"Virtually all large Oil Wellheads are at severe risk to embedded chip problems."greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
"Virtually all large Oil Wellheads are at severe risk to embedded chip problems."
I just discovered this board on a link from a Gary North forum. I've never paid much attention to Y2K web forums, so I'm not completely familiar with some of your terms like trolling, but I think I get the picture. I am posting here because I do have some information that I think you may find pertinent, but before I do allow me to present my background as it may have a bearing on credibility, which many of you seem to require. ( And I would, too if I were you )
I'm middle-aged and been around the horn awhile. My career has been in PR/Advertising/Marketing-Sales... as well as in broadcasting as a news reporter, editor, news anchor. At one time I worked with Rush Limbaugh before he became a "somebody". He was a news-director at an all-news station at the time. A few years later, because of my PR/Ad and News Media background I found myself involved as a consultant for the political campaign of a now former President of the United States as part of the travelling White House staff ( political side ) . That means I've rubbed shoulders with some people in high places in the past.
More background: I grew up in an area that was "oil country" in a family involved in the oil industry. I also know a lot of people in the oil & gas industry.
I've been tracking the Y2K situation since late 1997, though I do remember discussions about it as early as the late 1980s. So, I'm not a newcomer to the scene. I've been diligently searching like many of you for any information and clues that will indicate what direction Y2K will actually take. I'll not bore you with a history of my early thoughts and research...other than to say my opinions see-sawed back and forth as to whether it was gonna be No Big Deal or A serious set back to society. ( No, I am not a TEOTWAKI believer ) What follows is a compilation of my reporter instincts to get the full behind the scenes story. In doing so, anonymity of sources is mandatory. These folks who confided to me, fear for their jobs if what they told me was made public. Whether it is justified or not, it was necessary for me to accept those conditions in order to get the full story from them.
Having said all of that, the very first inklings on hard first-hand data came from my conversations last year with folks I know in the Oil industry. Here's what I heard from one close relative who works in mid-level management for a major oil company in the refining division:
#1. Virtually all large Oil Wellheads are at severe risk to embedded chip problems. This is the first threat to the oil supply. This does not apply to small "stripper" wells as it was never economically viable to convert the operations to the expensive computerized systems. Also "stripper" wells supply very little oil to the industry.
#2. Transport of crude oil from the wells to refineries is at risk in the pipeline systems via SCADA embedded chip systems worldwide.
#3. Refining operations of crude oil is at risk due to 4 possible complicating problems: a--software. b--hardware=especially embedded systems. c-- loss of electricity ( more on this later ) . d-- loss of telecommunications in the refineries and also on the delivery systems.
Let's look at #1. in detail...the oil wells. Most larger oil wells, especially those owned by the major oil companies ( the majors ) have been modernized with extensive embedded chip systems. Now I've had a chance to discuss this with oil industry computer engineers that are embedded systems specialists working on changing out the rigs systems and also the pipeline and pumping stations SCADA systems. The real problems lie primarily in the Alaska, West Texas and the Gulf Coast fields where most rigs are LOADED with embedded systems. Engineers that I spoke with indicated that preliminary testing of systems that they could actually access was running between 10 and 25% dependant upon a variety of factors. I was told that most systems are inaccessible except under extraordinary circumstances, especially off-shore oil wells with depths of several thousand feet under sea level. Most oil well systems are now considered impractical to test and or replace.
One consulting engineer told me last December that many new customers field managers still didn't know what the term Y2K even meant, and they didn't think their operations had any computer connections what so ever. ( these old boys didn't have a clue what embedded systems were ) . So this particular source tells me that the oil field industry throughout much of Texas and the Gulf Coast is in the dark about what they're up against. Those clients that were having assessments performed did not have a desire to assess or test embedded systems that were not easily accessed. If it was down in the "hole" forget it. Furthermore, most systems are in sealed systems and once opened can't be fixed in part because schematics are usually not available and or parts are further sealed and coated for further protection thereby making identification of key components virtually impossible. The bottom line= Most embedded systems were never and are never going to be checked or tested for Y2K compliance. Its a virtual impossibility PLUS...even if they did, most likely the parts to replace them will no longer be available and it's now become very difficult to find anyone who can supply a replacement system before 1/1/2000. Some easier testing was done on more accessible systems which are usually newer...and the fail rates have run to 25% in some areas.
Overall, these sources estimate that based on prior limited testing, they are expecting a 10 to 20% ratio of failure, or multiple embedded systems going down on each oil well. There will be no parts to fix them and no replacement systems available for quite a long while. These sources tell me that the major oil companies have adopted a FOF policy ( fix on fail ) because it is the only affordable and practical approach, plus there's no time to get it all fixed anyway. Keep in mind also that these fellows said that even if it's only a .1 or one-tenth of 1% fail rate on embedded chips within a system there a lot of embedded systems on each well that is still enough to shut down virtually every large well in the USA, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States plus most off-shore platforms. I didn't even mention the nightmares that confound such a situation IF the electricity is out and or the phones don't work. That only compounds the problem. Remember too, that for much of the oil industry this will occur in the dead of winter in regions where freezing temperatures will play havoc. Also, when a well goes down, for the length's of time like in Y2k... chances are new wells will have to be drilled to get back to the oil, especially if it is an old well that was using water injection techniques. So wells are extremely vulnerable to shut downs.
