Our world runs on energy. This is its soft underbelly.
The oil industry is especially vulnerable to y2k. Consider this warning:
"It is estimated that the average oil and gas firm, starting today, can expect to remediate less than 30% of the overall potential failure points in the production environment. This reality shifts the focus of the solution away from trying to fix the problem, to planning strategies that would minimize potential damage and mitigate potential safety hazards."
This is from WORLD OIL (April).
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For more than 15 years, the oil and gas industry has expended a massive effort to re-invent itself. We all know that none of our firms would be competitive in today's market, if we had not made these hard decisions. A linchpin of the industry's success has been the reduction of the corporate cost structure through the use of technology and process re-engineering, much of it computerized. All of this work is potentially at risk, if serious loss of production is sustained as a result of unplanned computer shutdowns in many segments of the business, all at the same time. . . .
What if, instead of an off-line market research project, our system was one or all of the thousands of embedded or "computer on a chip" process controllers on an offshore platform, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system or distribution pipeline? What is the impact of these three error types cascading throughout multiple-intertwined and mutually dependent on-line systems?
An offshore platform may have 10,000 or more embedded silicon chips governing all automated and even some manual processes. Many of these systems are subsurface or underwater and physically difficult to access.
PROCESS CONTROLLER CONCERNS
Unlike the software of a marketing system, the embedded logic on a silicon chip is entombed deep in the system and not easily ascertained. Any given Distributed Control System (DCS) or Process Logic Controller (PLC) computer board has many chips, and their interdependencies on each other, and on other system components, make them difficult to analyze and repair, Fig. 1.
Methods for analyzing this equipment are only now emerging. Compliance information coming from manufacturers has been sketchy and sometimes inaccurate. In some cases, the chips are no longer made. In others, the controller is manufactured in such a way that the entire unit must be replaced. Upgraded chips and new controllers also would have to be tested to ensure that their insertion will not impact drilling and production processes negatively. Some studies suggest that there may not be enough manufacturing capacity to just replace all affected chips in less than two years.
Few organizations have recognized the full potential for possible failure in embedded systems. Moreover, the supply of talent qualified to identify and correct these problems is being consumed quickly by other year 2000 projects. The longer that production managers wait, the less the likelihood that they will be able to affect the outcome pragmatically.
It is estimated that the average oil and gas firm, starting today, can expect to remediate less than 30% of the overall potential failure points in the production environment. This reality shifts the focus of the solution away from trying to fix the problem, to planning strategies that would minimize potential damage and mitigate potential safety hazards. . . .
The reasons for this oversight are straightforward. The year 2000 problem has been characterized as an information technology problem and delegated to each organization's Information Services (IS) department. However, IS departments typically do not manage on-line, process control systems. The embedded systems issue is a process or business problem affecting all types of "intelligent" equipment throughout all business units, not just those computer systems for which IS departments are accountable. . . .
On a Friday night less than two years from now, a tsunami will build in the Pacific and roll westward through all major hydrocarbon producing fields before reaching Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. We know the exact date, not to mention the hour, minute and second. We do not know its size. As with all tidal waves, it is safer to take precautions and move out to sea, where its arrival may not even be noticed. Disaster strikes those who are unprepared and caught near shore. There is little time left to mobilize, so to speak, and move the world's huge oil and gas fleet to the safety of the sea.