BlastGard International, Inc., a creator of blast mitigation products, announced that it has successfully tested oil pipe lines against C4 charges and has analyzed the data. The test was conducted in Bakersfield, CA, and the tested pipeline sections were typical trunk linepipe product used universally.
In the first test, a bare charge of 2 lbs. of C4 was placed directly on the water-filled, end-capped 24" OD X .375" thick wall API-5L X-42 linepipe and detonated. The result was a "classic" shock holing of the pipe, in which a hole approx. 8" in diameter was blown straight through the pipe wall. Then two more tests were taken...one with 6" of BlastWrap on the pipe and then one with 3" of BlastWrap on the pipe surface. In each case, after applying a small section of BlastWrap (approx 1.5 sq. ft.), a 2 lb charge of C4 was placed directly onto the BlastWrap, and then detonated. In both cases, the pipe and end caps remained completely intact with barely visible small dents in the pipe.
Kevin Sharpe, Senior Vice President of Engineering and Product Development for BlastGard International, Inc. oversaw the project. Sharpe's background is in explosive engineering and the measurement and mitigation of blast in improvised explosive device (IED) scenarios among other things. Sharpe worked for the UK Ministry of Defence for over 24 years before joining the BlastGard International team.
Sharpe states "We have been asked by some folks in Iraq as well as others in Azerbaijan to do this test, and there is a growing interest from the energy industry as well. Protection of the national energy supply is a major concern following the 9/11 attacks. Sabotage of this energy network is an act of economic terrorism which has been shown to be successful in many asymmetric wars. The constant attacks on the oil industry in Iraq are testament to this and the costs of these actions are immense. In the absence of any effective explosion protection system, the security forces have been reduced to surveillance and more regular inspections. Oil and gas companies are reluctant to discuss their vulnerabilities or to say much about specific steps undertaken to accommodate a post-9/11 reality. Few want to underscore the reality that, outside of guns, gates and guards, physical options to protect the system, until very recently, are quite limited. The petroleum institute has pointed out that recent security measures don't incorporate new technology or designs but are instead, "a new emphasis...a more systematic approach and a continuing re-evaluation" of individual company contingency plans in consultation with federal agencies, according to Marty Matheson, API general manager for pipelines. What is needed by these companies is a new technology that will offer passive protection against explosive sabotage, something that has not been possible until now."
BlastGard's CEO Jim Gordon added "Between August and October, Iraq lost $7 billion dollars in potential revenue due to sabotage against the country's oil infrastructure, according to Assem Jihad, spokesman of the Oil Ministry. An estimated 20 oil wells and pipelines were bombed or set ablaze this month in northern Iraq alone and Kirkuk pipelines and wells have been attacked at least 74 times since the collapse of Saddam's regime. According to the Associated Press, 'Iraq's security crisis and its long, porous land borders left the country's petroleum industry with no effective protection against saboteurs -- either Saddam loyalists or tribesmen competing for jobs with the British security firm Erinys International, which has a contract to secure oil wells and pipelines. Maj. Gen. Anwar Mohammed Amin, chief of the Iraqi National Guardsmen in Kirkuk, said that Erinys hires tribes to guard oil installations. For guarding pipelines, he said the going rate is $1,100 per mile secured. The tribes are fighting over who wins the largest number of contracts, adding that the losers blow up the pipelines and oil wells in retaliation.'"