Pipeline operators in the Middle East face some of the world’s most challenging environmental conditions but with oil, gas and water demand set to soar by 2019, pipeline security in the region has never been more important
Pipelines are arguably the most important mode of energy and water transportation in the Middle East - a region that has seen a growing domestic supply and demand in resources. However in the face of rising third-party threats, a recent industry report has estimated that the pipeline security market in the Middle East will grow at a CAGR of 12.3% in the forecast period 2016-2021.
While global pipeline security has been under the spotlight for some time, the geo-political situation in the Middle East, ongoing water scarcity and the unique environmental considerations in the region has made ensuring pipeline safety essential - albeit particularly challenging for operators. That said, the region has long prided itself on the global standards it follows when deploying high-value assets. This includes ensuring block valve stations are secured through high fences, and using modern telecommunication systems along the length of the pipeline to allow for CCTV and other security measures to be implemented.
However more recently, fibre-based intrusion and leak detection systems have become an integral part of the infrastructure too. This is a direct result of the specific operational challenges that the extreme weather and desert conditions pose. For example, while sandstorms are common, they can become particularly concerning when the dust and sand settle on the CCTV camera and significantly reduce visibility. Although the majority of CCTV cameras are fitted with wiper systems, the regular task of refilling the water can become a very time-consuming process, particularly as pipelines often cover vast distances. This can become an even greater challenge if the pipeline covers mountainous terrain, whereby access to the operational length of the pipeline is prohibitive.
In these conditions, pre-empting intrusion and acting on accurate, real-time security alerts is absolutely critical. Technologies such as DAS based monitoring solutions add a valuable layer of intelligence to the monitoring process by providing operators with continuous visibility of the entire pipeline and giving them the tools to identify potential incidents at the earliest possible opportunity.
While DAS-based solutions, such as LivePIPE, can be fitted retrospectively, as most existing pipelines include a fibre optic network as a core part of their infrastructure, there are a number of benefits of deploying such technologies at the same time as new pipeline constructions, particularly in regions with unpredictable environmental conditions. The main advantage is that operators can benefit from the technology’s capabilities right from the outset and it can be used as a security system immediately, even while the completion of the remaining length of the pipeline is in progress. Commissioning can also be enhanced as it can be done stage by stage, before the pipeline hits critical mass, making it easier to fine tune the system’s performance.
While the threat to pipelines in hostile areas is widely acknowledged, the environmental pressures that operators face are often harder to address head-on. As the pipeline security market for oil, gas and water begins to improve, technologies such as LivePIPE are crucial from both an operational and security perspective. However, such monitoring technologies are even more important in the Middle East where the weather and terrain mean that it’s not enough to act retrospectively - pre-empting incidents and acting on real-time intelligence is an absolute must.