Stephenson Technologies Corp., LSU’s applied research entity, has won a $25 million federal contract to protect Louisiana’s energy infrastructure.
Specifically, the award from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Naval Research Laboratory will create a digital dome protecting Port Fourchon and the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the nation’s only offshore deepwater port.
Over the next five years, the project will deliver a digital dome spanning Port Fourchon and its connection to LOOP. That system will collect, interpret and fuse electromagnetic signals. Cyber threats will be identified and removed, while intelligence about nautical risks will be shared with coastal enforcement agencies to protect people, vessels and cargo.
With support from Louisiana Economic Development, LSU established Stephenson Technologies Corp. in 2016 as part of its strategy to increase support of the defense community. To date, STC has attracted over $60 million in contract awards.
“Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this project is we first envisioned it on our economic development mission to Israel in 2018,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in announcing the grant. “In viewing the Iron Dome that Israel created to protect its air defense systems, we glimpsed what Stephenson Technologies Corporation could create to protect our nation’s most vital energy gateway at Port Fourchon. Not only will this project provide critical protection for the U.S. energy supply, STC’s work will advance Louisiana’s growing base of cybersecurity and IT talent.”
Port Fourchon serves 90% of deepwater oil and gas activities in the Gulf of Mexico, connects to 50% of U.S. refining capacity, and handles approximately 15% of the nation’s domestic and foreign oil shipments. More than 250 companies operate at Port Fourchon, with daily traffic of up to 400 large supply vessels. STC will design and build the digital dome to protect those assets and the people who operate them. The dome will be known as the Port Urban and Nautical Unified Shield, or PORTUNUS.
STC President Jeff Moulton says the PORTUNUS system will have a direct impact on major intelligence agencies within the U.S. Navy’s Maritime Domain Awareness environment, as well as the intelligence operations of the four military services. “It will be designed to create cyber-secure efficiencies in the processes of collecting information from available database sources,” Moulton says, “and analyzing it to produce actionable intelligence in a single pane of glass.”
Beyond defense and intelligence missions, the project technology could provide better protection for agencies involved in homeland security, disease control, monetary policy, human trafficking and drug enforcement activities. STC, now headquartered on the Water Campus in Baton Rouge, will retain 30 existing employees and create 10 new jobs through the Naval Research Laboratory contract, with work taking place at STC and Port Fourchon. LED estimates the project will result in an additional 13 new indirect jobs, for a total of 23 new jobs.
Under a new cooperative endeavor agreement, Stephenson Technologies Corp. will be eligible for a maximum of $1 million in annual matching funds from LED for $3 million or more in federal and private research funds attracted annually. The three-year agreement extends through 2023.
The PORTUNUS system will be built in modular form for the Port Fourchon project, meaning it could be disassembled and deployed to any other critical asset where defense agencies need protection in cyberspace. Work will begin on the project immediately.