Feedback and responses requested on RC's contention that almost all US refineries are TOAST : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I posed some 'refinery remediation and susceptibility' questions on a previous thread. Its getting pretty far down the board so I thought I'd repost with some of RC's resultant contentions and invite comments:

~RC:"The bench-type testing that's been done is invalid and of no consequence..."

~RC:"Fail rates are immaterial..."

~RC also contends the embedded refining operations, which is all but about a dozen smaller, older units, (so he's contending 98% of US refining capacity) "...would have to be shut down for as much as 6 months to do correct, valid, thorough testing...".

OK I can certainly understand and support oil exec's decisions not to shut down refining units for 6 months, but isn't RC going overboard in contending this bench type testing is worthless? And just because RC's "correct, valid, thorough testing" wasn't practical, isn't it a stretch to assume these operations are toast (my words, not RC's).

RC, I hope the above paraphrasing wasn't detrimental to your stance. In fact I encourage any posters to go back and read the above referenced thread and his acual post.

Just digging for info. RC, Based on the severity of your contentions, I guess I'm a little slow in smelling the coffee...and the burnt toast.

-- Downstreamer (, November 06, 1999


I want to thank both Downstreamer and RC for being persistent and patient about this critical issue. It's strange how everybody was buying generators a year ago, and now everyone's so reassured about electricity that they're not thinking about where most of our energy really comes from. If petroleum is in trouble, other chemicals are probably in trouble too.

Again, thanks for your persistence.

-- Bill Byars (, November 06, 1999.

I am at least half in doubt about the positions and statements of both RC and DD1stLight. It is something about their style that doesn't sit quite right. Additionally, if things were anywhere near this bad in the petroleum industry, the knowledge would be sufficiently broad to drive to January futures to the moon. This knowledge would not be restricted to two individuals.

I think that there are probably some severe problems in the petroleum industry, but maybe not as bad as RC and DD suggest.


-- dave (, November 06, 1999.

Wasn't Mr. Way of IEEE making the point that the entire system needs to be tested. By testing individual sub-systems, many problems may be missed. I completely agree with the idea that the oil and gas industry is critical and deserves more discussion. I have been trying to compile a list of the most important posts over the last year or two, but they are not easy to find. I really appreciate the efforts of RC and others in attempting to gather what information they can.

-- Danny (, November 06, 1999.

I can confirm that there will be some missed chips and PLC problems down the road here shortly. At an API function I attended back in June, I was surprised to hear that most of the refiners (and BTW we had the entire domestic refining community well represented) were finding much less problems than they initially thought they would. The typical response I got was that 1-3% had to be replaced or had some serious problems. Interestingly this seemed to me to match what I had heard in articles etc.

Now when I dug a little deeper and found that a percentage of them weren't doing any IV&V I began to wonder how many were being overly optimistic. I am convinced that a signifigant percentage are going to miss problems due to sloppy work and no IV&V. Additionally, the oil industry has a bad reputation with IT. Most oil companies are run by guys that couldn't format their shoelace, let alone comprehend a complex system or subroutine. A database is something that they pay tens of millions of dollars to one of the big Vampire consulting firms for. Then they wonder why the fucking things don't work...funny thing is the vampire consulting groups hire nothing but nimrods with no practical experience....

Anyway if you put a gun to my head and asked me how I think we'll do here in the US, I'd say that we will initially lose 15-20% of our capacity to problems, however only 5-10% will require big fixes of three to six months. Again, I'm just some asshole with a guesstimate, but since you asked, and I happen to be an opinionated asshole, there's mine. Now, that's a hell of a lot of capacity to go boink at once. Ponder that for a while. Ponder 20% of US capacity down for a week.

It is my sincere hope that I'm wrong.

-- Gordon (, November 06, 1999.

I hauled gas and oil for a living to station all around MD,VA,Pa. and can tell you one thing. There was not a day that went by for three years that we couldn't get gas at one of the refineries (Exxon, BP, Shell, Mobil) because there was a computer problem. Those systems crash constantly even without Y2K problems. I believe you will see the rollover cause a few things. One will be more then double the output from the refineries due to stocking up (therefore, more load on an already stressed system) and then the roll-over problem on the embedded chips like the ones inside of the tank truck that control the amount of gas the driver loads or the card reader and the nozzle board that authorizes the load or the chip in the plug that hooks to the tanker for the overfill protection system. Fill up your gas cans and get used to going to work on your John Deere for awhile....

-- Greg (, November 06, 1999.

20 percent down for a week sounds good to me now, Gordon, after hearing about 60 percent down for 18 to 24 months...

-- Mara (, November 06, 1999.


I hate to agree with Flint since he has already warned me about an a attack [whatever that means], but you are saying that nobody knows. I can agree. Working with no information makes rational thought difficult.

Best wishes,,,,

-- Z1X4Y7 (, November 06, 1999.

Greg will it be ok if i come to work on my cub cadet, or better yet, i can get a ride with you , hook up the trailer!! yeee hawww!!!


-- mongo (, November 06, 1999.

Without knowing the type of testing, one would be guessing. Of course, that is what we are all doing, with the exception of those in the programming biz, who are knowledgeable about their little piece and extrapolating from that. (If my systems look to be doing good, then all others must be doing good also. If my are toast then, by definition, all others must be turning a dark brown too.)

