Storage Sector Addresses Security Concerns
Dec 1, 2001 12:00 PM
SHORTLY after the September 11 terrorist attacks, an executive in the storage terminal industry received a telephone call asking for a detailed map of another company's pipeline terminal facility in the Midwest. The caller's Arabic accent made the request seem even more suspicious.
More recently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation warned natural gas producers and pipeline companies that a source of “undetermined reliability” reported that Osama bin Laden may have approved plans to attack natural gas supplies in the United States if he or Taliban leader Mohammed Omar are captured or killed.
All of this highlights the importance of safeguarding bulk storage and terminaling operations. Discussions with various industry executives show that steps are being taken to improve security, but much work remains. Some storage terminal operators are much farther along than others.
For instance, managers at a chemical storage facility in the upper Midwest say they already have a good security program in place. The terminal has a single point of entry with an access control system that includes closed-circuit television. Warehouse doors have alarms that are wired to the local police department. Security guards patrol the facility during non-operating hours.
Security was one of the discussion topics at the Independent Liquid Terminals Association's regional meetings. During the West Coast meeting, a petroleum terminal operator said his company has moved ahead as quickly as possible to upgrade security. One of the first projects was to install a perimeter intrusion alarm system.
“Some companies have made good progress in improving security at their facilities, but this will be a lengthy process,” says John Prokop, ILTA president. “We are more vulnerable today than we will be a year from now.
“As the industry association, we're trying to provide as much assistance as possible. Among other things, we're providing lists of security guidelines that terminal operators can use in developing their own procedures. Our regional meetings gave people a chance to discuss the security issues that they are facing.”
Topics discussed include a growing concern about how to pay for security upgrades. Companies also have gained a better understanding of the vulnerabilities that must be addressed.
Topping the list are marine docks. These areas are difficult to secure and may require elaborate, costly systems. Crewmen on foreign ships pose additional security challenges.
In many cases, terminals have little or no control over the crewmen. Even the Coast Guard doesn't seem to be doing much to control foreign sailors on tankers. “These people can just wander away if they get off the ship,” says one industry executive. “Nobody knows who they are or if they all return to the ship. It's an ideal way for a terrorist to enter the United States.”
Away from the ports, terminals and storage facilities in rural areas could be vulnerable to theft or sabotage. Most at risk are smaller operations with minimal staff. Sabotage is a concern for terminals in urban areas. Terrorists could try to destroy petroleum supplies or release toxic gases.
Large terminaling operations aren't the only possible targets. Small bulk plants, such as those operated by propane distributors and petroleum marketers, also could be at risk.
Propane Resources, a company that provides support services to propane distributors, put together a series of guidelines to help its customers make their bulk plants more secure. “We wanted them to understand how important it is to safeguard their storage locations,” says Laraine Bias, transportation services manager at Propane Resources. “The days of leaving the key out for deliveries are over.”
The guidelines call for bulk plant operators to keep gates closed and locked. Combination locks are recommended. The entire facility should be well-lit, and it's important to make sure that all of the lights work.
A large number of propane bulk plants are unfenced. For these, Propane Resources recommends a lockbox to secure the valves.
Access to power switches for the pumps should be locked up. All valves should be manually closed and secured. Extra attention should be paid to emergency relief valves and remote shutoffs to make sure they are operating properly.
Like other companies involved in storage operations, Propane Resources is advising increased vigilance. Employees should wear photographic identification badges, and unauthorized personnel should be kept out of the facilities.
A variety of new control factors are being explored to ensure that non-employee terminal access is restricted to preapproved individuals. For instance, some companies reportedly are trying fingerprint ID systems.
Many terminals are requiring photo identification for the drivers who are picking up loads or making deliveries. In some cases, they have even limited the drivers who are authorized to enter a facility.
All of this is just the beginning as the storage and terminaling industry gears up its security processes.
© 2013 Penton Media Inc.
Acceptable Use Policy blog comments powered by Disqus