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Pipeline Networks Require Continuous Robust Security, Surveillance System – Oilserv Boss

The Group Chief Executive Officer of Oilserv Group, Engr. Emeka Okwuosa, has identified robust technological surveillance with less human interface as a more sustainable approach to guaranteeing safe pipeline networks operation.

Okwuosa in his keynote address entitled “Integrating the Functionality of Pipeline Efficiency and Ensuring Security for Economic Growth” and delivered at the virtual 2022 Nigeria International Pipeline Technology & Security Conference, said for a pipeline network security system to guarantee protection, it must be designed to detect and track real time security concerns over a wide and effective coverage area and synthesized security frameworks including(video and telecoms technology, and physical to enable the control centre capture and disseminate actionable intervention alerts. This according to him, will enable the appropriate and well-informed decision imperatives.

Additionally, there must also be a back-up control centre and multiple response and intervention points to ensure that failure at a particular point does not hamper overall effectiveness. Where the intervention response involves arrests, while the relevant security agencies must ensure that the full weight of the law is brought to bear to prosecute the offenders; doing otherwise will cultivate negative actions and encourage more criminality.

He said: “Against this background, it is, therefore, important to implement a robust security and surveillance system that will address the known threats, anticipate future threats and deliver a profitable bottomline for operators and asset owners. It is only when this value is created from this exercise that economic value or growth will be created.

“Monitoring of intruders, saboteurs and unfamiliar objects around, on, within and outside the pipeline right-of-way requires a round-the-clock observation through designated security personnel (military, state security, civil defense, police and local eyes) and robust technology (drones, telecoms, radar/satellite) in such a way to quickly respond to any threat within a safe distance and must not be subject to excessive human intervention points as these can be impacted by the risk of fatigue, human judgment errors, limited vision, collusion and negligence.

“I must mention that no matter the type of security framework put in place, operators and asset owners must consider adopting technologies that involve protecting the pipeline infrastructures. Pipelines are designed and built based on ‘engineering codes’ and these codes determine the way you scope the project and the specifications of the projects up to building the pipelines to the defined specifications. There are existing methodologies to make pipelines impenetrable or less susceptible to vandalism and sabotage which include the use of Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) and reinforcing the pipelines with special coatings that would make it impossible for anybody to find or tamper with them. These technologies are already in use in the United States and Oilserv has been deploying them.”

To the Oilserv chief, why adequate security is imperative in monitoring pipeline networks is because of enormous fund that goes into building them. “Pipelines and associated network equipment and facilities are the most important downstream industry assets anywhere in the world as they support hydrocarbon transportation and export as well as refined product distribution.

“Pipeline assets are mostly capital intensive and strategically located but also exposed to vandalization and destruction as the pipeline networks run through terrains that are often physically difficult to monitor or protect. The fact that the pipeline networks are assets expected to be in use over the long term, means that operators must be deliberately mindful of keeping them in good shape and maintaining their integrity to not only deliver the volumes required but also net earnings to justify the huge investments. Without a doubt, the overarching strategy will contemplate cost, technology and terrain considerations and marry these with the host-community and environmental peculiarities.”

Having operated in the industry for over three decades , he also noted the most important pipeline security and integrity strategy must involve the engagement of stakeholders – the government, host communities and other industry players that have direct impact on the pipeline as well as maintaining the minimum codes and standards on pipeline maintenance to ensure integrity and functionality. Operators and asset owners have to do the minimum required statutory and routine maintenance requirements including having the cathodic protection system working properly to mitigate corrosion and keep the pipeline functionality.

Okwuosa thanked Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) , Mallam Mele , Minister of State for Petroleum Resources – Timipre Sylva, as well as the Chief of Defense Staff – Gen. Lucky Irabor, in unravelling the oil theft structures attached to the Trans-Forcados Export Pipeline and other export pipelines in the Niger-Delta region. My prayer is that these good works continue and are sustained, to enable Nigeria deliver its production quota; something which will encourage gas production and export and also boost our local gas industry and industrialization.

With full-oil production, more associated gas will be produced, and Nigeria will truly be on her way to implementing the gas master plan in this decade of gas. I say this because we need to inject and transmit this natural gas into the gas pipelines we are building. We need this gas to operate the AKK Pipeline as well as inject into the Nigeria-Morocco Gas and the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline Systems to boost our export.

“Without these gas pipelines, processing & treatment facilities, other transportation infrastructures as well as the associated opportunities in powering our economy with gas will be very limited. The going-concern of the local industry players will be severely at risk as a result. One cannot even quantify the employment losses and the damage to the economy as a whole. We must not allow this to happen,” he added.

“I, therefore, call upon all participants at this conference to put on our thinking caps, dig deep and come up with practical solutions for ensuring pipeline infrastructure functionality with a view to deepening the opportunities in the sector so that we can have even more value on the plate that will empower our people,” he said.

Other participants agreed that predictive and proactive maintenance remain crucial in up-keeping Nigeria’s pipeline network system. They noted the importance of continuing to deploy new and tested technologies, empower skills in Nigeria and enhance the use of control room in monitoring activities.

This they said has become necessary as international oil companies (IOCs) continue to divest, avenues for attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) and investment for local operators must be developed.

It is also imperative for policy makers to critically look into the investment environment and also ways to continue to enhance security. Boosting Efficiency and eradicating the problems of force majeure which negatively affects contracts and commercial obligations should be considered as paramount. The need to respect and uphold sanctity of contracts should be considered crucial.

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