Accessibility links

Corruption Watch: February 6, 2004


6 February 2004, Volume 4, Number 5
SPOTLIGHT
ARE OIL PIPELINES SITTING DUCKS?
By Roman Kupchinsky

During the war and subsequent occupation of Iraq in 2003-2004, guerilla forces loyal to the deposed regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein engaged in a long and steady campaign of disrupting the flow of Iraqi oil to shipping terminals and consumers by conducting sabotage operations on the Iraqi oil pipeline network. The results of this campaign were obvious and felt by consumers inside Iraq. Oil and oil products slowed to a trickle through the 8,000 kilometers of pipelines and long lines of vehicles queued at filling stations. (For a discussion of this problem see Richard Giragosian, "Targeting Weak Points: Attacks on Iraqi Oil Pipelines," "RFE/RL Organized Crime and Terrorism Watch," 22 January 2004)

Despite the presence of tens of thousands of coalition forces in the country, these 8,000 kilometers could not be protected from acts of sabotage. The coalition, in order to boost security, hired private security companies to insure the safety of the pipelines, but these were not highly successful.

The success of the Iraqi saboteurs in creating a major disruption could not have gone unnoticed by terrorist and criminal groups in other countries looking for vulnerable "soft" targets of opportunity. Hundreds of thousands of kilometers of oil, oil product and natural gas pipelines crisscross the globe, many of which are located above ground. They are highly visible, largely unprotected targets as are many of the infrastructure sites servicing them -- the compressor and pumping stations, emergency bypass pipelines and related facilities.

Vulnerable Targets

The protection of key infrastructure from terrorist attack is undeniably one of the highest priorities in the safeguarding of democracy and prosperity. In many locations it is the protection of oil and gas infrastructure -- refineries, tankers, and pipelines. In certain countries it is the protection of water pipelines as well as hazardous waste pipelines.

Immediately after the attacks on 11 September 2001 in the United States, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a terrorism threat advisory: "Pipeline operators should recognize that their systems may be affected by terrorist acts not specifically directed at their facilities." The advisory also called for a review of security procedures and asked that employees "be on alert for unusual activity, including suspicious packages at or near facilities."

A Single Shot In Alaska

Far from Iraq, in Alaska, on 4 October 2001, 107 kilometers north of Fairbanks on the Elliott Highway, an intoxicated 37-year-old local resident, Daniel Lewis, shut down the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) near its midpoint with a single 0.338-caliber rifle bullet. According to the "Anchorage Daily News" of 5 October 2001, "It punctured the half-inch wall of the 48" pipe (and the surrounding insulation and galvanized sleeve). Some 6,800 barrels (285,600 gallons) of crude oil spewed out in a 75-foot, up to 140-gallon-a-minute stream into several acres of forest from the roughly 20,000 barrels (840,000 gallons) of 525-psi oil in the affected section. This was TAPS's biggest spill since the 16,000-barrel (672,000-gallon) spill when the line was bombed with plastic explosives at Steel Creek near Fairbanks in February 1978 by parties still unknown."

The "Anchorage Daily News" quoted Tim Woolston, a spokesman for the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, the TAPS pipeline operator since 1977, who "inadvertently under-scored concerns that a pipeline that can be shut down by a single bullet is obviously insecure against skilled and determined terrorists when he said of this shooting incident, 'It's important to understand that [TAPS is] 800 kilometers long and it's a monumental task to protect every inch of that pipeline 24 hours a day.' Governor Knowles, a strong supporter of North Slope development, said: 'Clearly the fact that one person with a rifle can do this much damage is a point of concern in terms of vulnerability.'"

East European Vulnerability

In crucial locations where energy crosses over national borders (From Russia into Ukraine and on to Western Europe) there is a distinct threat of not only sabotage by terrorist groups, but also siphoning by criminal elements. In the case of the vital juncture between Ukraine and Slovakia or Poland, a disruption of the flow of gas or oil can have a devastating impact upon the economies of a number of European states who are heavily dependent upon oil and gas from Russia and Central Asia.

The same is true of the pipeline system in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Iran, and China to name only a few. The threat of pipeline blackmail is another factor considered feasible by security specialists. An organized criminal gang can demand "protection" payments to keep pipelines operational for both international customers as well as to cities that rely upon them for their heat and fuel to power their industries.

According to RFE/RL's Michael Lelyveld in his article "Russia Hits Chechen Oil Industry" of 29 September 1999, all the oil shipped through Chechnya from Azerbaijan in 1999 was stolen. This prompted Russian plans to build a new pipeline through Daghestan where Russian security forces had greater control over the route than in Chechnya.

In September 2003, Vagit Alekperov, president of Russia's Lukoil, identified the danger and called for Russia and the United States to sign a pact to protect major international oil pipelines. Alekperov said that both countries needed to develop common security principles for such infrastructure.

