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The Remotely Secure Blog

Monday January 30th, 2017

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The State of Midstream Security in the U.S.A.


Recently, I read an article regarding energy security written for the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. The article began by stating, Until recently, the pipeline industry has been preoccupied primarily with environmental, safety and maintenance issues. Beyond occasional cases of vandalism, the human factor was hardly perceived as a threat to the world’s vast web of oil and gas pipelines, which, all told, carry roughly half of the world’s oil and most of its natural gas. This has changed since September 11. With the threat of terrorism looming, pipeline operators in the industrialized world have taken action to prevent terrorism from harming energy infrastructure with steps that include: Increasing system redundancy, Deploying state-of-the-art surveillance equipment, Deploying aerial and ground patrols…”

      That piece, although it sounds as though it could have been written yesterday, was actually published more than ten years ago, which prompted me to ask myself the question: Given the recent Presidential Executive Order to move forward with both the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL pipeline projects, has anything changed? To begin, I thought it was best to look first at what our neighbors to the North have accomplished, and as I suspected, they appear to be a little ahead of the U.S.A. in standard building.

With the idea of protecting public safety, the environment, and the critical infrastructure of the nation, Canada introduced the first standard to prevent sabotage in all of North America earlier this decade. In September of 2010, Oil & Gas Product News published a report regarding the Canadian Standards Association CSA Security Standard Z246.1-09, which was introduced to lower the risk for petroleum and natural gas industry systems to combat remote site vandalism, theft, and acts of eco-terrorism.”

I expected nothing less from a country that has demonstrated traditional balance in its approach to both the environment, and the fossil fuels industries.

To contrast, in October of 2016, The Global News, published a report by Reuters authors Liz Hampton and Ethan Lou entitled, “North America’s pipelines vulnerable to sabotage.” The article speaks to climate activists who “broke through fences, and cuts locks and chains simultaneously in several states and simply turned the pipelines off.”

Lou and Hampton noted the more than 200,000 miles of oil lines, and many times that of natural gas lines across the United States, saying that thousands of rural, and often remote pumping and valve stations are situated in remote locations around the country. It seems that part of the argument is that without a recent standard to guide the producers, the private sector is left grappling for the right solution.

“You’re not manning these things on a permanent basis. It’s not viable,” said Stewart Dewar, a project manager at Senstar, an Ottawa-based company that authored a 2012 white paper on pipeline security. It’s too expensive.” – Hampton & Lou

Dewar went on to say that the cost of posting armed guards at valve stations, usually found every twenty miles along the underground pipelines, was prohibitive. He insinuated that for exploration and production companies, there are few options to police pipeline networks that sit above ground, such as pump stations. The stations are usually protected by nothing more than flimsy chain link fence and padlocks.

It’s time for me to insert an au contraire.

    Look, I think that the physical security industry plays a vital and productive role in guarding our assets, but for most remote applications, I agree with Stewart Dewar, guards services are just not economically practical or feasible. I wonder if Mr. Dewar has considered Remote Surveillance and Access Control technology. Remote technology, practically non-existent in any practical application when the Analysis of Global Security report was written in 2005, had advanced by leaps and bounds as the go to safety, security, and project management solution for situations where the terrain is rugged, the conditions harsh, and a power supply non-existent.

It is a practical alternative to costly physical guard services because, as Paul Morocco, President of MEI CyberGuard in Somerset, Pa. has stated, “the technology never sleeps, is never late to work, and never calls off sick.”

Real time imaging, and in the case of the gated property access system, two way voice communication, is available for most applications. The power supply is uninterrupted, and the data stream is robust, and redundant, no matter if the area is laden with gray days, or moonless nights. Typically, the remote towers, and even the gated road access systems are highly mobile, and easy to move from place to place. In most cases, for pennies against the cost of physical guard solutions.

So while no standard currently exists in the U.S.A. similar to the Canadian Z246.1-09, there is plenty of advancement in technology to allow producers to feel excited about the prospects of the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL, despite the potential of sabotage.

Posted by DJ Zelczak 1/30/2017