Security beefed up on major pipelines after Nord Stream leak

UK energy firms to assess oil rig security after Nord Stream pipeline leak

MI5, Royal Navy and RAF could be called upon to provide support for industry if situation escalates

A soldier guards a helicopter in Rønne, Denmark, after the discovery of a fourth gas leak on the Nord Stream pipelines damaged earlier this week in the Baltic Sea.
A soldier guards a helicopter in Rønne, Denmark, after the discovery of a fourth gas leak on the Nord Stream pipelines damaged earlier this week in the Baltic Sea. Photograph: Hannibal Hanschke/EPA

Alex Lawson Energy correspondent, Thu 29 Sep 2022 08.17 EDT

British authorities are taking “precautionary” steps to ensure UK oil rigs are not vulnerable to interference after drones were spotted near Norwegian rigs and the Nord Stream pipelines were damaged.

Executives in the energy industry are coordinating efforts with government agencies to assess security arrangements at offshore and onshore sites, to determine whether any best practices employed in other countries, in particular Norway, should be introduced.

If the situation escalates, MI5, the Royal Navy and RAF could be called on to provide support for the industry.

The move comes after multiple gas leaks were discovered in the Nord Stream pipelines that connect Russia and Germany, leaving natural gas pouring into the Baltic Sea.

Sweden found a new leak on Thursday, the fourth discovery of the week. Nato has said the incidents were “deliberate, reckless and irresponsible acts of sabotage”, while Russia has denied it attacked its own pipelines.

On Monday, Norway’s oil safety regulator urged oil companies to be more vigilant over unidentified drones seen flying near Norwegian offshore oil and gas platforms. It warned they could pose a risk of accidents or attacks.

The developments have prompted the UK energy industry and officials to review risks to its sites.

The trade body Offshore Energy (OEUK) said it was in touch with the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the matter.

The CPNI, a government agency, is tasked with reducing the vulnerability of key UK assets – including nuclear power stations and datacentres – to a variety of threats such as terrorism and sabotage.

Mark Wilson, the safety director at OEUK, said the action was “precautionary” and a “proportionate, pragmatic response”.

He said there was an aspect of uncertainty after the incidents in Europe, adding: “We are not concerned but we are making sure, should anything come up. There is no evidence of any drones or unusual activities around the areas of concern.”

A resilience support group spanning industry, regulators and unions has been in place since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February and will study how best to protect Britain’s 11,000 offshore workers.

Offshore rigs typically have a 500-metre exclusion zone into which unauthorised vessels, such as fishing boats, cannot enter. No-fly zones and radar monitoring systems are also used to protect assets. There are also ongoing efforts to protect cybersecurity at energy sites.

Vladimir Putin has weaponised energy supplies into Europe since the start of the war, cutting gas flows and triggering concerns about blackouts this winter.

Danish and Swedish authorities are reviewing the incidents at the Nord Stream pipelines. Their prime ministers have indicated that the leaks were not accidental.

Wilson said the outcome of that review would inform any action in the UK, although it could take days for the gas to drain from the Nord Stream pipelines to allow investigators to fully examine the damage.

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