The natural gas industry and the oil industry are estimated to be able to fix only 30% of its noncompliant embedded chips by 2000.
Think about this. If you think the Arab oil embargoes caused an economic crisis in the 1970's, think of what 70% of today's noncompliant chips could do. Will do.
This article appeared in WORLD OIL (April).
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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.
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. . . .
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.