Whether the threat is a natural cause, terrorist activity or a computer hack, the design and operational practices of the natural gas pipeline system reduce the probability that an incident could have an adverse impact on a locality or the nation.
As part of its efforts to ensure reliability and safety, the natural gas pipeline industry works diligently to secure and protect its cyber and physical assets. Our first goal with these efforts is to safeguard the well-being of every citizen living and working near our assets. The second, broader goal is avoiding or mitigating the consequences that a loss of natural gas service could have on the thousands of individuals, businesses, industries and electric generators that rely directly or indirectly on the natural gas provided by these pipelines.
Our efforts are extensive and varied. On the cybersecurity side, the computer systems that operate pipelines – the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system – are intentionally separated from other corporate computer systems to protect them from computer viruses or cyberthreats.
On the physical security front, INGAA member companies use fences, routine patrols and continuous monitoring to protect above-ground facilities like compressor and meter stations.
INGAA members routinely hold briefings and workshops to discuss security concerns, and continue to develop best practices to protect facilities and data. INGAA was instrumental in developing the US Transportation and Security Administration’s physical and cybersecurity guidelines for the natural gas pipeline industry. INGAA organizes incident simulations – training exercises that present real-world challenges – to help the industry and government officials prepare and practice for a physical or cyber emergency.
INGAA has participated in several pilot programs with the US Department of Homeland Security to improve and streamline threat-information sharing throughout the industry and to facilitate two-way communications with the government.
As part of a continuing effort to enhance the security of its members’ physical assets and cyber networks, INGAA participates in the Downstream Natural Gas Information Sharing and Analysis Center (DNG-ISAC). ISACs are promoted by our federal government as a best practice for sharing threat information related to any critical infrastructure sector.
The DNG-ISAC serves as a platform for sharing and accessing cyber and physical threat intelligence, incident information and analytics among local natural gas utilities and natural gas pipeline operators. This information, collected by participating members, is analyzed and shared among the natural gas sector, federal agencies and state governments. The DNG-ISAC shares relevant information with other sectors’ ISACs that may be affected by security threats, including ISACs representing the electric, financial and oil sectors.
The natural gas pipeline industry has taken concrete steps to ensure the ability to recover from any incident — physical or cyber — quickly and effectively.
The physical operations of natural gas production, transmission and distribution make the system inherently reliable and resilient. Disruptions to natural gas infrastructure are rare. When they do happen, a disruption of the system does not necessarily result in an interruption of scheduled deliveries of natural gas supply because the natural gas system has many ways of offsetting the impact of disruptions.
Unlike electricity that travels at the speed of light, natural gas moves by pressure through pipelines at an average speed of 15-20 miles per hour. This allows time for pipeline operators to manage the flow of natural gas and to adjust their operations in the unlikely event of a disruption. Because of the pipeline operators’ ability to manage natural gas on their transportation systems, a failure at a single point on the system typically has only a localized effect, if any.
Moreover, most natural gas facilities include both manual shut-off and automated shut-off controls, which would prevent the entire system from suffering a large-scale failure if a “bad actor” sought to damage a facility or meddle with a section of the pipeline.
The actions taken by each INGAA member show commitment to the safety and trust of those they serve. The voluntary choice of its members to participate in information-sharing takes this commitment one step further, ensuring the safe and reliable delivery of natural gas to more than 177 million Americans homes and businesses.