The Post-Soviet Pipelines

The gas and oil pipeline systems in the former Soviet Union are the property of the successor states to the USSR. In Russia, the pipeline system consists of 150,000 kilometers of gas pipeline, 35,000 kilometers of oil product pipeline, and 15,000 kilometers of oil pipeline. This huge maze is managed for the state by Transneft, a state-owned company. In Ukraine, the 36,000 kilometers of gas pipeline are operated by NaftoHaz Ukrayiny. The oil pipeline system, including the critical Druzhba pipeline, which pumps oil to Western Europe, is run by UkrTransneft, a state-owned company, 49 percent of which is slated for privatization in 2004.

In the Central Asian states and in the Caucasus, the state is also the owner and manager of pipelines. Security for pipelines in Russia is provided by Gazprom, the parent company of Transneft, and apparently is a joint undertaking between the Interior Ministry and private security companies hired by Gazprom for this purpose.

Skikda

In Algeria and Libya, two major energy producing countries, security of oil and gas facilities is in the hands of the state. Algeria has been involved in a long war against domestic terrorism and while there are signs of success in combating these groups, there is always the danger of new threats evolving.

On 19 January, an explosion at the Skikda refinery in Algeria ripped through an allegedly faulty boiler, which processed liquefied natural gas. The explosion destroying three units in the complex, killing 27 and injuring 72 workers and closing Algeria's largest refinery and port. "Skikda is closed and will remain closed until the technical inquiry is finished," a spokeswoman for Sonatrach, the state oil and gas company, was quoted as saying in "The New York Times" on 22 January.

The president of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, announced that an independent commission would be formed to investigate the cause of the explosion. Terrorism has not been ruled out but initial reports pointed to the faulty boiler.

The blast's widespread economic impact beyond Algeria's borders is an example of the importance of critical infrastructure. The explosion in Skikda had an almost immediate effect upon oil prices in the United States, where the price of a barrel rose to $36.37 because of concerns about a shortage of energy supplies during the cold snap in the northeast of the country. In France, which is heavily dependent upon Algerian natural gas, concerns over future deliveries were voiced and there were media reports that Russia's Gazprom might send a delegation to discuss possible Russian gas deliveries to that country.

The Algerian economy is almost entirely dependent on the export of oil and gas, which account for 96 percent of the country's export revenues according to "The New York Times."

The BTC

One of the more illustrative examples of what pipeline security entails is the case of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, which is meant to pump oil from the Caspian Sea to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Going through regions which have a high risk of instability, the pipeline could conceivably become a target for a variety of groups known to be active in the regions.

Among them are different Chechen groups active in the northern Caucasus with possible access to Georgia -- the Jeyshallah radical Islamic group in Azerbaijan and Kurdish guerilla groups in Turkey. Border crossings by individuals and groups from Iran to countries through which the BTC pipeline passes are a distinct possibility.

The United States has allocated approximately $70 million to Georgia for a border security program, which includes training, coastal radars, communications equipment, and helicopters.

In Turkey -- which has a common border of 8,578 kilometers with 13 different countries of which 2,875 kilometers are land borders and 5,703 are sea borders -- the problem can be significant due to the high levels of illegal border crossings in that country. According to Fevzi Barutcu, the head of International Planning and Operations of the Turkish General Staff, in 1998, 13,055 people were captured illegally crossing the Turkish border. In 1999, this number rose to 19,920 and in 2000 it was 13,496. (http://www.csis.org/energy/ga_001206baru.htm) How many managed to successfully enter the country is unknown.

The length of the BTC pipeline going through Turkey is 1,037 kilometers and its security has been assigned to the Turkish military. The military has contracted BOTAS, a Turkish security company to provide support. According to R. Kemal, (http://www.csis.org/energy/ga_001206kema.htm) of the Defense and Security Secretariat of BOTAS, a number of measures are planned for implementation:

* Private security units shall be established in pumping stations.

* A patrol and control road will be built for security, repair, and maintenance of the pipeline.

* Wire fencing and lighting will be placed at pumping stations.

* Police stations, to be situated along the route, will coordinate their activities with BOTAS.

Hi-Tech Protection

Recently, new breakthroughs have been announced in pipeline security by such companies as Radiodetection of Bristol in the U.K., which recently introduced its "Secure Pipe" advanced security monitoring system using fiber-optic sensors. BAT Systems proposes a "Pipeline Security Solution," which uses an airborne surveying system, an "integrated sensor array" on the pipeline, along with video, seismic, and acoustic technology, and unattended ground sensors.

Westminster International has the "FFT Secure Pipe System," which uses fiber-optic cables and monitors the entire length of the pipeline "24 hours per day, 7 days per week year after year, with complete safety."

Honeywell offers the "CPC Project," which combines a software system with security, alarm, and audio/video for monitoring events over 1,500 kilometers of pipeline.

'Danger No Drilling'

Vulnerable junctures of the post-Soviet pipeline system seem to be at the borders between Ukraine and Central Europe and on the Russian-Ukrainian border where security seems to be lax. According to interviews conducted by "RFE/RL Organized Crime and Terrorism Watch," the guards on the borders monitoring the entry points of pipelines into Central Europe are poorly paid and their posts are few and far between. The widespread belief is that these pipelines are invulnerable from attack and none of the hi-tech systems described above are in place due to their prohibitive costs. There appears to be no airborne surveillance of the routes and many are close to public highways.

