In September 2002, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) formed the Pipeline Security Division to manage pipeline security at the federal level. The Department of Transportation also operates the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. These homeland security teams help to prevent disaster and offer protocols for response. However, pipeline security requires astute public-private partnerships. According to the TSA, virtually all of the country's critical pipeline infrastructure is owned and operated by private entities (Transportation Security Administration, "Pipeline Security"). Pipeline security is a matter of financial importance to industry stakeholders, but also integral to national security and environmental integrity.
Pipelines transport about 75% of all crude oil, and 65% of its refined petroleum products, natural gas, and other liquids in the United States (Parfomak "Pipeline Safety and Security: Federal Programs," Transportation Security Administration, "Pipeline Security"). The full extent of the pipeline network in the United States, including the pipelines connecting extraction facilities to processing facilities, runs currently at about 170,000 miles (Parfomak "Pipeline Safety"). Most critical pipelines are subterranean, warranting unique approaches to both safety and security.
Although generally safe, the pipeline infrastructure in the United States remains vulnerable to a range of potential problems including natural disasters, cyber-threats to critical management infrastructure, pipe and other materials corrosion, mechanical failures, systems failure, human error accidents, and terrorist attacks. Construction work and theft are also security threats to the pipeline industry (Fielding "Pipeline Security: New Technology for Today's Demanding...
Even pigs and other digging animals may threaten the safety of pipelines (Fielding "Pipeline Security and Monitoring: Protecting the Industry").
Breaches to pipeline safety or security, when they do occur, cause a number of problems including human fatalities. The energy industry and other stakeholders are well aware of the financial costs associated with pipeline disasters. There have been a string of incidents over the last few decades drawing attention to the need for increased safety and security.
A number of federal initiatives and legislation, like the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2006, has helped to strengthen pipeline security accountability, but as Parfomak points out, "there continues to be significant room for improvement," ("Keeping America's Pipelines Safe and Secure: Key Issues for Congress," 1). A public-private partnership that is organized and cohesive remains crucial for maintaining control over the vast network of pipelines running across the United States and possibly across the border with Canada. Moreover, threat levels tend to be higher in developing nations than they are domestically, especially with regards to deliberate tampering, theft, and terrorism (Fielding "Pipeline Security"). The TSA and Department of Homeland Security have no jurisdiction over these areas, warranting increased transnational private protection services.
The most common protocol for incident prevention is surveillance with "round-the-clock" vigil at key points in the network (Fielding, "Pipeline Security" 1). Traditional vigilance includes aerial surveillance, ground patrol, grounded security gatekeepers, adequate signage (Fielding, "Pipeline Security"). There is also a need for digital vigilance of pipeline systems, including remote leak detection and ensuring integrity of the digital networking architecture.
Advanced surveillance technologies include Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS), "which can convert a fiber optic…
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