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1998-06-12 18:57:40


Natural Gas Industry Decides to Skip Full Testing



A representative of the American Gas Association testified to Senator Robert Bennett's y2k committee on June 12. He painted a gloewing report. He offered no hard evidence, but he offered summaries of the indiustry's uncorroborated assurances that everything is just fine, and getting better. It's Gaylord Hauser revisited. They look in the mirror every morning and repeat to themselves: "Every day, in every way, I'm getting beter and better."

You bet your life.

He began with assurances that the industry has known about this problem for a long time: three whole years. Well, goody for them. It has been sitting there since they bought their first IBM 360 in 1964.

Due dilligence? Three years.

Contingency planning? No problem. They deliver gas in bad weather.

The industry is confident. Yes, confident. This confidence is based on the fact that the projects are coming along just fine. Most of them. As far as we know.

As for suppliers, nothing was said.

As for the industry's software vendors, nothing was said.

As for the existence of a single company that is actually compliant, tested, and certified compliant by an independent agency, no one is claiming that.

But they're confident.

But I keep thinking of this insight:

"In the 'triage' or prioritization process, components that are not mission-critical may be intentionally bypassed prior to Dec. 1999. They may be tested and the dysfunction found not to have significant implications to operations, or not tested at all, depending on their rank in the prioritization."

No testing at all if it's not mission-critical. But what if there is something in the code of a non-mission-critical routine that affects the operation of a mission-critical routine? Wouldn't it be a good idea to test the entire system prior to December, 1999?

I keep asking myself: "Why adopt triage if the industry did due dilligence and is on top of the problem?"

Call me a nervous Nelly. Call me a skeptical Sam. I am not all that confident.

That's why the property I'm on has two natural gas wells and three power generators.

* * * * * * * * *

The American Gas Association (A.G.A.) represents 181 local gas utilities that deliver gas to 54 million homes and businesses in all 50 states. Our members distribute 85-90% of the natural gas delivered in the United States. Additionally, A.G.A. provides services to member natural gas pipelines, marketers, gatherers, international gas companies and a variety of industry associates.


A.G.A. and gas utilities have been fully aware of the issues surrounding the Year 2000 and the possible impact on U.S. citizens (our customers) and the economy. Natural gas utilities have always been committed to ensuring the safe and reliable operation of our delivery systems. As a result, our industry has been heavily working on Y2K issues for the past three years. . . .

With respect to risk management and contingency planning, our industry is very proud of its record of maintaining reliable service to our customers in the face of natural disasters, extraordinary weather conditions and emergency situations. Our contingency planning efforts are based on years of experience in operating safe delivery systems for consumers. . . .

First, the Gas Research Institute, the research, development, and commercialization organization of the natural gas industry, conducted a survey in May, predominately of local natural gas distribution companies. The companies which responded to the survey have customer bases that range from 35,000 to 4.8 million. The objective was to assess the Y2K status and need for collaborative efforts supporting Year 2000 resolution.

Preliminary results, based on responses of 49 companies of mixed size and geographic location are summarized as follows:

The confidence level of avoiding significant operating disruptions is high - 90% responded that they were very confident in their ability to resolve software problems by the end of 1999. . . .

The vast majority of the companies have been working on the software issue for 2 - 6 years. At this point, 20% of the companies indicated they have completed their software remediation program.

Overall, 93% of the companies in the survey indicated that they are beyond the initial inventory and assessment phase, and in the remediation/testing/completed phases of software code resolution.

In terms of embedded systems, 71% were very confident in their ability to resolve the embedded processor issues. This confidence level is expected to increase as they complete the remaining phases of their Year 2000 plan.

84% of the companies are in the remediation/testing/completed phase of their embedded processor program - with 80% of the companies expecting that their embedded systems will be Y2K compliant by June 1999. . . .

In the "triage" or prioritization process, components that are not mission-critical may be intentionally bypassed prior to Dec. 1999. They may be tested and the dysfunction found not to have significant implications to operations, or not tested at all, depending on their rank in the prioritization.

For distribution companies, the focus for embedded systems is to ensure that on January 1 mission-critical gas delivery systems are working properly. . . .

The process to assess and identify embedded systems typically follows an auditable methodology such as system identification, determining compliance from manufacturers, and performing remediation (replacement, upgrades, contingency plans) and associated testing. This process, based on complexity of operation, could take 12-18 months to complete.


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