Rigzone | 20 October 2015
Security in Oil and Gas: The Threat From Within
Since the Second World War, one of the realities of the upstream oil and gas industry is that it often has to operate in dangerous parts of the world. Being a precious commodity that much of the modern world relies upon in order to function, access to oil itself is a driver of political turmoil and can be blamed—at least in part—for numerous conflicts from the Suez Crisis in 1950s through the Gulf War in the 1990s to today.
Right now, one of the major threats to oil and gas assets, and to engineers and other frontline staff, based in the Middle East and Africa is from Islamist terrorism. No single event comes closer to exemplifying this threat than the January 2013 attack against expatriate and local energy company workers at the In Amenas gas processing facility in Algeria.
That incident became a 4-day siege that resulted in the deaths of 39 foreign hostages and an Algerian security guard.
At the recent Offshore Europe conference in Aberdeen, the In Amenas atrocity was discussed in some detail by Adrian Fulcher, a British counter-terrorism specialist who served on Statoil ASA’s special investigation team that looked into the incident.
Taking part in a conference session on security of personnel and assets, Fulcher explained that the attack on In Amenas was extremely well planned and prepared and that it was carried out by people who had the ability to be flexible and think on their feet when dealing with contingencies.
The terrorists had navigated through the desert during the night to arrive at the break of day and then had complete control of a 10-square-kilometer area that encompassed the In Amenas gas facility. They separated out the foreign staff from the local employees, and they knew some of these expats workers and managers by name while they were able to identify others using documentation that they found at the facility. It was clear that they had had insider help.
“There was an impressive amount of intelligence, insider support and preplanning. I think that’s … a characteristic of the threat profile that, more widely, the industry has to face. That the people who threaten us, whether they’re terrorists, whether they’re cybercriminals or whether they’re organized criminals, they increasingly do their intelligence homework first,” Fulcher said.
“They look at us very hard, they seek to understand how we operate and where our vulnerabilities are, and they exploit those vulnerabilities against us. And how do they do that? Typically, with insider support.”
The implication is that oil and gas companies are going to have to spend a lot more time and effort vetting their employees—particularly those who work in politically sensitive parts of the world.
Read the full story here.