Managing security threats in oil and gas

Managing security threats in oil and gas
The threat to oil and gas (O&G) is unrelenting, and as such it is important that the security environment is up-to-date and ready to protect against all possible incidents. However, the budgets allocated to security departments may be insufficient due to reduced margins and a more challenging economy.

“Given the slump in oil price, security practitioners must have a sound understanding of how to achieve potential cost efficiencies utilizing current security resources, rather than just adding costly resource to them,” said Paul Barker, Associate Consultant at Linx International Group, a U.K.-based security consultant. “It is unlikely companies will automatically get rid of older security technologies, but will look at integrating them where possible with newer systems.”

Andrea Sorri, Business Development Director of Government, City Surveillance and Critical Infrastructure at Axis Communications, explained, “As the market has evolved, we have seen traditional security use cases converge with safety and environment solutions. In practical terms, this means the integration of new hardware components into existing platforms. This allows for remote operation, testing, uninterrupted production and extended surveillance from the central control room. End users and partners are particularly focusing on high-quality imaging and performance when selecting cameras, as they improve the daily activities of their plants, when image quality is superior.”

It is also crucial to understand the environment. For example Barker highlighted the need to understand the real issues at a location, recent incidents and stakeholder, partner and competitor activities to assess and mitigate the current threat adversaries. This includes a clear understanding of host government initiatives and working with a company’s own national government to influence the host government.

Derek Tan, Director of Security Technology and Integration Center of Excellence for APAC at Johnson Controls, also addressed the need “to ensure that the vehicles and the pipes that transport these oil/gas are safe from the multi-faceted threats that could come from land, air and sea. Oil and gas facilities and especially the oil/gas pipes running across large areas are very vulnerable to terrorist attack, sabotage and stealing.”

Jeremy Bernard, COO of Osprey Informatics, added, “We are also hearing increasing concerns about potential attempts to sabotage oil and gas infrastructure as a form of protest. So being able to monitor remote sites and infrastructure like pipelines is increasingly important.”

Sought After Solutions

Surveillance of O&G companies has evolved over the years. The adoption of automated video analytics, deployment of IoT (Internet-of-Things) sensors to monitor pipes, and centralization of enterprise command centers to manage the numerous security systems across huge geographical areas are all solutions the current O&G industry is looking for.

The key component of any video surveillance system is of course the camera. In O&G, the use of both visible-light and thermal cameras are common, for both general surveillance and perimeter security.

However, technologies such as long-range radar are gaining a foothold. “If you look at onshore O&G we’ve seen things evolve into a longer range, further distance. Before we would just provide a tripwire for a perimeter, but now they want long-range detection,” Montague said. “What we’re also seeing is when someone is detected, we’re being requested to track that target as well. So when something triggers an alarm we’re being asked to hand that target over to a PTZ camera and track that target.”

Next-generation real-time video analytics that incorporates artificial intelligence and deep-learning is also attracting a lot of attention in the sector, according to Erez Goldstein, Director of Marketing at Qognify.

“For example, the ability to locate and monitor the whereabouts (and past locations) of a person within seconds, by intelligently and automatically searching the entire video surveillance network. This is proving compelling proposition for managing ‘live’ events but also assisting in post-incident investigations,” Goldstein said.

Updating Access Control

Many O&G organizations are updating their access control systems, replacing analog equipment with IP-based solutions.

Rob Borsch, Team Lead  for Oil and Gas Practice at Genetec, highlighted the need for TWIC-compliant access control solutions. “The TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Credential) program provides a tamper-resistant biometric credential to maritime workers requiring unescorted access to restricted and/or dangerous areas. The program is crucial given the distributed and remote sites of oil and gas facilities, as well as the uniquely high access management standards that the industry faces,” he said.

Although access to O&G sites is still often overseen by video surveillance systems and security control room staff, integration and automation of access control is gaining traction.

“Automation reduces the amount of manual work associated with the access management of a site by allowing security and operations teams to leverage additional inputs or remotely manage access, reducing the need for a large amount of local operators,” Borsch said.

“An emerging trend that we’ve seen is the increasing use of LPR technology to manage gate access. The ability to read a vehicle’s plate, check the legitimacy of the plate against a database, and then grant access if required automates the access management at certain sites,” he added.

Ensuring Security and Safety

While the debate on whether or not oil prices will ever reach $100 a barrel again continues, the need for security is certain. Ensuring the best security and safety plan requires more than just the latest equipment and newest upgrades, but also remembering best practices.

“We have found that just building and deploying a visual solution is not sufficient to ensure success. We focus on delivering a change management process that includes training, ongoing support, user analytics and periodic application ‘check-ins’ generally results in a higher level of engagement and a more successful deployment. This change management process also creates a stronger long-term relationship with the customer,” Bernard said.

By following best practices, O&G facilities can make certain their security and safety solutions are not only up to current challenges but able to adapt to any challenges that may come their way in the future.
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