phase of the project will focus on providing communities in Guerrero with the portable equipment and techniques for developing the process and obtaining coconut oil with value added, Ascencio said.

"This is about having everybody win, to incentivize them toward growth," Ascencio said.

Mexico has a network of 13,000 kilometers (8,077 miles) of pipelines dedicated to transporting crude oil, about 8,300 kilometers (5,157 miles) of pipelines used to carry refined petroleum products, such as gasoline and diesel, and another 17,000 kilometers (10,563 miles) of pipelines used to transport natural gas and liquefied gas.