The explosion that ripped through a main oil pipeline and lit up the night sky with flames and fumes in Bahrain, has been described as a ‘dangerous act of sabotage and terrorism’.

The attack, which took place in the sleepy village of Buri, south Manama, has sparked a security reaction in the Middle East. In the wake of the attack, the Saudi Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources reviewed its security protocols. It then took the decision to tighten security across all of its facilities, ensuring that they continue to enjoy the highest levels of protection and safety.

In the Middle East pipeline security is of particular concern. The region is prone to political uncertainty, insurgency groups and security threats, and at the same time, many of its economies are heavily reliant on oil sales. As instability in the region escalates, investment in monitoring tools that will help state officials and operators protect against pipeline attacks becomes ever more important.

For many years, oil facilities in the region have relied upon the deployment of armed security personnel to defend facilities and pipelines – especially those situated in remote places, such as Buri. The Bahrain bombing highlights that this strategy can still be susceptible to risks – ‘gaps’ in surveillance are inevitable.

In countries where pipeline attacks are commonplace – and especially in states that are economically oil-dependent – both state-sponsored facilities and private operators can benefit from technologies that are both accurate and simple to operate. In the event of a potential threat, they need reliable and actionable information and intelligence that can allow for real-time decision-making and rapid response.

One of the most advanced and state-of-the-art technologies that can be deployed to defend oil facilities and pipelines is Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS). The technology converts a single fibre optic cable – running in parallel with the pipeline – into a network of highly-sensitive, individual vibrational sensors.

DAS effectively provides an invisible ‘smart barrier’ between the pipeline and external disturbances along the entire length of the pipeline. It enables operators to provide continuous monitoring 24/7, detect potential threats and aid in directing operator responses.

Fotech’s DAS based pipeline solution, LivePIPE II, is  delivered via a modular design that makes it easy to deploy across great distances– delivering unrivalled protection to pipelines, detecting leak events and threat activities while filtering out false alarms. The system adds major value to pipeline operators, enabling them to significantly expand and enhance the range and capabilities of their existing pipeline security and monitoring systems.

There are various threats to oil and gas pipelines in the Middle East – from construction activity and vessel movement to terrorist attacks – and the need for enhanced security has never been greater. In such a challenging environment, systems such as LivePIPE II can provide operators with in-depth coverage and advanced warnings against all manner of security threats and intrusions.