Energy Sector: Natural Gas

The Natural Gas sub-sector in the United States consists of 514,000 natural gas production and condensate wells, 304,000 miles of transmission pipeline, and 1.2 million miles of distribution pipelines. New Jersey is the 10th highest consumer of natural gas in the US, using it primarily for electric power generation and heating. Seventy-five percent of homes in the state use natural gas for heating.

New Jersey has five interstate pipelines that are the primary suppliers of natural gas from the Gulf to the northeastern US. Untapped natural gas reserves in nearby states have created an additional product source for New Jersey and the East Coast, leading to increased natural gas infrastructure in the State. This includes two new electricity generating stations fueled by natural gas, including the Newark Energy Center and Woodbridge Energy Center.

Threat

Cyber: High
Last year, the entire Energy Sector accounted for 16 percent of cyber incidents reported to the US Department of Homeland Security. According to the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, state-sponsored cyber actors “are keenly interested in the IP [intellectual property] of oil and gas companies, including drilling techniques, oil and gas findings, refinery engineering information, and merger and acquisition (M&A) plans.” Moreover, sophisticated hacking groups have demonstrated the capability to launch destructive cyber attacks against critical infrastructure. The Energy Sector in New Jersey is most likely to face reconnaissance and espionage activities aimed at stealing intellectual property and establishing persistence on networks.

Terrorism: Low
There has been one attempted attack against the Natural Gas sub-sector in the United States in the past decade. In June 2012, an anti-government extremist attempted to blow up a natural gas pipeline near Dallas, Texas with a bottle of explosive methyl nitrate. One of the devices prematurely detonated, causing damage to the pipeline and himself. Restitution for his actions was valued at approximately $28,000. An attack of this nature is unlikely in New Jersey because the majority of pipelines run underground. 

Preparedness

On February 4, 2016, the New Jersey Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee approved a new bill to enhance pipeline safety that would require utilities to repair or replace pipelines that leak gas within timeframes to be established by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The bill is awaiting approval in the New Jersey Senate Economic Growth Committee.

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability is the primary driver of modernization and resiliency in the energy grid.

DOE’s Road to Achieve Energy Delivery Systems Cybersecurity is the energy sector’s plan to improve cybersecurity within the energy sector.

DOE’s Overview of Response to Hurricane Sandy-Nor’easter and Recommendations for Improvement documents the state of the energy sector before and after the storm.

Intelligence Gaps

  • What physical and cybersecurity vulnerabilities can terrorists or nation-states exploit? 
  • What cyber actors have succeeded in penetrating natural gas assets in New Jersey?
  • What are the most vulnerable industrial control systems (ICS) devices used by the natural gas industry in New Jersey?

For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Preparedness Bureau at preparedness@njohsp.gov.