Speak softly and carry the best tech: How to get an ‘in’ with Big Oil
Making Your Own Luck
As a business owner specializing in solar power and network security, Kris Greiner, Vice President of Solbreez Security Solutions (https://solbreez.com/), never expected to be providing onsite security across remote wilderness for a multinational oil and gas company. But as an entrepreneur in a competitive business, he’s learned to keep an eye out for technologies that can give his business an edge. This time, Greiner knew this forward-thinking, Industrial IoT company had the right solution.
Monitoring expansive systems, protecting critical infrastructure and maintaining engineering integrity is expensive and difficult. Till now, the only “reasonable” deterrent to trespassers, physical deterioration and terrorism has been costly manned security. Deploying manpower is inefficient and inherently susceptible to adverse weather and terrain, and even with the best manned options, critical infrastructure is still periodically vulnerable. But with a self-powered, turnkey unit intended for the outdoors, Greiner knew he had a viable technology option to secure these remote areas. Now it was a matter of convincing the oil company of this.
“I tried reaching out to them, but they were understandably gun-shy about dealing with someone new,” stated Greiner.
Greiner didn’t give up, leveraging Solbreez’s credentials as a local firm and his willingness to think outside traditional security paradigms. “I saw the ability to sell value, as opposed to selling the cheapest camera solution on the market,” Greiner recalled.
Because the operation was regulated by the Department of Transportation, the site was required to have a viable security plan. All oil and gas facilities are governed by a set of federal standards known as the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), which requires that facilities do layered security (beyond the standard Transportation Workers ID Card). Kris was tantalized by the opportunity at-hand; he just needed to be heard.
A 21st Century Solution
With dozens of stakeholders from engineers to integrators to pipe owners, navigating an Oil & Gas company can be tricky and notoriously slow. And Greiner was a relative newcomer to an industry where who you know matters.
Or what you know. Greiner had a near epiphany when he stumbled across V5 Systems, a tech company smack in the heart of Silicon Valley. With its penchant for forging new paths with tech and its quick-to-deploy solutions, the company resonated with Greiner’s ethos of innovation and speed. And innovation and speed were the keys to the kingdom. The oil company needed a solution yesterday, and no traditional integrator seemed to be able to put something together fast enough. But Kris had turnkey self-powered surveillance that could be deployed in under 30 minutes per unit. His was the only company able to offer an immediate solution – at an attractive price – so the oil company agreed to a first meeting.
Immediately, they were intrigued by the proactive capabilities of the V5 Portable Security Unit (V5 PSU), a self-powered video surveillance solution with intelligent analytics; especially, the system’s ability to minimize the amount of time for a trespasser to inflict property damage, because of the real-time, AI-driven alerts the units generated.
The 25-pound V5 PSU, housed within a lightweight, ruggedized enclosure, can survive in snowstorms as easily as humid swamps. With its hail-resistant solar power source and battery management system, the V5 PSU can be deployed in areas where access to power is limited or nonexistent. For locations where power infrastructure does exist, the units can be deployed without solar, connected via AC. This setup allows the oil company’s video surveillance systems to remain independent of their substations, providing insight even when power goes down through the battery for redundancy. Each unit can connect via Wi-Fi, RF or cellular signal to a smartphone app — allowing for real-time video streaming from practically anywhere. Most critically, the units run onboard analytics, generating automatic alerts if a human or vehicle enters a defined zone, allowing the oil company to address crime as it was occurring.
“Part of layered security includes fixed cameras backed up by untethered cameras,” Greiner explained. “V5 Systems units have a self-powered appeal that can replace wired solutions. It gives you power where you need it, in weird places; whether it’s powering radios or perimeter security.”
“The fact that each unit has built-in GPS capability meant that, even if someone tried to obstruct the camera’s view, it would trigger an alert and pinpoint the source. If someone tried to cut the power, that would trigger an alert as well.”
Oil & Gas contracts can take years to develop, with many purchase orders spanning presidential terms. But the oil company was impressed and incredibly keen to have the V5 PSU deployed right way.
“Within two months, we had a purchase order.” Within three months, the technology blanketed over 400 remote sites that had been difficult to adequately secure before.
Multiples of ROI
But Greiner still had to face some skepticism from users. “Some employees thought this was going to be ‘big brother’ watching them, and they weren’t happy about that. But what they quickly found out, is that it’s making their jobs easier. Some of these sites are so remote, it’s a two-hour drive each way. Now if there’s a security concern, they can just get on their app and say, my site’s intact.” Technicians got back their weekends and the company saved on overtime and holiday pay.
And the savings have been immense. The company was paying more than $200,000 a day for manned security – security that was susceptible to sleep, boredom and the elements. With the V5 PSU, Greiner was saving the company nearly $70 million annually, money that could be reinvested in R&D, safety and personnel.
From Greiner’s perspective, the solution was not a one-and-done-deal, but a source of ongoing revenue from monitoring via Solbreez’s data-centers. Greiner is able to offer remote guarding, alert monitoring, and power/health monitoring; the company is thrilled to gain his expertise and performance guarantee at a fraction of what they were paying for manned security. This also gives Greiner ongoing access to decision-makers when updated technology is available.
Beyond security, Greiner’s client is finding that the V5 PSU provides environmental benefits as well. “TransCanada had a leak in South Dakota,” Greiner recalled. “Had they had our system on there, they would’ve been able to look at that [location] and see the oil spillage before it got out of hand. Solar power and the rugged [camera] enclosure means you can install a unit pretty much anywhere.” The company also avoids expensive containment and cleanup costs that often cripple the industry.
“There hasn’t been any trespassing since we took over,” Greiner reported. “That reflects well on my business. I’m the integrator who successfully helped a major Oil & Gas company secure their property, which gives us instant credibility.”
Asked how he felt about Solbreez partnering with V5 Systems on such a large contract, Greiner had no regrets. “I’ve always felt valued. Honestly, I have direct access to everyone at V5 Systems. I’ve got just about everybody on my speed-dial. I feel like it’s more of a partnership than a vendor/manufacturer relationship.”
Problem: An energy company was spending $200,000 a day for manned security spread across far-flung, inhospitable terrain; only to yield unsatisfactory results.
Solution: Solbreez, a forward-thinking security and solar company, suggested deploying the new V5 Portable Security Unit; a self-contained, solar-powered surveillance-and-detection platform that can be installed in under 30 minutes at even the most remote locations.
Results: the company was able to gain real-time visibility over hundreds of miles of far-flung pipeline, allowing them to redirect articles in times of need — while cutting the costs of maintaining onsite security by nearly $70 million annually. Instances of vandalism have since dropped off to zero.