INSTALLATION SECURITY: Space-age solutions touch down

08 September 2006
Although Riyadh had been aware for many years of the terrorist threat to its major oil installations, it probably wasnt until 24 February 2006 that the kingdom realised fully just how vulnerable it might be to a terrorist attack.
On that day, three carloads of Al-Qaeda suicide bombers nearly succeeded in causing massive disruption to oil production with a bold daylight attack on the worlds biggest oil facility, the 650,000-barrel-a-day Abqaiq oil processing plant near Al-Khobar. The attack failed but not before the cars had broken through the facilitys outer security


Ultimately, the bombers were thwarted by guards at the refinerys second perimeter, where they detonated their bombs causing according to the official version of events little more than a 'minor fire'. Sources in the kingdom, however, say the bombers came very close to blowing up a major pipeline. In the subsequent clampdown, security forces are reported to have uncovered plans and equipment for a second attack on Abqaiq.

The incidents underline the seriousness of the terrorist threat to major industrial installations around the world. Plant operators everywhere are waking up to the potential danger and, influenced by the prospect of rapidly rising insurance premiums, are seeking ways to modernise security. Many plan to install cutting-edge integrated control systems that combine command, control, communications, computer and intelligence (C4i) technology from the defence sector with traditional industrial security systems. For giant technology companies such as Honeywell, GE, Tyco and United Technologies, a major new market is emerging.

'Industrial security is a relatively immature but fast-growing market,' says Jerry Blackman, global director of industrial security solutions at the US Honeywell. 'We are still trying to identify exactly how large the market is, but we are seeing a lot of organisations making purchases for the first time. Typically, about 1 per cent of the capital cost of oil and gas installations relates to the automation of installation security controls. But this is just a rule of thumb for the industry. We guess it is growing because the industry has unique needs.'

The threat of terrorist attack is only one of the drivers behind this growth. Blackman believes a more important factor is the growing level of exposure that companies face from any disruption to continuity of business.

'It is acknowledged that industrial sites are potential targets because of their economic impact,' says Blackman 'But the main driver is the growing demand for greater corporate social responsibility and social trends in the West, rather than terrorism... For a long time it was difficult to justify funds to upgrade security after construction,' says Blackman. 'But now we live in a world where people acknowledge that the threat, both man made and environmental, is real.'

In order to showcase its latest security technologies, Honeywell has installed all its latest systems at one of its own facilities in the US. The speciality materials chemical facility in Geismar, about 60 miles west of New Orleans, contains not only several Honeywell production lines but also the factories of four other chemicals companies.

The Geismar site showcases the integration of traditional security technologies, such as card access systems, with new technologies from Honeywells defence and aerospace businesses, creating a sophisticated computer-based control system that automatically monitors everything from the movement of people and goods around the plant to perimeter intrusion. Geismar features the integration of physical, electronic and online layers of security, with process and building control systems.

Fibre technology has been integrated into fences to provide fence alarms and microwaves are used for motion sensors. The project features radar video surveillance that can detect and identify approac

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