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In the past, it was thought that lightning strikes were random or due to an object being tall or located at a higher elevations. New discoveries are showing these are seldom the controlling factors and that geology plays a greater role. Fault lines tend to be struck by lightning more often, and it’s known that active fault zones are good for oil and natural gas exploration, but can be bad for pipelines.

Cybersecurity concerns with our critical infrastructures are well-known. In recent years, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other authorities have encouraged critical infrastructure owners and operators to take steps to ensure cybersecurity for both their business and critical control system assets.

During my annual hunting pilgrimage back home to northwestern North Dakota last fall, I was struck by the differing opinions about how the recent oil development activity has affected families and communities.

Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) is a pivotal tool in achieving impressive productivity and reliability of pipelines. However, SCADA systems face cyber threats that could render them inoperable, causing substantial adverse effects on profitability. Worse yet, the threats could deactivate some safety systems, and jeopardize safety of the pipeline, workers and neighbors.

Cybersecurity-related events have become an increasing problem for the oil and gas industry over the past decade.

On one hand, there has been a push to reduce costs and increase efficiency through companywide network integration. The advances in industrial control systems (ICS) have made pipeline systems accessible through Internet-based technologies and tools. This has allowed systems to be operated and maintained effectively with fewer staff distributed widely around the world.

Network security for pipeline systems is one of the top priorities noted by the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA). That isn’t surprising when you consider that the energy industry has been a prime target of network attacks and data breaches over the last two years, both from corporate espionage “agents” interested in stealing confidential geophysical data, financial data and passcodes as well as hacktivists with political and social motivations to embarrass organizations.

In 2008, about 60% of the crude oil produced in the United States came from one of three places: the Gulf of Mexico, Texas and Alaska. Domestic production was on the decline, having decreased about 2% annually on average since 1970. Imports from foreign nations filled the gap, bringing with them significant political and economic implications for the country.

On Oct. 1, a crew working for Tourmaline Oil Corp. was clearing the right-of-way for a new pipeline near Spirit River, Alberta, Canada when they cracked open a rock that revealed the massive fossil of a dinosaur tailbone.

Production from natural gas and liquids rich shale plays in the United States is booming. In the past five years alone, shale gas reserves have increased tenfold to 25 Bcf/d. Similarly, tight oil production has risen to 1.8 MMbcf/d, more than 600% over that same period [1]. This prolific growth trend has created a dramatic need for infrastructure improvements, including transport via pipeline from the wellhead to processing facilities and beyond.

New security capabilities at the remote terminal unit (RTU) level are substantially easing implementation of cybersecurity measures in SCADA systems.

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