UK authorities are taking ‘precautionary’ measures to ensure UK oil rigs are not vulnerable to interference after drones were spotted near Norwegian rigs and Nord Stream pipelines were damaged.
Energy industry leaders are coordinating efforts with government agencies to assess security arrangements at offshore and onshore sites, to determine whether best practices employed in other countries, particularly Norway, should be introduced.
If the situation escalates, MI5, the Royal Navy and the RAF could be called upon to provide support to the industry.
The move comes after the discovery of multiple gas leaks in Nord Stream pipelines that connect Russia and Germany, leaving natural gas spilling into the Baltic Sea.
Sweden discovered a new leak on Thursday, the fourth discovery of the week. NATO said the incidents were “deliberate, reckless and irresponsible acts of sabotage”, while Russia denied attacking its own pipelines.
On Monday, Norway’s oil safety regulator urged oil companies to be more vigilant of unidentified drones seen flying near Norwegian offshore oil and gas platforms. He warned that they could present a risk of accidents or attacks.
The developments have prompted the UK energy industry and officials to examine the risks to its sites.
Trade body Offshore Energy (OEUK) said it was in contact with the Center for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy over the matter.
The CPNI, a government agency, is tasked with reducing the vulnerability of key UK assets – including nuclear power plants and data centers – to a variety of threats such as terrorism and sabotage.
Mark Wilson, director of security at OEUK, said the action was ‘precautionary’ and a ‘proportionate and pragmatic response’.
He said there was an aspect of uncertainty after the incidents in Europe, adding: “We are not worried but we are watching for something to happen. There is no evidence of drones or unusual activities around areas of concern.
A resilience support group covering 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 platforms usually have a 500 meter exclusion zone which unauthorized vessels, such as fishing boats, cannot enter. No-fly zones and radar surveillance systems are also used to protect assets. Efforts are also underway to protect cybersecurity at energy sites.
Vladimir Putin has militarized Europe’s energy supply since the start of the war, cutting off gas flows and raising concerns about blackouts this winter.
Danish and Swedish authorities are investigating incidents at 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 gas to flow from Nord Stream pipelines for investigators to fully examine the damage.