NCSP Completes Critical Infrastructure Project for NYSDHSES, OCT

13 March, 2012

The National Center for Security & Preparedness (NCSP) recently completed a critical infrastructure protection research project related to the energy sector in the Great Lakes Region (including New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Canadian Province of Ontario). The project was conducted for the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Office of Counter Terrorism (DHSES, OCT). It involved a comprehensive open source review of the vulnerabilities and resilience of oil and natural gas pipeline and electric infrastructure in the region, threats to this infrastructure, and the security and economic consequences of power disruption. The review also covered federal, state, and local security initiatives the United States' energy relationship with Canada.

In December, the NCSP submitted a final report to DHSES, OCT entitled "Energy Generation and Transmission in the Great Lakes Region." The research team found that aging infrastructure is an growing concern for the electric industry and that the increased dependency on cyber infrastructure in the energy sector brings both benefits and challenges. The conclusions presented in the report are based on specific questions posed by DHSES, OCT and are as follows:

  1. The energy industry in the Great Lakes Region, and around the country, has built in highly redundant mechanisms to withstand hazards and prevent disruptions from cascading. Efforts to maintain and improve this capability in the power grid present challenges to the electric industry.

  2. There is a dearth of open source literature on trends describing how well the power grid recovers from an outage. Data collected suggests that the industry may not be improving in this category.

  3. Federal, state, local, and provincial governments and energy utilities are working together in a strong push to improve energy security and resiliency throughout the region.

  4. Petroleum pipelines are dependent on electricity; natural gas pipelines are typically not.

  5. Electric generation in the region is dependent on natural gas supply, but not on petroleum.

  6. The first and second order effects of a long-term power disruption in the region would impact every critical infrastructure sector- most prominently, banking and finance, food and agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, and water.

  7. As the energy sector looks for new technologies to replace and improve the aging electric and pipeline infrastructure, the market for skilled workers and innovative ideas will continue to expand.

  8. Canada is a vital part of the Great Lakes Region's energy infrastructure.

  9. Natural forces are the most significant threat to the electric grid. Equipment failure is the most significant threat to petroleum and natural gas pipelines.

  10. Terrorism remains a significant concern for the energy sector; however, in the study period, there were no open source indications of a specific threat made against critical energy infrastructure.

  11. Transmission lines are the most vulnerable aspect of the power grid; pipelines are most vulnerable in petroleum and natural gas transmission systems.
The report was reviewed by an international panel of experts from federal, state, and provincial governments, academia, and the private sector. The research team presented its findings to DHSES, representatives of the private sector, and members of the Great Lakes Hazards Coalition (GLHC), an organization focused on building and maintaining public-private partnerships in critical infrastructure protection.

The NCSP research team was led by Rod MacDonald, the Director of the Initiative for System Dynamics in the Public Sector and a lecturer at the Rockefeller College. The team also included a project coordinator, Marie Reilly, a technical writer, Carl Filbrich, and four graduate students: David Gottesman, Jayson Kratoville, Ben Spear, and Brandon Kennedy. The internal review team included Michael Fagel, an NCSP Subject Matter Expert in infrastructure protection and Hwa-young Sin, an expert in energy, economics, and the environment. Throughout the course of the project, the research team also worked with experts from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the NYS GIS Clearinghouse through the DHSES Office of Cyber Security, the New York Power Authority (NYPA), and the private sector.