Given that LNG terminals have to fulfil many needs – receiving tankers, unloading cargoes, tanking, regasification, treatment (including odourisation) and onward distribution by road, rail, pipeline or sea – it is not surprising that they also have a complex matrix of requirements in terms of surveillance.

This blog discusses what LNG terminal operators should look for when specifying surveillance solutions.

Where can surveillance technology most help LNG terminal operators?

If you were to tick off a checklist of surveillance requirements for LNG terminals, individual elements would almost certainly fall under one of two categories – security or process.

Considering that the cost to develop an export LNG terminal can be upwards of $10 billion and that the goods entering and leaving these terminals are both valuable (to domestic and international economies) and physically hazardous, the security credentials of any surveillance solution adopted must be impeccable. An open-platform security and surveillance solution integrating surveillance cameras with dedicated perimeter and access control solutions provides a valuable and essential understanding of site activity and asset movements.

Using a security and surveillance solution to unify data from systems that detect fluctuations and then pair that information with visual detail – live or recorded – from a site’s network of cameras is hugely beneficial for identifying potential threats to operational processes and responding to incidents.

However, the biggest benefit of an intelligently integrated surveillance solution is the ability to bridge the gap between process and security monitoring to achieve situational awareness that spans every aspect of the site. The industry is adopting this approach to surveillance increasingly, which will undoubtedly benefit LNG terminal operators as the sector moves forward.

Are there any unique requirements that are different to other types of oil and gas projects?

Yes, there are. The nature of LNG terminals means that as well as sharing a common thread of requirements with oil and gas projects, they also have needs similar to those of transport hubs.

In many cases, terminals will have a sea-to-shore (and vice versa) infrastructure incorporating rail, vehicular and marine access. Access points are increased, and the logistical challenges – of moving assets through these various stages – are heightened.

LNG terminal surveillance, therefore, has to be capable of detecting anomalous behaviour or metrics in an environment where a typical ‘scene’ is complex and changing with much greater frequency than you would experience with an oil facility, for example. Identifying a suspect item or individual in a largely static area is very different to doing so in a highly populated zone dedicated to logistics.

This may call for more complex analytical tools, such as facial recognition capability, but ultimately, the answer to addressing these additional challenges remains the same. It’s about adopting an integrated approach to surveillance – one that enables operators to track assets from entry to the exit point.

What about the processes carried out at LNG terminals? Do they present any specific challenges in terms of surveillance?

Yes and no. While the nature of individual processes might vary, how threats to those processes are detected and dealt with will remain very similar.

Take the issue of leak detection as an example. With an oil facility, leaks are often highly visible. At an LNG facility, leaks are more likely to be invisible to the eye. The key to leak detection in either case, however, is ensuring operators have the relevant data and guidance workflows at their fingertips.

With the oil facility, the emphasis on visual verification will be greater – an operator will often be able to see oil or hot steam. Cubic flow readings and gas sensor levels (because you can’t see gas/dry steam) will have a more significant role at the LNG facility. The data inputs may differ, but mining that information to generate alerts and automated workflows that advise operators on appropriate response protocols is the same.

Are there any emerging trends for LNG terminals regarding the types of cameras deployed?

As you might expect, the dominant trend is the transition from analogue to IP. However, progress is relatively slow, and while some new-build LNG terminals may adopt wholly IP solutions, most sites – particularly where existing infrastructure is being developed or upgraded to cope with additional capacity – utilise a hybrid surveillance solution to accommodate IP and analogue cameras on a single system. We are seeing this a lot in the US.

We are also beginning to see increased interest in camera stations that ‘do more’, such as cameras with integral IR, analytics or edge-recording capabilities that provide additional protection in the event of system failure. As LNG terminals adopt IP-based solutions more widely, we will likely see demand for this feature increase.

Of course, performance certification has always been and will always be crucial with any oil and gas facility. ATEX, IECEx and CSAus type certification for explosion-proof cameras and guaranteed operational quality in dramatically varying light and temperature conditions is paramount. With LNG terminals, you must also remember qualities normally associated with marine applications, such as vibration reduction and the ability to withstand salt corrosion due to the terminal’s location.

How will LNG terminal surveillance evolve in the future?

One of the most exciting developments will come from improvements in ship-to-shore connectivity. Though LNG vessels and terminals both utilise integrated surveillance solutions, they do so on a closed-loop basis – integration, and therefore meaningful interaction between the two, is rare.

This will almost certainly change in the future, enabling on-vessel and onshore teams to collaborate regarding asset protection. For example, should a certain set of criteria be detected onshore that indicate a potential breach – perhaps anomalous access control data coinciding with an unscheduled delivery – alerts can be issued to on-site teams and the crew of vessels in a specified radius of the terminal, potentially initiating workflows suggesting a change to docking procedure or route.

Flipping that scenario, it could be that an offshore LNG carrier surveillance solution – consolidating data (visual and numerical) from multiple ship systems, including radar, cameras, ECDIS and the Automatic Identification System (AIS) – identifies a suspect vessel in the vicinity. As well as alerting the carrier’s crew to the threat, the data captured (including any visual information) could be shared with the LNG terminal’s security team and trigger ‘high alert’ protocols.

Wider adoption of specific types of integration will likely be implemented, for example, enabling systems to encompass data from body-worn cameras, hand-held meters for chemical readings, and man-down solutions.

These developments are not going to happen immediately, of course, particularly given how long it takes new projects to come online. But they will happen.