The most obvious way to provide increased security for pipelines is to establish security patrols and create buffer zones along their routes in which unauthorized access is prohibited. In Iraq an entire army of 14,000 guards has been deployed along pipelines and at oil wells and refineries.
Systems for detecting irregularities and complex modern systems for monitoring particularly vulnerable points could play an important role in protecting pipelines. These systems, which use supersensitive seismic monitoring devices, could provide early warnings if saboteurs were to approach a protected area. Such remote monitoring systems for the pipeline network could be very expensive; however, they would make it possible to avoid the costs of supporting a significant contingent of troops to protect the network, as personnel needs would be limited to small rapid-response groups.
These systems could be augmented by observation from the air, including using pilotless drones capable of flying for up to 30 hours at medium and low altitudes and transmitting high-resolution images to a central station for subsequent processing. There have been reports of the development of pilotless aircraft equipped with automatic weapons, which could be used against saboteurs. Unfortunately, the majority of countries where such systems would be most effective lack the necessary financial resources to acquire them. In such cases, even fences and walls could be used as protective measures to prevent access to facilities. New pipelines must be laid underground. This increases their construction costs, but the return on investment is rapid. It is also important to reduce the time between pipeline damage and repair; the shorter the time, the less damage is done. With this in mind, it would make sense to reduce the length of damaged pipeline segments that must be repaired.
However, it must be understood that ensuring the security of natural gas and oil pipelines is a rather complex problem, the resolution of which is determined by improved equipment and technology for new pipeline construction, more reliable diagnostics, modern means of rapidly eliminating the consequences of accidents, and, on the other hand, development of effective measures and equipment for preventing terrorist attacks against elements of the oil and gas infrastructure. No matter what new equipment or capability may be proposed, it will only increase the cost of a barrel of oil, which has already reached a colossal level. As long as oil and natural gas are the foundation on which the world economy functions, the threat of such attacks will obviously remain, and new achievements in the sphere of their prevention will inevitably increase the price of a barrel of oil.