The Middle Eastâ€™s high proportion of critical infrastructure, its political instability and increasing global energy prices combine to present special challenges to the suppliers and operators responsible for protecting the critical oil and gas infrastructures in the region.
Security issues typically revolve around two key areas â€“ the plant and equipment (oil refineries, LNG plants, etc.), and the productsâ€™ transportation (pipelines) and the security requirements for each of these are quite different, as are the range of solutions available.
Regardless of the application or solution selected, the most important item by far in any security plan is to actually have a plan, and secondly, to have a procedure in place for responding to an intrusion.
Plant and equipment protection
For refineries, LNG and petrochemical plants, the main security threats come from intruders and deliberate sabotage. Often, the first line of defence at these facilities is a perimeter fence which, while succeeding to delay or deter intruders, is largely ineffective in protecting the entire perimeter. Obviously, a 6 to 10 km perimeter fence can easily be climbed or lifted in a number of places to allow completely undetected access to a site.
In the past, CCTV cameras employing Video Motion Detection (VMD) technology held great promise, but experience has shown that they have been prone to nuisance alarms, thereby reducing their effectiveness over time.
Similarly, traditional fence mounted intrusion detection sensors have proved less than ideal solutions, as they require power and electronics to be deployed every few hundred metres along the fence line, which is expensive to provide and intrinsically unsafe. In addition, their extremely basic processing power meant they typically traded off detection sensitivity to reduce nuisance alarms, ultimately undermining the very security these systems were originally intended to provide.
According to FFTâ€™s International Client Manager, Alec Owen, Future Fibre Technologiesâ€™ current generation of fibre optic based fence mounted intrusion detection technologies have overcome these problems to deliver a state of the art security system which is being used to protect an increasing number of the worldâ€™s refineries, LNG and petrochemical plants, as well as military bases, sensitive government facilities and other critical infrastructures.
The FFT product, Secure Fence, uses its Digital Signal Processing technology to overcome the problems of nuisance alarms.
â€œThe technology uses signature recognition and advanced learning algorithms to â€œknowâ€ the difference between a branch blowing against a fence in a storm and an attempted intrusion,â€ says Owen.
â€œThe fact that the system does not require any power or electronics to be installed on the fence line at all makes it ideally suited to the Oil and Gas industry,â€ he said.
For oil and gas companies wanting the ultimate plant protection solution, Future Fibre Technologies recommends a fence mounted fibre optic detection system, linking back to the main security centre and ideally interfacing to CCTV cameras to provide visual confirmation to security staff so they can determine the exact nature of the intrusion or threat that they face.
Itâ€™s this type of configuration that the company has already installed on the perimeter fences at six critical LNG plants in the GCC in the last 12 months.