Natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the Moore, Okla., tornado and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines have taught us two very important lessons. First, with nature’s wrath being relentless and unpredictable, stronger prevention technology needs to be implemented so that future catastrophic events are less impactful and devastating. Second, some areas affected by natural disasters are too dangerous for first responders to enter, making it necessary to conduct rescue missions through the use of new technologies so that additional lives are not put at risk.

Severe weather is the leading cause of power outages, and between 2003 and 2012 an estimated 679 widespread power outages occurred in the United States, according to a report prepared by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. The incidences of major power outages as well as severe weather are increasing. The disruptions close schools, shut down businesses and impede emergency services, interrupting the lives of millions. 

Severe weather issues are not just impacting the East Coast. From highways in Texas to nuclear power plants in Illinois, the concrete, steel and sophisticated engineering that support the nation’s infrastructure are being taxed by heat and drought, as well as strong storms.

The reasons are several. The EPA has aggressively targeted coal plants, ratcheting down allowable emissions levels, requiring expensive pollution controls  and even compelling the substitution of gas-fired plants and renewables in its recently proposed section 111(d) “existing source rule.” New laws in California and elsewhere have restricted owner investment in coal plants. At the same time, fracking has lowered the cost and availability of natural gas, and renewables are emerging as alternate fuels. 

As coal plant owners look to decommission old coal plants, several considerations emerge.

A gas turbine-driven compressor that develops a critical rotor crack and fails catastrophically can be a total loss of millions of dollars for the asset, as well as result in lost production, safety and environmental impacts – and potentially millions of dollars in collateral damage to other infrastructure and processes within a plant. 

Wind turbine condition monitoring systems have continued to evolve with the growth of the wind power industry and are now considered the de facto standard for supporting wind turbine operation and maintenance (O&M) strategies moving forward. Turbine availability is critical, and as the 1+ MW class of wind turbines has become the industry standard, the machines themselves and the farms they populate have become much larger investments and produce far more power than those of early wind power generation.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the unprecedented storm surge that significantly impacted many coastal areas, critical services and construction projects, companies today are taking innovative and proactive measures with technology to mitigate potential damage related to future storms.

Nuclear Security is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today, but it is one that also mirrors the security challenges found in other industries, most certainly the energy sector. All security professionals deal with the shared threat of natural disaster, terrorist attacks, cyber breaches, inherited problems such as accidents, and internal threats like sabotage from current and past employees.

New reservoir exploration technologies, heightened oversight requirements and a plethora of third-party contractors combine to make the upstream sector of the oil and gas industry increasingly complex. A portfolio of varied projects and joint ventures only increase that complexity.

These business factors collide, sometimes catastrophically, to hamper effective resource planning.  Upstream operators must look closely at planning strategies and how they’re implemented to secure efficient and safe daily operations. 

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