Engr. Emeka Okwuosa, Chairman/GCEO of Oilserv Group, has emphasized the importance of a robust security system and a well-thought-out response plan for safeguarding pipeline assets, insisting that pipeline security extends beyond the protection of physical assets to encompass the safeguarding of technology systems that monitor product flow pressure, asset integrity, billing metrics, and operating procedures.
Dr. Okwuosa made this known at the just concluded Nigeria International Pipeline Technology and Security Conference organized by the Energy and Corporate Africa and Pipelines Professionals Association of Nigeria in Abuja between Monday and Tuesday.
According to him, most times, pipeline operators in the country have had to rely on physical presence to monitor and secure the pipelines.
In his keynote address titled, “A Critical Perspective of an Indigenous Pipeline Operator/Service Company Towards Bolstering Technology and Security in Nigeria’s Pipeline Sector”, the Oilserv boss noted that “pipelines and their associated infrastructure are vital assets within the industry, serving as a critical means for transporting hydrocarbons from production facilities to various destinations, including storage, distribution, and export.
He said, “They play a pivotal role in supplying energy to residential, commercial, and industrial sectors, while also contributing significantly to foreign exchange earnings in producing economies.
“Pipeline assets require substantial capital investment due to the high costs associated with engineering, construction, maintenance, and surveillance.
“These assets are strategically situated, often in challenging terrains, making them susceptible to vandalism and destruction.
“To ensure their long-term functionality, operators must carefully manage pipeline networks, considering cost, technological advancements, geographical challenges, and the specific needs of local communities.
“A strategic approach is necessary to justify investments and uphold the integrity of these vital resources,” Engr. Okwuosa said.
He further maintained that “pipeline security extends beyond the protection of physical assets to encompass the safeguarding of technology systems that monitor product flow pressure, asset integrity, billing metrics, and operating procedures.
“These technology systems are exposed to risks such as cyber-attacks, malware, and acts of vandalism.”
The OilServ Boss therefore emphasised that the implementation of a robust security system and well-thought-out response plan are imperative for safeguarding pipeline assets.
He further stated that this idea entails addressing existing threats, proactively anticipating potential risks, and mobilizing resources to protect these assets.
Dr. Okwuosa emphasized that the primary issues concerning theft within the crude oil pipeline delivery system, particularly the trunk lines responsible for exporting oil, revolve around safeguarding from the wellhead.
He elaborated on this by highlighting the vulnerability of flow lines originating from the wellheads, which transport oil to collection points.
According to him, these flow lines, many of which were constructed decades ago, lack the modern technological advancements available today.
He said, “Consequently, monitoring pipeline right-of-way involves round-the-clock observation by designated security personnel (military, state security, civil defense, police, and local eyes) and robust technology like drones, telecoms, radar/satellite, and cyber tools.
“This allows for quick response to threats within a safe distance and minimal disruptions to service.
“The absence of a fiber optic detection system in most of these lines necessitates a heavy reliance on physical security (human interventions) measures which is best avoided due to risks of fatigue, panic, judgment errors, limited vision, collusion, and negligence,” he noted.
Engr. Okwuosa therefore recommended the “adoption of EPC technologies for safeguarding pipeline assets during construction, with a focus on engineering codes and specifications.
He further mentioned that technologies like Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD) and tamper-proof reinforcement, already utilized in advanced countries, offer effective solutions.
He said, “The primary security strategy involves engaging various stakeholders, including the government, host communities, and industry players while upholding minimum maintenance standards. Operators and asset owners must prioritize proper cathodic protection systems to prevent corrosion and maintain pipeline functionality.
“Attacks on pipeline assets serve as valuable learning experiences and often lead to national security concerns, necessitating a coordinated response. Industry leaders should undergo essential training, cooperate, and prioritize the national economy’s well-being over self-interests,” Engr. Okwuosa mentioned.
The OilServ GCEO therefore emphasized that Nigeria’s energy goals depend on efficient crude oil transportation to refineries, export terminals, and gas transportation to the AKK and Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipelines.
“These infrastructures are vital for economic growth. Security and employment concerns are significant, and monitoring of crude oil pipelines needs improvement.
“Achieving production and export quotas is a key performance metric for operators, and collaboration between industry players and Nigerians is essential,” he noted.