With that stipulation, I'll take a swing at this. Bench testing, as the term was applied when I was doing embedded type work, implied generating an 'emulation' or 'bit box' to represent the physical system to which a particular controller might be connected. One of the things which was 'emulated' was the remainder of the 'controlling system components', i.e., other microprocessors or microcontrollers. And what got 'emulated' was 'normal', or standard, behaviour. (Typically, folks didn't go the 'extra mile' to represent fault conditions on the other controllers, assuming that they would be caught in the output validation routines.

Given this, the bench-tested units have been tested for their *own* susceptibility to a potential date problem, which means that they probably won't lock up on their own. But there is no guarantee that they aren't storing up data that is corrupt and represents a problem to send to the rest of the system. They may well be serving as a simple 'conduit' for such information and not care at all about it. In fact, while it is not common, occasionally no input validation on such is done at all, the expectation being that the controller that *does* care about this input will do the validation on it's side. Which, of course, is also being 'emulation tested', with this data represented as 'good' and valid. (And, before the flames begin, *OF COURSE* this is sloppy technique. And none of us has ever met a programmer who could be accused of such a heinous crime as sloppy technique.)

Anyway, this can be filed in the 'for what its worth' department. If the testing methodology was *very* rigorous, bench testing could indeed catch errors. I have seen it done. On the other hand, if it is not rigorous, it is, as was stated, essentially worthless, as there are entire classes of potential failure modes, (indeed, quite possibly the *most* significant failure modes), which are left untested.

-- just another (, November 06, 1999.


You did pull my quotes out of context.

Furthermore to clarify... there are smaller refineries with less embeddeds and there are some older refineries with less embeddeds... and some that are both smaller and older... but not all are necessarily both smaller and older. I also used a dozen because that is the number being kicked around by my contacts...the number may be lower or higher to some degree.

You also stated:

"OK I can certainly understand and support oil exec's decisions not to shut down refining units for 6 months, but isn't RC going overboard in contending this bench type testing is worthless? And just because RC's "correct, valid, thorough testing" wasn't practical, isn't it a stretch to assume these operations are toast (my words, not RC's).

My response:

As "just another engineer" has already stated the case regarding end to end testing... versus bench testing... bench testing is worthless because there are other integral systems in which no one knows what is going on with the black boxes and no schematics to work with to integrate. There are whole chunks of a refinery system that were essentially and gladly overlooked. This is why an oil company could get "ready" in 1999 but actually when going by the book...would have needed another 7/8 years to actually get "compliant." There's a reason for that view. Avoiding potentially severe problems.

It's really a numbers game of odds...and the odds are not good. You get much better odds at Vegas than you're getting for an optimistic oil scenario here with Y2K...but its not an impossibility, just darn near an impossibility.

It seems pointless for me to continue discussing this with you. The case has been made and you are simply arguing now because you wish to reject the conclusions. That is your prerogative. But rejection is not necessarily indicative of reality. There has been ample evidence and testimony presented. You're not getting the specific data you have asked for because its not pertinent the issues, nor is it reality.

Also remember when a refinery system goes down, it can trigger serious disruptions and imbalances on a production line that could lead to other systems failing (not related to Y2K as such) for reasons of overt stress created by a Y2K defaulted system...and thus its possible that explosions could result or the need for a shutdown... I'm also led to understand that these problems may persist even after a Y2K FOF... in other words other Y2K events may pop repeatedly again and again, or other unrelated issues may result from various other sudden shutdowns that are outgrowths of prior Y2K related shutdowns that stressed nonY2K related systems. So in other words, a refinery may be hobbling and barely able to produce any output for perhaps many days, weeks or even months. As stated before, weather in a given area may also play a significant factor both pro and con.

The bottom line is this... looking for testimonials of actual failures or testing results will not help you gain an accurate assessment of the risk as you would otherwise think.

Meanwhile, I've grown more pessimistic in the past 3 weeks after having been raked over the coals for falling into the trap of accepting bench type-testing as being valid. It's not, certainly not the way the efforts were carried out in locations where my contacts witnessed and work at.

-- R.C. (, November 07, 1999.

Does anyone know if any thought was given to setting all clocks ahead in selected refineries? I have no idea if that is practical, but I know some power companies have done that. FPL is one that I recall dling so.

-- Dave (, November 07, 1999.

Well, Downstreamer, there you have it; R.C. has spoken! How dare you solicit additional information?!

From the looks of R.C.'s June 27 thread,

Did some Polly's want names and proof that the oil industry is in trouble?

you may be a polly or a moron skeptic. The case has been made, writes R.C. Soooo, it must be pointless to go around digging for info. ;-) Jerry

-- Jerry B (, November 07, 1999.


I read the first post you made to this forum some months ago and I believe that you have genuine information from your frontline contacts (albeit anecdotal) about the status of the oil industry in this country.

Oil is by far my biggest concern and the one I can do least about preparing for.

That being said, I think Downstreamer is also sincere in trying to determine why he's not seeing any movement in the spot futures market. Everyone seems to be rational about so many other things, why are they not seeing the potential problems in oil?

I have the same concern with respect to the stock market. I don't understand why more people don't see how they could be adversely affected by several quarters of negative economic growth.

I'm a doomer who is hoping there will be no problems whatsoever. I just don't see it happening that way. But I do welcome other posts from those with first hand information about oil.

In fact, I'm surprised that Dog Gone isn't here yet.

-- nothere nothere (, November 08, 1999.

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