Oil and Gas Security Trends in 2023

'One specific area of focus in 2023 and beyond is the physical security of LNG infrastructure'.


Surveillance specialist Senstar has identified three security trends affecting the oil and gas sector in 2023; ongoing conflicts and physical threats, new artificial intelligence-enhanced technologies, and remaining vigilant against cybersecurity threats.

“The conflict in Ukraine, regional instabilities, and the potential for geopolitical or ecological-based terrorism continues to pose substantial threats to the physical security of oil and gas infrastructure and its personnel,” Senstar Product Manager Stewart Dewar told Rigzone.

“2022 has unfortunately demonstrated that pipelines, undefended over large distances, are at high risk from sabotage and hot tapping, while facilities and staff, particularly in unstable regions, remain at risk from direct, coordinated attacks,” he added.

“One specific area of focus in 2023 and beyond is the physical security of LNG infrastructure, including plants, export terminals, and regasification facilities. The strategic significance of LNG infrastructure cannot be overstated – in many jurisdictions, physical security systems must be fully certificated before operations can even start, making LNG facilities high-value targets with substantial security requirements,” he continued.

To mitigate these risks, oil and gas companies are devoting substantial resources to improving their ability to detect physical security threats as they occur, maintain situational awareness via improved remote monitoring, and reduce reaction times of security forces, Dewar noted.

“For buried pipelines, this means the deployment of long-range fiber optic sensors that can locate and classify disturbances to within a few feet or meters and relay this information to central monitoring centers,” he said.

“For oil and gas facilities, a new generation of perimeter intrusion sensors, low-cost thermal cameras, and AI-powered video analytics provide security personnel with improved situational awareness, empowering them to take quick and effective action as situations develop,” he added.

AI Tech, Cybersecurity

Dewar also highlighted that media stories involving new AI technologies received “substantial attention” in 2022 and said this trend will continue this year.

“For the oil and gas industry, AI-powered deep learning has the potential to revolutionize all aspects of decision making based on data, from geological surveys to market forecasts to intruder detection,” he said.

“At its heart, AI is about adding experiential intelligence to decisions being made based on training from large datasets. For physical security applications, AI-enhanced intelligence will result in security and video surveillance systems making better decisions about what is and is not a threat, avoiding the distractions associated with false positive results,” he added.

“Given their potentially game-changing benefits, AI-enabled applications will continue to make in-roads in the oil and gas industry, especially as applications mature and become easier to deploy,” Dewar continued.

While the physical security of oil and gas infrastructure is a top concern, so too is cybersecurity, Dewar told Rigzone.

“In fact, as separate systems become increasingly integrated, to enhance capabilities and streamline operations, the separation between physical and cyber realms is quickly dissolving,” he said.

“Malicious actors, particularly on the state-sponsored level, can exploit cybersecurity weaknesses to disrupt operations, steal intellectual property, and hold organizations hostage to ransom demands,” he added.

“At an organizational level, we can expect a continued focus on comprehensive cybersecurity audits and the implementation of best practices, while on a product level, an increased focus on reducing attack vectors, addressing vulnerabilities, and implementing network intrusion detection software will be prioritized,” Dewar went on to state.

Friction Increasing Along Middle East Geopolitical Fault Lines

When Rigzone asked global risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft what security trends it expected to see in the oil and gas market this year, a company spokesperson sent through a report which noted that friction was increasing along all of the Middle East’s main geopolitical fault lines.

“Rising tensions along several fault lines are threatening to disrupt the supply of oil from the Middle East,” Verisk Maplecroft analysts stated in the report.

“As Iran presses ahead with its nuclear program, and the U.S. responds with new sanctions, the geopolitical landscape looks similar to the second half of 2019. Then, Iran responded to growing sanctions pressure with frequent covert military action against energy infrastructure and shipping in the region,” the analysts added in the report.

The rhetoric between Riyadh and Tehran is also getting sharper and the return of Benjamin Netanyahu to power in Israel threatens to shift Israel-Iran tensions from bad to worse, the analysts warned in the report.

“Amid increasing friction along all these fault lines, the risk is not just more frequent attacks against energy infrastructure and shipping,” the analysts said in the report.

“The risk of a broader regional confrontation with wide-reaching consequences for the global oil market is also uncomfortably high,” the analysts added.

According to BP’s latest statistical review of world energy, Saudi Arabia ranked second in global oil production in 2021 with an output of 10.95 million barrels of oil per day. The top oil producer in 2021 was the U.S. with 16.58 million barrels per day, BP’s statistical review showed.

To contact the author, email andreas.exarheas@rigzone.com

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