BOTTOM LINE on Oil Wells: Expect a near complete stoppage in crude oil pumping on Jan 1, 2000.
#2. SCADA Oil Pipelines ( also true for natural gas ) . The same that was said about the well heads and embedded systems is true for the pipelines. It's just too complicated and the major companies decided to adopt the FOF policy and wait to see what breaks down and then try to fix it. Another consideration is loss of electricity for any significant length of time.
#3. Refining. The larger refineries are also loaded with embedded systems creating similar problems just like the larger oil wells. Many of these are again inside sealed lines and would require major renovations to test and replace components. Also, opening embedded systems even if compliant is like putting humpty-dumpty back together again and most likely would require replacement even if found to be compliant. So, most refineries are not getting adequate checks and testing of embedded chips and systems just like their wellhead counter parts. This is not as critical a factor for smaller, older refineries that have not been upgraded like the larger refineries.
Another significant problem for some refineries in North America is the loss of electricity in freezing weather. This is now thought to be a major concern, espcially for refineries in the middle parts of the U.S. Why? because when ambient temperatures fall below 40 degrees Fahrenheit the crude oil gels inside the lines and clogs the system. This creates, among other things a significant safety hazard with risks of explosions. Equally disastrous is that once the process has clogged the systems, production ceases and a "turnaround" begins once the temperatures return to a steady temperature above 40 degrees. Now, this temperature factor is no problem normally because electricity is used to heat the pipelines and keep the oil warm enough to not gel up and clog the system. IF the electricity goes down on January 1, 2000 in refineries in the midwest or the northeast and the areas are experiencing normal winter temperatures, the loss of electricity for even an hour could be devastating if not dangerous.
Therefore, my sources tell me that debates/discussions have developed as to possible preventative measures that might pre-empt such problems. The only alternative ( if electricity is to be lost ) is to shut the refining operations down, or at least partially stop operations. These options however could carry even greater safety risks of explosions. One particular source tells me that these options have never been tried before at his refinery and there is quite a debate going as to whether the risk of explosion is worth the benefit. The benefit is that by shutting down prematurely or partially idling by clearing the oil lines, any power loss temporarily and then being restored could enable production to resume relatively quickly. IF, however, power is lost for 3 days... then, even a restoration of power will be a moot issue as most likely a 3 day outage will necessitate a "turnaround" maintenance program that usually takes about 90 days. BUT this would be predicated upon temperatures soaring back well above 40 degrees. This source indicated that if the power is out for 3 days or more it will likely be March before they can begin a turnaround and another 30-90 days after that before production could resume.
Now the weather factor could also affect much of refining operations as far south as northern Texas and along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. So, the largest chunk of US refining operations are at serious risk for extended interruptions of production that might last up to 6 months or longer. And that is if the electricity is off only briefly or is sporadic for only a handful of days. IF electricity is unreliable for extended periods til warm weather returns then there will likely be little oil refining production in the US for most of the year 2000...because until a refineries electricity source remains stable and trustworthy, there can be repeated lengthy production interruptions lasting far longer than the outage as more turnarounds to clean out the systems is required. So if its 3 months or 6 months of rolling brownouts or sporadic interruptions, refining will be most likely significantly hampered.
Bottom line on Refining: Don't count on much gasoline or other petroleum products for the 1st quarter of 2000 and perhaps continuing thoughout much or all of 2000. IF the grid goes down and stays down for a long time... then it will be a LONG time before you get gasoline. KEEP IN MIND... this is ALL CONTINGENT UPON EVEN GETTING CRUDE OIL TO THE REFINERY IN THE FIRST PLACE...which is highly doubtful.
Now, I've not even touched on the problems of the Foreign oil and non-compliant tankers. I don't have good first-hand source reports on this. I can only rely upon what I've read from internet sources. These reports do not appear to be good either. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region along with Venzuela are in as bad a shape as we are. The tanker issue may well further complicate the import picture as well.
Overall Conclusions on Oil:
OPTIMISTIC case: ( Power stays up--and NO outages anywhere and the Phone systems have little or no problems ) IF Oil Wells experience breakdowns far lower than current testing indicates then there may be only a small drop in crude supplies, and little or no refining disruptions... meaning small shortages and A LOT HIGHER PRICES... best guess... 50 cents to a dollar more per gallon ( ? )
Middle of Road case: ( Power failures for 3 days with rolling brownouts thru January and early February, and normal winter temps everywhere ) expect U.S. Crude oil production to drop by half or more. Expect many if not most refineries in the US to shut down for extended periods until April or May when normal operations could resume in refineries IF the oil wells are fixed. We'll assume that they are at this point. Then expect serious shortages and rationing of fuel for the first 6 months of 2000.
