India has one of the largest pipeline networks in the world, with over 35,000km of pipelines in the country. India is already in the top 10 countries in the world in terms of installed pipeline infrastructure, and in the past month there have been several announcements, from both the government and operators, highlighting the country’s commitment to its pipeline infrastructure.

 In particular, IndianOil announced significant new investment to increase its pipeline capacity and the government also announced a new pipeline project to carry diesel and natural gas to Bangladesh.

However, theft from pipelines remains a significant issue for operators in India. Since the start of the year a number of major thefts have been reported. With Fotech’s assistance though, operators are stepping up their prevention measures. 

Fotech works with multiple customers in India and the last six months have shown just how powerful a tool our DAS-based LivePIPE technology can be in protecting critical pipeline infrastructure against criminal thefts. In that time 26 separate hot tapping incidents have been detected using LivePIPE on one single pipeline.

The majority of these tapping attempts were prevented before the potential thieves could reach the pipeline, as digging in the proximity of the pipeline was detected and an alarm was raised, providing timely, actionable information for the operators. This information enabled the security teams to direct their security responses more effectively, resulting in several arrests and the DAS data has also been made available as evidence in support of prosecutions.

Of the 26 incidents, one particularly sophisticated hot tapping attempt demonstrated the full value of LivePIPE and DAS technology in maximising the efficacy of security responses.

In this case, a tunnel was dug from a building about 20m from the buried pipeline in order to install and operate a valve for a bleed-off pipeline. LivePIPE, using its fully automated alarm system, identified and located sporadic and quiet digging activity over several nights, but security teams were unable to find the source of the activity on the first site visits as evidence of the tunnel was so well hidden from view.

However, by combining this information with data from a mass-balance system the operator was able to recognise that product was being lost and located the event to a region of 500m. With this intelligence LivePIPE was able to reduce the search area to a region of 10m.

(Image: Hot-Tap device on India pipeline in exposed tunnel dicovered by Fotech's DAS Solution, LivePIPE)

As a result of renewed and more detailed search efforts, based on this actionable information, a tunnel was successfully discovered, the hot tap removed, and evidence collected for law enforcement agencies – something that simply would not have been possible without LivePIPE in place. Not only would the attempt have gone undetected for far longer, but when the mass balance data showed a loss the operator also wouldn’t have known what sort of pilfering attempt it was dealing with and would not have been able to direct its search efforts as efficiently.

These incidents are happening on pipelines all over the world and operators need to ensure they are not only protecting their assets but also preventing the environmental damage that thieves can cause. As our work in India demonstrates, LivePIPE provides a critical early warning system for even the most sophisticated intrusion attempts.