Lukoil Neftochim Burgas, based in Bulgaria, is the largest oil refinery in South-eastern Europe, processing 9.5 million tons of crude oil per year. The Lukoil oil production sites are vital to the Bulgarian economy, but also present a significant risk. To make sure its critical infrastructure is protected against unwanted intruders, the company called on Flir Systems for a fail-proof perimeter security solution centred around thermal imaging cameras.
Until recently, Lukoil had used two independent systems for perimeter security: two fences with sensor cable systems about five metres separated from each other. While they delivered quality results, the installation was quite expensive: digging, cabling, and visual cameras and lighting for visual verification of the detected target.
According to Lyubomir Dimov, project manager at Lukom-A, the company investigated alternative solutions: “We decided to try thermal cameras because they provide us with the opportunity to control the entire territory with a relatively small number of cameras. When a movement is detected, we receive an alarm in our control room. The difference is that, with the sensor cable system you need cables, lighting along the perimeter, a video camera at each 60 m position – all this is more difficult to implement and more expensive. With thermal cameras, we always see directly what happens, regardless of lighting, day or night.”
Better vision, night and day
Lukoil discovered the power of thermal imaging by testing a small set-up. The company learned that thermal cameras not only outperform visual cameras at night, they’re also highly effective during the day.
Dimov adds: “Three years ago, we decided to install cameras to guard a torch, an installation with a high level of explosion risk. We were able to perform tests with a thermal imaging camera from Flir and discovered that even during the day, with a normal colour camera, intruders can get lost in the greenery, when they wear the same colour clothes. In contrast, thermal cameras can still follow them when they hide behind the bushes. This really convinced us that thermal imaging technology was the way forward.”
Thermal imaging and video analytics
For its petrochemical plant in Burgas, Lukoil called on main Flir distributor for Bulgaria, Telelink EAD, a system integration company in south-east Europe, and its partner system integration company 2 Plus Bulgaria AD. Together, they proposed Flir’s FC and F series cameras in combination with advanced video analytics software for achieving a higher level of perimeter protection.
Ivan Ilchev, systems technician at Telelink, comments: “The sensor cable system that Lukoil Neftochim is using has its merits, but it requires extensive maintenance and the system’s false alarm rate is relatively high. Also, a visual CCTV camera system has its drawbacks.
“If you consider that the Lukoil site has a very big perimeter for surveillance, more than 22 kilometres, then you actually would need more than 400 standard CCTV cameras. However, we knew that with one thermal imaging camera, you can easily replace six or seven visual CCTV cameras. That’s why we advised Lukoil to use thermal cameras from Flir Systems in combination with advanced video analytics.
“This is a so-called thermal fence, which is a very cost-effective solution. What is so amazing about thermal imaging cameras is that you can use them in almost any condition, at night, during fog, rain, hard environments, like here, with no clean surface and with bushes and trees.”
An investment that pays off
The benefits are very clear for Lukoil Neftochim. The investment in thermal cameras is much less than for lighting and visual cameras around the entire perimeter. Petar Bakalov, executive director at Lukom-A, comments: “Thermal cameras have proven to be the best solution for us, because of the specifics of the secured area. The Lukoil refinery is located in an area where there is no lighting and most of our problems occur at night. That’s why thermal cameras are extremely convenient for us.
“Shortly after we had installed the thermal cameras, we were already able to capture two groups of intruders who were trying to enter the Lukoil territory with the intent of stealing scrap metal.”
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