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Special Report

Industry hopes its centralized assets aren't in the crosshairs.
Fortnightly Magazine - November 1 2001

Klinger says. OPS, though, has not determined whether it will return the mapping database to its Web site.

In a safety advisory issued Sept. 11, OPS told pipeline operators not to discuss specific details of their security arrangements. Generally, pipelines have increased patrols and video surveillance of pipeline facilities. With saboteurs and terrorists possibly still operating inside the United States, "there's a fear they are very crafty," Klinger says.

While there is a history in South America and Africa of political insurgents targeting oil and gas pipelines, similar activity rarely has occurred in the United States. Nonetheless, Edwards says INGAA believes it was critical for the government to remove any detailed GIS maps that could serve as a guide for potential saboteurs.

INGAA has been working with the NIPC since the department's inception in 1997 and has a good relationship with them, Edwards explains.

Perhaps the most dramatic security measure directly affecting the gas industry occurred in the Boston area where, as a security measure, the U.S. Coast Guard halted shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Distrigas' import terminal in Boston Harbor. LNG plays an important role in the New England gas supply picture, which includes an increasing number of gas-fired power plants. LNG provides 25 percent of New England's daily peak gas supply in the winter and 15 percent of the region's total gas supply, according to the New England Gas Association.

While the price of gas in New England may spike due to LNG import restrictions, the opposite may be true for heating oil this winter, according to Robert Cuomo, a principal with the DRI-WEFA, a Lexington, Ma.-based consulting firm. The demand for jet fuel will plummet this winter with the slowdown in air travel, which will translate into refineries producing more distillate fuels such as heating oil, Cuomo says.

Decentralize and Diversify

A presidential commission in 1997 issued a report, "Critical Foundations: Protecting America's Infrastructures," that noted "the significant increase in the proportion of oil transported via pipelines over the last decade provides a huge, attractive, and largely unprotected target array for saboteurs. Elements of the pipeline system that could be targeted include lines at river crossings, interconnects, valves, pumps, and compressors."

For the electric power industry, the commission report said the most significant physical vulnerabilities appear to be related to substations. "There is general agreement that since the industry designs for stability during single and certain double failures, a coordinated attack on multiple targets would be required to cause a significant disruption to service," the report said. "Furthermore, such an attack would need to hit multiple targets simultaneously or in rapid sequence."

In its national energy plan, the Bush administration last spring noted that the nation's energy infrastructure "is vulnerable to physical and cyber disruption that could threaten its integrity and safety."

Some politicians and environmentalists contend the Sept. 11 attacks show the industry should not rely so much on large, centralized plants and should instead focus on independent power producers and renewable sources.

George Friedman, chairman of STRATFOR, a geopolitical consultant, says power plants and refineries