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How AI Improves Physical Security
in the Oil & Gas Industry

How AI Improves Physical Security in the Oil & Gas Industry

Securing the oil and gas industry is of paramount importance for both the national economy and environmental wellbeing. The oil and gas sector provides the world with the primary sources of energy, thus, remaining a major industry supporting the global economy. A breakdown in security measures at energy sites can cause operational havoc and disruption, which could have a devastating impact on the national economy. It will cost the industry millions of dollars, risk lives, and may do severe ecological damage. Therefore, safeguarding the oil and gas fuel cycle, from exploration and extraction to refining and transportation, is considered to be a top priority.

The security challenges for oil and gas companies are many and daunting, including dealing with potentially dangerous assets, protecting a large number of facilities located in remote and harsh environments, and ensuring workplace safety. Besides, they often face the threat of terrorism and sabotage and currently have to maintain COVID-19 protective measures. All those raise a serious concern about oil and gas infrastructure protection and call for the implementation of a proactive approach to safety and enhancing situational awareness to better protect assets and mitigate threats.

To combat vulnerability to growing security threats in the O&G industry it is critical to harness the power of AI technologies. Though O&G companies have been slow to adopt AI in the beginning, now they are increasingly investing in AI technologies. According to the Mordor Intelligence report, the Oil and Gas Security market was valued at USD 26.34 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 34.59 billion by 2026 and grow at a CAGR of 4.65% over the forecast period 2021-2026. Artificial Intelligence is leveraged to optimize business operations, productivity and safety.

In this article, let’s explore the ways AI helps solve various security challenges of the oil and gas industry.

Workplace safety

The oil and gas industry is one of the most dangerous and most demanding physical security environments. Harsh weather conditions, extreme operating temperature, hazardous processes, and the constant risk of fires and explosions – these are a few safety hazards energy sites employees face on a daily basis.

Therefore, companies have to adhere to extensive regulatory compliance requirements to ensure safety and security standards and protect people, property and assets. Not following proper safety protocols can result in serious injuries and financial penalties for the company.

AI-powered computer vision solutions utilized for constant monitoring of various areas in the oil and gas site can assist the security personnel to perform site inspections and monitoring in real-time. AI algorithms embedded within cameras analyze data and check whether the workers adhere to safety procedures such as wearing the required protective equipment, keeping a safe distance from the machinery, and staying within designated safety areas. In case of even the smallest deviations in compliance immediate alerts are sent to the management.

Similarly, artificial intelligence can be used for effective implementation of COVID-19 compliance measures, for example, counting people in real-time, checking whether the social distance is observed, controlling mask usage and remotely scanning skin temperatures. It takes AI seconds to detect violations and notify security personnel about them.

Given a large amount of data to monitor safety issues, and the size of the site, manual monitoring of camera feeds turns out to be ineffective as humans are not able to maintain attention for a long time and watch multiple screens simultaneously. While AI-powered video surveillance can overview all video cameras 24/7 at the same time and provide unbiased analytics.

AI video analytics can be effectively used to address the issue of slip and fall accidents, which are a common problem in oil and gas plants since oil is a slippery surface, and around 50% of falls are due to the surface. It analyzes video from cameras in real time and detects an event right on time to react immediately and provide the necessary help, reducing the possibility of severe consequences.

Oil and Gas physical security

Defect detection and temperature monitoring

One of the biggest concerns of the O&G industry is the risk of material degradation and corrosion, which if left unnoticed can result in serious accidents and catastrophic damages. The entire production process will be halted, and the company will incur severe losses. According to the International Journal of Industrial Chemistry, Springer, the annual cost of corrosion in the oil and gas production industry is estimated to be $1.372 billion.

To handle this problem, companies employ corrosion engineers and utilize AI-based tools to monitor and check equipment conditions. AI solutions embedded within cameras can detect any defects in the machinery or pipeline and raise alerts to pipeline operators. They also help manage and provide alerts for issues including minor oil leaks, high toxicity levels and system breakdowns. This way, companies can prevent extensive damage, predict when to carry out maintenance activities, and adjust for downtime.

When an emergency situation arises, or when scheduled maintenance, leak detection, audits, and repairs (LDAR) are performed, an effective and efficient response is required to protect workers from accidents in potentially hazardous environments on the job site and to ensure business continuity.

When it comes to detecting thermal anomalies, AI analytics integrated with thermal cameras prove to be instrumental. Advanced algorithms enable O&G facilities to implement continuous, remote, and real-time thermal screening of their equipment, critical infrastructure, and pipelines, detecting any fluctuations in temperature to avoid breakdowns and prevent fires. When overheating is spotted, the system sends an instant alert to notify maintenance teams of the danger so that they can intervene and respond to the problem before it has a major impact on the system. Because of early problem detection, they can address the issue in a timely manner, preventing asset damage, production interruption, and improving overall facility safety.