Bad Case: ( Power failures but not total loss of grid, brownouts roll on through spring and summer... phone service becomes unreliable for first 6 months ) . Expect little to no crude production, period. No importation of oil in significant quantities either for the first 6 months. This means refineries will sit idle til they have product to refine. If the embedded systems run a 25% fail rate as some research has indicated in past testing, and power is unreliable then chip system manufacturers will be unable to make replacements. New wells would have to be drilled and systems converted to manual...but still electricity is required to get it to the refinery. Likely then to not see much crude oil til late 2000, and then about 90 days more before refining can catch up. This all assumes that foreign oil and tankers also can be brought back around this fast also. Therefore, figure on about 1 year of very little fuel for transportation except for emergency services, military and bare minimum industry needs. Very little available for consumers, most likely.
Worst case scenario... ( power grid gone, can't restart. Phones gone due to power losses. ) ... NO oil, no gas. Get a horse. Til the power grid comes back up there just won't be any fuel. Time frame: 1 to 10 years??? [If the power grid is down and stays down for a year and then several years of rolling brownouts and blackouts].
Will it be no big deal? Or will it be a return to the lifestyle of 100 years ago? While, no one knows for certain, the odds would tend to favor a scenario that is more than just a bump in the road. More than likely, the Oil Industry going down will severely impact the power grid...and may well take down the power grid, despite power plants stocking up on coal. Why? because, a lot of power plants run on fuel oil. Not to mention diesel trains not having fuel, nor trucks that carry consumer foods and goods. Yikes! Now do you see why things could all hinge upon oil rather than electricity???
Final thoughts on this post:
Now in my investigations over the past year, I've also researched the electricity situation conducting interviews with not only the Corporate elites but more so with the boys in the field, running down those embedded systems. But that's another sad story for another time. Same also for the phone companies.
Meanwhile, based solely upon the oil industry vulnerabilities, the oil problems could well bring down the system irregardless of the utilities. Keep this in mind as you ponder the Y2K problem. It does certainly seem to me that Y2K will trigger an oil shortage that will rival and likely exceed the 1974 oil embargo crisis. Remember it triggered a terrible recession. Think about what all this might do under current circumstances of 1999.
-- Well (Well@Wadayaknow.com), June 17, 1999
holy mackeral'yoicks'kow-a-bunga'' if this guy is for real-i,m sure glad i live near river & lake'&&springs.and we have mild winters. got lotsa ducks here in winter'anyone gota good duck-recipe??
-- al-d. (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 17, 1999.
gee, I'm so scared now I have to go to that web site and buy a bunch of crap.
-- gullible (email@example.com), June 17, 1999.
Sounds like you live in a nice part of the country. What state is that?
-- Prometheus (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 17, 1999.
During most of the 80's I lived in Texas and managed field operations for a medium sized Oil & Gas Exploration company in Dallas. My duties took me to OK,NM,LA,WY,UT,IN,KY, and Texas. I was responsible for drilling and completing over 340 wells, both oil and gas producers. Very few of the oil producing wells would have been 'strippers', which was what we traditionally called a well that was at or below 10 BPD. I have never been involved in a producing well that had any computer controls at the well-head (maybe thats why we went belly-up in the late 80's). Even so, we had to keep close tabs on each well in the event that electrical power was interrupted. If the field proximity made it practical, we had back-up Gen Sets that would kick in. I would think (I don't know for sure) that refinery facilities would have a back-up system of some type as well. Because my knowledge of the technology is somewhat dated, I would like to hear more about downhole wireless remote control. The last time I looked, the downhole pumps were actuated by 'sucker rods' that were cycled by the above ground 'pump jacks' most folks are familar with. Pure mechanical motion. Gas wells have no downhole systems but do have flow recorders at the well head. Any real PE's out there that can comment on this?
-- Iben (email@example.com), June 17, 1999.
Oil/Gas are the real problems in Y2k? Looks like "RC" sold his story.
-- regular (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 17, 1999.
He didn't sell his story. Somebody took it from here and posted it over there. No big deal, in my opinion.
-- Dog Gone (email@example.com), June 17, 1999.
*Having said all of that, the very first inklings on hard first-hand data came from my conversations last year with folks I know in the Oil industry.* Heard it from a friend who, heard from a friend who, heard from a friend who, heard it last year. Is this what some of the D&Gs are calling factual information?
-- ~~~~ (~~~~@~.~), June 17, 1999.
I would very much like to hear your observations on the Telecos. Have spent the last 6 years working as a Systems Engineer for Ericsson, Inc. (Equipment Supplier for over 60% of Landline & Wireless Networks) and 4 years for WilTel, Inc (now part of MCIWorldComm - WilTel operates over 70% of the U.S. Fiber Optic Capacity) as a Transmission Engineer. Have not seen the degree of problems that you allude to within your post. Will be waiting in anticipation of your data or facts.
-- paul dirac (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 17, 1999.