(EnergyAsia, September 19 2016, Monday) — The market for protecting oil and gas infrastructure in the Middle East is worth US$18 billion by 2018, with cybersecurity spending in the global industry expected to reach US$1.87 billion, according to an Abu Dhabi event organiser citing separate studies.

The Middle East study was undertaken by MarketsandMarkets while US-based ABIresearch provided the forecast for the global cybersecurity spending on oil and gas infrastructure.

For the first time, security for energy infrastructure will be a topic all on its own at the upcoming Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition & Conference (ADIPEC 2016), said organiser dmg events.

Former NATO Commander General Sir Richard Shirreff will deliver the keynote address at the inaugural ‘Security in Energy’ exhibition and conference to be held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre on November 7 to 10.

The programme will feature technical sessions and panel discussions on disaster prevention, emergency readiness, event recovery, security solutions and risk mitigation for the energy sector.

“The promise of emerging technology brings with it a growing concern of data and infrastructure protection within the industry, which has proven to be a persistent challenge that needs to be immediately addressed in the region and across the world,” said a dmg events statement.

The market to protect government, energy and critical infrastructure in the Middle East will grow to US$34 billion by 2020, the statement said, citing a recent Frost & Sullivan report.

Cyber threats and attacks against the oil and gas industry are becoming increasingly common and sophisticated, forcing organisations to continuously improve cybersecurity safeguards and protocols to protect information, equipment and processes.

“In 2016, there is an urgency for nations to adopt national integrated cyber/physical security frameworks to pre-empt the growing external threats that are now constantly exploring vulnerabilities in energy facilities across the supply chain,” said Sally Leivesley, managing director of UK-based risk management firm Newrisk Limited.

“Global advances in technology have allowed us to connect with others in a way we never have before. In the energy sector, it has propelled stakeholder collaboration and the sharing of knowledge and information, enabling real-time interaction between experts, professionals, and those working on the field,” said Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, director general of the UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).

“However, with greater interconnectivity comes greater challenges within information security, making it crucial that we are always one step ahead when it comes to protecting sensitive data. This means organisations need to develop a consolidated, multi-layered strategy for safeguarding critical industry information.”

TRA and the Critical Infrastructure and Coastal Protection Authority (CICPA) are supporting the “Security in Energy” event, said dmg events. The conference and exhibition will address both the physical and virtual threats to critical infrastructure.