FERC Warns A Gas Pipeline Attack Could Cause Mass Blackouts

An attack on a single natural gas pipeline in the United States could lead to mass blackouts, Neil Chatterjee, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), told CNN Business, discussing America’s energy infrastructure in the aftermath of the attacks on crucial oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.

Those attacks in the world’s top oil exporter should serve as a wake-up call for America to pay attention to potential vulnerabilities in its own infrastructure, Chatterjee told CNN.

With the growing share of natural gas in the U.S. power mix, one outage of a gas pipeline could cause cascading blackouts, the official said.

“Twenty years ago, a single generator might not have even flinched if a pipeline went down,” he told CNN, adding “Today, we have eight or nine generators depending on a single gas pipeline.”

An outage would have cascading effects “and our adversaries know this,” Chatterjee said.

“Protecting that infrastructure is of utmost focus,” FERC’s chairman told Yahoo Finance’s Julie Hyman at the 2019 Concordia Summit in New York City on Monday.

“One of the exciting things we are seeing as the energy transition is taking place in the United States is that the reliability of the grid has been maintained while costs are coming down for consumers,” Chatterjee said, but was quick to add that “we are also seeing an increased interdependence between the use of gas and the power sector.”

“That’s why it is so important that we at the Commission work with our federal partners, state partners, industry to stay ahead of these ever evolving threats,” FERC’s chairman noted.

The U.S. Department of Energy said last year it was awarding up to US$28 million in research and development of next-generation tools and technologies aimed at improving the cybersecurity of the critical American energy infrastructure, including the electric grid and oil and natural gas infrastructure.

In December 2018, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that actions need to be taken to address significant weaknesses at the Pipeline Security Program Management of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com