In the Czech Republic, portions of exposed pipeline are adjacent to roads where any motorist can stop for a rest or to create mischief. The pipelines are not fenced off and in some locations are 50-100 meters from the side of the road. And while some sections of pipeline are protected by fiber-optic cable in the Czech Republic, there have been instances of illegal siphoning of oil.

In those locations where vital pipelines carrying combustible gas or oil products are buried underground there are often signs warning construction crews not to dig or drill. These signs are also potential markers for others not interested in merely drilling.

ECOTERRORISTS AND MILITIAS
The radical wing of the ecological and animal rights movement -- known as "ecoterrorists" -- are active but tend to get little publicity. Branches of the movement, all classified as terrorist groups by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), have allegedly carried out more than 600 attacks on property in the past seven years causing over $100 million worth of damage. Their affiliated organizations in Great Britain have allegedly exploded 11 car bombs and attacked British citizens. Thus far, one suspect in the United States has been detained and three persons have been arrested in England. The organizations' spokesmen openly attend meetings of front groups (one such meeting was held in June 2001 in McLean, Virginia) at which more attacks were threatened.

A "Manifesto" by one of the "cells" was disseminated by e-mail on 29 September 2003 and excerpts from it (www.cdfe.org/ecoterror_manifesto.htm) read as follows:

"On the night of September 25th volunteers from the Revolutionary Cells attacked a subsidiary of a notorious HLS [Huntingdon Life Sciences, the largest contract-research organization in the U.K. with branches in the United States] client, Yamanouchi. We left an approximately 10 lb ammonium bomb strapped with nails outside of Shaklee Inc.... All customers and their families are considered legitimate targets...

"We have given all of the collaborators a chance to withdraw from their relations from HLS. We will now be doubling the size of every device we make. Today it is 10 lbs, tomorrow 20...until your buildings are nothing more than rubble. It is time for this war to truly have two sides."

Despite some of their more outrageous statements such as, "Bringing the bomb and the bullet back into amerikan politics," these groups have been able to enlist into their ranks a substantial number of people and their terrorist cells have managed to evade the FBI and European law enforcement agencies for years.

At present, one of the suspects in the bombing at the Shaklee Corporation in California, Daniel Andreas San Diego, is on the FBI's wanted list. Unfortunately, he is an exception -- most of the persons involved in acts of ecoterrorism have not been identified.

Some of these acts, according to a Southern Poverty Law Center report (http://www.cdfe.org/splc_report.htm), include:

21 May 2001: the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) set fire to the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture causing $5.6 million in damage.

8 September 2001: the ALF and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) set fire to a McDonald's restaurant causing $500,000 worth of damage. The attack was meant to be a "warning to corporations worldwide."

20 September 2001: ALF claimed responsibility for a $1 million arson at the Coulston Foundations White Sands Research Center.

29 January 2002: ELF claimed responsibility for an arson at the University of Minnesota's Microbial and Plat Genomics Research Center causing damage of $250,000.

The U.K.-based Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) launched a campaign of intimidation and harassment of backers of Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) in 2000. The campaign included 11 car bombings of HLS employees and led to British police arresting three SHAC leaders, who were later sentenced by courts.

In the United States, the ELF is considered by the FBI to be the main domestic terrorist priority. According to a 10 January 2003 AP report, the group has caused more than $100 million in damage including the arson attack on an apartment complex under construction in San Diego in August 2002, which caused damage estimated at $50 million.

The Militias

The militia movement in the United States in 2002 was estimated to consist of 708 hate groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Quoted in the "Christian Science Monitor," Daniel Levitas, the author of "The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right," estimates there are some 25,000 right-wing extremist members and activists and some 250,000 sympathizers. Many of them are organized in militias, which seem to form a loose confederation of similar groups nationwide.

In November 2003, an East Texas man pleaded guilty to having in his possession a weapon of mass destruction. Investigators found a sodium-cyanide bomb in his home capable of killing thousands, more than a hundred explosives, half a million rounds of ammunition, numerous weapons, and piles of white-supremacist literature. The man, William Krar, is scheduled to go on trial in February and could face life imprisonment if found guilty. According to the "Christian Science Monitor" of 29 December 2003, Krar's attorney was quoted as saying: "He had a lot of things that most people would never have any desire to have, but much of what he had was perfectly legal."

Among some of the militias currently active are the Indiana Citizens Volunteer Militia ("promotes lawful exercise of the 2nd Amendment and all other God-given rights:); the Maryland Southern Sons of Liberty; the Patriots Alliance; the Iowa Unorganized Militia; the 2nd Division Empire State Militia, and dozens of others.

Outside the United States, radical right-wing groups have increased their activities. In a recent case, in late January, a Russian neo-Nazi rock group was arrested in the Czech Republic on charges of possession of weapons and Nazi symbols, which are banned in the republic. Skinhead groups have been active in Europe for decades and have spread to the countries of the former Soviet Union since 1991. And while none have been discovered having the elaborate arsenals their American counterparts possess, some members of these groups have been arrested on murder charges. RK

XS
SM
MD
LG