In The Increasingly High-Tech Oil Business, Cyber Security Is Becoming Essential

Some say it’s a recent shift – one companies have to make for long-term survival.

By Travis BubenikFebruary 27, 2017 9:30 am| , , ,

From Houston Public Media

For decades, drilling for oil and gas has involved a good deal of sweat, dirt and dangerous equipment.

But now, it’s increasingly going high-tech.

More and more companies are putting their data on the “cloud” and going digital in other ways. It’s good for the bottom line – but is it safe? That’s a question the industry is tackling as it considers the role of cyber security in the oilfield.

To understand where the oil industry is headed, you have to understand how far it’s come.

In 1942, a government educational film called “The Evolution of the Oil Industry” painted an almost romantic picture of how the earliest wildcatters looked for black gold: “enterprising oil men” who weren’t able to get their hands on steam drilling equipment built “ingenious but primitive” drilling machines. The documentary noted that drilling with these improvised devices was “painfully slow.”

Now, it’s a little more advanced.

“A lot of times we’ll go on a rig and they’ll have 10,000 sensors,” says Thanh Nguyen, Data Center Practice Manager at Accudata Systems, a Houston information technology company.

“For those 10,000 sensors, it doesn’t make sense to run a wire for each one, so we’re connecting it wirelessly.”

Oil and gas companies are increasingly investing in cloud technologies, mobile devices and the like. Buzzwords like “Big Data” and the “Internet of Things” are becoming key to how they make money.

Nguyen’s job is to help companies manage all that. He talks about one project for an offshore drilling company, one he says he can’t identify by name.

“They built an operations center off of I-10, they can see all of their rigs, all the flows going in and out of the environment on screens,” he says. “So they’re leveraging all this technology, giving them green, yellow, reds, really easy-to-see type of information in real time.”

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