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Why the oil and gas industry needs video monitoring more than ever

The oil and gas industry has suffered in recent years. Prices have tumbled since the “2014 Oil Glut”, when the global oil supply outstripped demand, leading to an overall market slowdown. The industry has seen a second large hit to oil prices in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic affected production and supply chains around the world. 

Seeing the deepest fall in demand in 25 years, in April US oil prices fell below zero. While prices have bounced back since, demand is still comparably low as global industries have dramatically slowed production as a result of COVID-19. Despite a financially difficult 6 years, security threats to oil and gas companies haven’t changed. 

wti-crude-oil-prices-10-year-daily-chart-2020-10-07-macrotrends

WTI Crude Oil prices 2020. Source: macrotrends.net.

Prices fall, but threats remain the same

Incidents on plants, production sites, refineries and storage facilities can take place for a number of reasons. As well as accidents, faults and natural disasters, threats such as theft, vandalism, piracy, terrorism, civil protest and organised crime all have the potential to cause severe financial damage, not to mention environmental damage. 

Whether onshore or offshore, there is a very real need for on-site security. However, during an economically challenging time, business owners also need to ensure their operational costs remain manageable. Christopher Keeble, Security Surveillance and IT Manager at Danner’s Inc. describes the difficult situation his customers face: 

“The oil and gas industry in Texas has been hard hit by the drop in oil prices, and lowering cost without affecting quality is king. Our oil and gas clients store materials and equipment in large outdoor spaces which have traditionally been secured by security guards. In cases like these,  our monitoring services lower security costs dramatically.”

It can be expensive to employ a sufficient number of security guards to protect large, often remote sites; integrating remote video monitoring provides a cost-effective solution for businesses who either can’t afford a large team of guards, or whose sites simply don’t require that level of physical security. 

Remote video monitoring provides 24/7 oversight of multiple sites, all from one control room. By using strategically placed cameras on remote sites, it is possible to monitor site safety around the clock using a much more compact team of video operators. If a threat is picked up on camera, operators can analyse it and mobilise on-site security guards and/or law enforcement in real time to intervene and manage the situation.  

Video analytics: a new solution

Depending on the type of site being secured, threats could come from a number of places; for example, when protecting offshore plants, underwater risks need to be considered as well as risks at plant level. In some cases, even aerial threats need to be taken account of. While remote video monitoring often takes place in an off-site control centre, it is possible to install a control room on-site, in order to keep a security ‘hub’ all in one place. 

Nonetheless, it is still logistically very difficult to protect oil and gas sites, due to the myriad risks involved. Even if a site has plenty of cameras trained on all areas, it becomes challenging for monitoring operators to remain vigilant when there is so much to watch out for. The job becomes even harder when operators receive false alarms.

Security cameras and motion sensors are highly sensitive, and are designed to pick up even small movements. While this sensitivity is a positive thing, as it can quickly identify and alert operators to any movement on-site, often the alerts sent through are not caused by human activity, making them false. 

The ‘noise’ created by false alarms can stop operators from identifying real incidents. Over the course of a shift, video monitoring operators can become tired and lose concentration, so staying alert to genuine alarms becomes even more difficult. Reducing the sensitivity of cameras and sensors is one way to reduce false alarms, but it runs the risk of missing genuine incidents.

A more effective solution is intelligent video analytics. AI-powered false alarm filtering systems like Calipsa can analyse the alarms sent by cameras to check for human activity. If an alarm doesn’t contain a person or a vehicle, intelligent video analytics software will filter it out, only submitting genuine alarms for human operators to review. 

Not only does this save monitoring operators a great deal of time and energy, it also provides cost savings in the long run. Operators can do their job much more efficiently so they have the time and capacity to resolve real incidents. 

These efficiencies also extend to physical security, since better intelligence results in fewer callouts for false incidents. Christopher Keeble explains how video analytics works for Danner’s Inc:  

“When looking at motion activated video, the greatest number of false alarms come from the usual suspects: wind blown trash and leaves, flickering lights, and off-property vehicles passing by. Analytics such as Calipsa give us the ability to focus on real intrusions instead of wasting manpower on video of leaves blowing across a laydown yard.”

For oil and gas companies looking to secure their sites and manage their operational costs, combining remote video monitoring with intelligent video analytics provides an effective and affordable solution, without cutting on the quality associated with more traditional security methods. 


Want the latest on all things video monitoring? Check out our whitepaper, "Video Monitoring 2020", where we cover topics including the integration of new technologies and the impact of COVID-19. 

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