The right temperature is critical for the safe storage and transportation of crude oil and natural gas. Therefore, any changes in temperature entail safety risks. AI-powered solutions can monitor the temperature of the equipment and automatically warn of any changes. Early detection can allow the maintenance crew to make the necessary corrections and adjust heating and cooling systems to avert disaster quickly.

Typically, lockout procedures and protocols are initiated. However, this process is often manual in most organizations, which leaves room for error and inefficiency. AI can solve this problem, as the system detects threats and sends alerts automatically. Thus, AI-powered technology can provide unbiased and unobstructed surveillance of operations to maintain the highest levels of safety and control at all times.

Fire detection

For oil and gas facilities being proactive rather than reactive is critical. Therefore, companies utilize AI-powered technologies to detect defects that could lead to a malfunction in the system and create a fire hazard. Deep learning is also used to create models that help companies predict disasters ahead of time to prevent potential fires. In spite of the all efforts, fire hazards are still a big issue in the oil and gas industry and may happen on a regular basis. Thus, prompt fire detection is critical. With AI-powered solutions, it is possible to detect smoke and fire timely and accurately. As soon as cameras catch sight of smoke or fire the system notifies security and alerts first responders. The faster the response, the more quickly fire is brought under control.

Asset protection & perimeter security

O&G pipelines and associated above-ground infrastructure are vulnerable to theft and sabotage. A single incident can have devastating effects, causing property destruction, service interruptions and risks to human life. Also, there is the issue of theft of equipment left on an unattended site, or vandalism, which may lead to leakage and other environmental damages. Contamination of groundwater via leakage is a very serious and costly problem and leads to fines, criminal charges, and very bad impacts on reputation.

That highlights the necessity to enhance oil and gas assets protection through utilizing new technologies that can help to implement effective perimeter monitoring, access control and help operators detect and locate threats to initiate an immediate response.

In the oil and gas plants, there are many areas where the presence of workers should be limited in the interests of safety. While allowing freedom of movement for some company personnel and appropriate subcontractors, it is important to restrict access to unauthorized persons. AI-powered access control solutions can be the right option for access violation monitoring. They verify the personnel credentials and either grant access or deny entry to the sensitive areas.

Due to the importance of overall economic stability oil and gas sites are a potential target for terrorist attacks and acts of sabotage. One incident of that kind could put a facility out of business for months. That makes safeguarding the area a considerable challenge for the security team given the size of the site and the dangerous nature of the industry. Another challenge is false alarms that continue to plague companies as it can take hours for someone to travel to the site to inspect an alarm.

Therefore, it’s instrumental to integrate AI-powered solutions into a total security system to make video surveillance more effective. With the intrusion detection systems, energy sites have the ability to monitor the area 24/7, detect and track potential threats. In the event of an intrusion, security forces are automatically alerted to quickly respond to the threat before intruders enter the perimeter or damage a site. Automation and effective false alarm filtering technology reduce the need for watching multiple screens at once for potential security threats and allow security personnel to focus on real threats. Real-time detection of an intrusion allows them to provide a timely response that will certainly mitigate the consequence of an attack.

Drones for improved safety and security at O&G facilities

Drones integrated with cameras and AI-powered solutions are widely used by oil and gas companies. Firstly, because autonomous drones have proven to be the most cost-effective and efficient way of investigating and monitoring. Such technologies enable inspections of pipelines that span thousands of kilometers, as well as monitoring the exterior surfaces of storage facilities, marine vessels, and other high, live, or difficult-to-access areas. This method is not only faster but also much safer, as operators carry out their tasks remotely without being exposed to potentially risky and hazardous environments, for example, in a refinery or petrochemical facility.

In the event of an emergency, such as a pipeline leak or an explosion, AI can send a real-time alert and provide valuable information so that the emergency response team can better understand the situation and decide on the next course of action.

Another important argument in favor of drones in the O&G industry is cost savings. Inspections can be carried out with fewer workers thanks to autonomous drones. Besides, companies don’t have to shut down plants at any time when checks are carried out, but only when smart surveillance drones detect maintenance issues that need to be addressed. This can save companies up to a million dollars per day. By reducing dangerous manual work, oil and gas facilities not only create a safer workplace for employees but also save money due to lower health insurance premiums and less personal protective equipment to pay for.

Surveillance drones, in combination with advanced AI solutions, are going to become smarter in the future and provide more high-quality data to help oil and gas companies optimize operations and reduce costs. Thus, in the next 3 to 5 years, the oil and gas industry is expected to increase its investment in drones and robotics from 15% to 28%.

Final Takeaway

Asset damage, business interruption, human casualties and damage to properties are intrinsic to oil and gas activities and can cause severe economic and ecological damage. Therefore, it is critical for O&G facilities to maintain the highest levels of safety and control at all times. That makes companies adopt a comprehensive security risk management strategy and new technologies that allow them to effectively address the emerging threats and mitigate security risks. What leveraging AI brings is a proactive approach that helps anticipate, identify and mitigate threats. Integrating AI solutions into their security systems, oil and gas facilities enhance situational awareness and better protect their assets and workers.

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