A remote liquid natural gas facility relies on an integrated radar and camera system to meet perimeter security regulations.
When it comes to building a liquid natural gas (LNG) facility, remote is good. “You want to get as far away from people and activity as possible,” says Bruce E. Graham, safety and security manager at Cheniere Energy Inc.’s Sabine Pass LNG terminal in the empty wetlands located near Cameron, Louisiana. But to meet U.S. Federal Energy Resources Commission, Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and Coast Guard regulations, the secluded facility’s perimeters must be continuously monitored.
The three agencies’ regulations, taken together, “say that we have to secure the entire facility—not just the marine area or the industrial area. There is a requirement for maintaining effective watch and deterrence out beyond the perimeter security fence…So, as security manager, I can’t wait for someone to get to my fence before I start doing something,” Graham explains.
With that in mind, Sabine Pass installed an integrated radar and CCTV system that provides complete coverage of the site’s borders, as well as the ability to scrutinize potential threats before the perimeter is breached.
The terminal, which is staffed by about 100 employees and contractors, was built two years ago in a former dredging spoils area off the Sabine Pass River, about 3.7 nautical miles from the coast along the Gulf of Mexico. It includes 853 acres, plus a marine double-berthing area that can hold two of the largest LNG carriers.
The site has four dedicated tugs to guide them into and out of their berths. From there, the LNG is offloaded through a series of pipes that runs more than half a mile to three of the world’s largest holding tanks (another two are under construction), each with a 140,000 cubic meter capability. There is also a large regasification facility in which “the LNG enters at –260 degrees Fahrenheit and comes out the other side at 60 degrees Fahrenheit,” explains Graham.
“Early on, before we’d turned over much dirt, we were already concerned about security,” he recalls.
In the construction phase, Graham, the security team, and other “key company players sat down and started talking to security consultants,” he says.
They had to address regulatory requirements as well as issues affecting the site, such as heavy fogs that would at times prevent CCTV cameras from showing what had triggered a perimeter alarm. Another issue was the fact that the marine area was attractive to fishers, which could also provide a cover for less-benign intruders. Although the Coast Guard would establish a security zone and patrol it whenever LNG carriers were berthed, that did not address the times when there were no ships.
They looked around for solutions. One security integration company, Preferred Technologies, Inc. (Preftech), of Houston, presented the Perimeter Intrusion and Detection System produced by ICx Radar Systems of Perrysburg, Ohio, which the company had evaluated before for other clients.
“It’s a perimeter security application that integrates the capabilities of ground-based radar with the capabilities of cameras,” says Shaun Castillo, vice president of operations for Preftech. The radar can cover a large area quickly, but “all radar can do is give you a blip on a screen; it can tell you something is there, but not what it is. That’s where the camera comes in.
“The ICx software package, called Chameleon Tactical, encodes the radar information into camera commands to point at the target and begin tracking it,” he explains. To overcome the issue of fog, the cameras have infrared heat-seeking capabilities and produce a blended image to help correctly identify a threat.
Graham says the ICx system worked during the field testing and was reasonably priced (at about $2 million) in comparison to other options. It also appeared to have low long-term maintenance costs. “The other systems—although they said they didn’t have a lot of maintenance issues—were so new and untested that we couldn’t be sure,” he states.
Installation began last December and wrapped up in February. The Chameleon Tactical software, which is PC-based, was placed on the facility’s mainframe in the IT control room with its redundant servers. The components used were seven ICx STS 1400 radars, which spin every second, covering 1,400 meters in 360 degrees. The placement of the radar allows for total coverage of the terminal’s perimeter.
“The cameras are pan-tilt-zoom ICx DI-5000 models—“hybrids, with both infrared and color analog in one housing,” states Castillo. “The analog video is encoded at the radar into Internet format and sent via Ethernet to the server. Commands to the cameras go the other way from the server via Ethernet to the radar location, where an encoder converts it to serial.”
One of the radar units is mounted on the roof of security’s two-story guard building at the front gate and the others are atop poles. The radar is “aimed to look at targets all the way down to someone crawling on the ground” and it doesn’t need a high placement, says Graham. “They’re mounted above arm’s reach just to prevent people from messing with them. All I need to do to service them is go out with a stepladder, set it up, clean the lens, and move on.”
The security team monitors the system from its second-floor command center (monitoring can also be done from the IT control room). The user interface shows a map of the terminal with icons for the radar and cameras. The camera icons project cones showing the area the camera can view based on the current zoom setting. Using the mouse, officers can grab and drop a camera icon onto a video icon on the right side of the screen to open a video window with a live camera feed. Footage is archived and can be played back by inputting time and date.
When one of the radar systems picks up a threat object, an alarm icon appears on the map and video from the closest camera is automatically shown in the video window. Other information also appears on the screen, including the latitude and longitude of the object, its elevation, and its velocity. If the object turns out not to be a threat, officers simply double click on the alarm icon to send the radar and camera back into ready mode.
Graham and the officers began using the system live in early February. Preftech personnel were onsite until June to do the tweaking to find the right balance between good detection and low false alarms. For example, a dense gaggle of geese on the waterway may be read as one large object by the radar and an alligator slinking up to the perimeter fence can appear to be a human crawling.
“You don’t want to ignore human-sized objects—but you need to tell the system anything smaller, just ignore it,” says Graham. He acknowledges that the fine tuning was a laborious process. “We’ve gotten to where most of these alarms are triggered by large animals. That’s okay with me, because you don’t want it to be zero,” he says.
Another aspect of false-alarm reduction has been using the software’s video analytics capabilities to paint in exclusion zones as well as to make those zones active only between certain hours. For example, this allows Graham to ignore comings and goings on the main entrance road during the day but not in the middle of the night.
Graham says that it took his officers a little while to understand that the system operated largely on its own. “They feel like they have to manipulate it to get something from it. I keep telling them that they don’t have to touch it, just sit and watch it. If a camera starts automatically tracking something, and they recognize that it’s nothing to worry about, all they have to do is double click the alarm icon and wait for the next one. In time, they’ll realize that they don’t have to fool with it,” he states.
(For more information: ICx Radar Systems; Mike Booth, director; e-mail email@example.com .)