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1998-05-29 12:37:06


Shell Describes Its Embedded Chip Problem



This could have been posted under "Shipping and Transportation." But the magnitude of the challenge is common to all systems using embedded chips. The difference is, Shell's systems may be 10,000 feet below sea level.

Notice Shell's dependence on 60 vendors. This presumably means chip suppliers. What if they cannot supply the replacement chips? What if the replacement chips don't fit Shell's existing motherboards?

Is there an example in the oil industry of the successful replacement of chips on any drilling rig? If there is, I have not come across it.

* * * * * * * * *

A typical offshore platform or onshore gas plant uses 50-100 "embedded systems." These are sets of electronic code used to control equipment which are effectively sealed, and cannot be altered by the users. These systems contain anything up to 10,000 individual microchips. We have found that up to half of these systems are critical in terms of production and the impact of our activities on the environment.

Having identified these critical systems, the next stage has been to agree a comprehensive plan of remedial action. This can involve: chasing vendors for evidence that they will be able to cope with the Year 2000; testing the equipment itself; and developing contingency plans in the event of a system failure.

This action must be agreed, planned and then scheduled with each of at least 60 vendors. It has to be extremely well co-ordinated and planned as no shutdowns are scheduled. And the logistics of this exercise are of course considerable. It is not something that can be left to the last minute or even 1999! Above all, the remedial process has emphasised once again the importance of early planning and detailed action to address the Year 2000 problem.


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