Natural gas industry unveils security program

HOUSTON — A new program led by natural gas utilities could help improve the safety of their infrastructure by allowing them to more effectively share information about threats they’re facing.

The new initiative, known as the Downstream Natural Gas Information Sharing and Analysis Center, lets natural gas utilities share information about incidents that have occurred at their facilities as well as potential physical and cyber-security threats.

The effort was unveiled Tuesday by the American Gas Association, an industry group.

“Information-sharing is a fundamental pillar of a robust cyber and physical defense effort,” Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the American Gas Association, the industry group leading the effort, said in a statement.

Other industries, including the financial services, transportation and information technology, have developed so-called ISACs designed to share information about critical infrastructure with other businesses and the government.

The new natural gas emergency center will be able to coordinate with its equivalent ISAC in the electric sector, allowing both type of utilities to share data.

The effort will focus especially closely on cybsersecurity threats, the American Gas Association said.

Utilities that were providers of both natural gas and electricity were already eligible for membership into an ISAC that focused solely on electric providers. The new entity will now make it possible for downstream natural gas utilities to participate as well.

The center takes the form of an online portal, in which companies can enter information about incidents and threats and decide how widely they want to share that information.

The undertaking is funded by dues paid by the members of the center. As of May, AGA had commitments from 17 gas utilities, the organization said.