Playing It Safe

The oil and gas industry is constantly evolving to incorporate new technologies and maximize efficiencies. This is very evident in the advances being made in plant and pipeline security measures.

While plant, treatment, storage and distribution portals have always needed security coverage, in the past few years, the most significant security trend impacting the Canadian oil and gas industry has been temporary and permanent solutions for issues impacting key points across the entire distribution network. The security protection involves not just detection of potential damage or security breaches, but infrastructure monitoring such as pump-jack heads using either dedicated microwave links or using the more expansive GSM Network. In addition, the use of remote monitoring cameras has helped to significantly reduce the high cost of manual inspections that have typically dominated the way equipment was monitored in the past. Site operators continue to look for new ways to enhance perimeter detection either through traditional or video analytical detection.

Need for Remote Monitoring

A large western Canadian oil company required manual inspections of its remote pump-jack heads. This was particularly difficult during the winter months when access to the remote sites was limited to helicopters and by 4X4/ATVs. It required a large team to physically inspect each system, which was very costly. This protocol, combined with a lack of remote monitoring cameras, missed a leak in the system. While it was a relatively small leak, by the time it was discovered several weeks after it began, it cost the oil company approximately $2 million to clean up. That incident motivated the company to take a look at remote monitoring.

It is not just leaks that oil and gas companies need to be on the lookout for. The price of copper has risen nearly ten-fold in the last decade. Metal theft has risen an alarming 83 percent over the past two years, with copper theft representing 96 percent of this growth. Remote pumping stations are prime targets for thieves looking to collect valuable metals. The ability to detect and verify suspicious activity before it impacts the business is essential. Remote monitoring of substations, well-heads and other installations is helping to deter criminals and copper thieves.

IP Video and Analytics

IP video is the current trend in video surveillance systems. The advances in video digitization and compression technologies make it possible to transmit digital video images over high-speed networks. This gives security customers an alternative to analog video cameras. Using IP networks, systems integrators can integrate video surveillance applications into supervisory control and data acquisition or alarm systems that are already deployed. This allows the video images to be displayed and recorded, and real-time responses can be made when an alarm occurs.

Outdoor security has been so difficult in the past that it was often overlooked or avoided by security installers unless absolutely necessary. Video analytics is changing this paradigm, because it makes outdoor protection cost effective, reliable and easy to install. Video analytics also offers the promise of accurate and relevant content analysis for all types of video. As the demand for high definition video grows, analytics can provide a practical answer for digesting incredibly large quantities of data and providing user driven analysis in a very short amount of time. These capabilities make prevention possible every time a suspicious activity is detected.  Video is no longer a forensic tool, but a prevention-based solution.

Security Solutions

When implementing new security systems, oil and gas companies will need to ensure the complete integration of traditional security systems with internal security systems such as access control, personnel monitoring and lone worker safety and locating systems. Keeping the “big picture” in mind will help minimize the potential for multiple points of failure that can be the cause of security breaches.

Security spending will increase in 2013, particularly as technologies become mainstream and the need to secure remote facilities and integrate technologies become a business necessity. It is likely that the return of investment will be faster for most security implementations because of the significant cost savings from central monitoring applications and the increased ability to deter breaches.

This year, we will see more and more acceptance and use of video analytics both in perimeter security and personnel safety applications, as well as with complementary technologies, such as thermal heat mapping for system tolerance diagnostics.

Video Analytics

Real-time video analytics is one of the most useful tools for securing remote facilities or equipment. Advanced video analytics can classify people and vehicles while eliminating normal scene activity such as moving trees, blowing leaves and animal movements. You can program cameras to detect certain types of movement and ignore other types.

For example, oil and gas security personnel will want to ignore motion generated from small animals or blowing of leaves – but will want to be alerted if a person or persons approach a security fence or a pile line. If the equipment is in a remote location, security personnel can configure rules that will send instant alert notifications if suspicious activity is detected.

If facilities are located in a busier area, perhaps where there’s abundant wildlife movement or active weather events that could cause false alarms, personnel can configure more specific analytic rules that may be based on time, direction of travel or specific areas of interest. When activity is detected and triggers an event, security personnel are notified.

Environmental Protection

Major challenges for the Canadian oil and gas industry include implementing environmental protection improvements as well as maintaining similar systems and structures to detect and prevent potential threats. As mentioned previously in the oil company example, relatively small leaks in remote regions can become quite costly for oil and gas companies to fix and clean up. Having technology in place like video and monitoring equipment that can detect these issues early can help reduce the impact to the environment and ensure all equipment is running at peak condition. The industry investment in infrastructure improvements like these provides not only returns on the infrastructure itself but also supports the industry’s need to improve the environment.

For 2013 and beyond, security will be a major focus for Canadian oil and gas companies, particularly as they continue to survey and extract fuels in remote locations. Companies will continue to look to optimize their security systems  to ensure the protection of their critical infrastructure as well as the safety of their personnel and environment.


Bill Daniel, CPP, is a senior national account manager for Stanley Security Solutions, and Marianne Rocco is director of channel marketing for VideoIQ.

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