Information Transparency in the European Oil & Gas Industry

Jasmit Sagoo

Jasmit Sagoo

Jasmit Sagoo, Principal Systems Engineer, EMC Information Intelligence Group

Transparency (both regulatory and voluntary) is vital to any industry as it is the only effective way to keep all stakeholders, decision-makers and the public more informed about the realities of individual initiatives. This is no more important than in the oil and gas industry. Transparency can reduce environmental concerns or confusion that involved parties might have and ultimately reduce risks associated. This is nowhere more important than in contentious projects, such as those associated with fracking.

Information transparency is vitalFracking has the potential to revolutionise the supply of energy in the short to medium term and as such cannot be ignored. In the United States, shale gas has seemingly emerged from obscurity to become the main engine of economic recovery in the country. Meanwhile, Europe’s future gas supply has seldom been less certain. According to figures from Oxfam, Europe currently imports half of its energy, with Russia the top supplier for both oil and gas. Indeed, European countries paid more than £200 a person to Russian oil and gas companies last year.

Europe clearly needs a long-term solution to its energy needs and one that will allow it a measure of independence. On the surface, shale gas seems the perfect fit.

But many Europeans are not so sure. For some, the social and environmental impacts of fracking, the process by which shale gas is extracted, are too big a price to pay for a secure energy supply. Many Europeans worry that fracking will disrupt their local communities and bring with it mining techniques that may not be safe. There is a perception fracking could also cause gas to leak into the water table, potentially polluting potable water reserves. Though these contentions have yet to be proved, the worry remains.

Opinions on fracking vary greatly across EMEA. In France, Bulgaria and Romania fracking is illegal because their governments are concerned about the potential environmental impact. Other countries, such as Germany and the Czech Republic, are considering Continue reading

Where are the Dangerous Intersections of Information in Your Organization?

Joe Morray

Joe Morray

EMC Information Intelligence Group Worldwide Energy and Engineering Practice

In every town there is often one location referred to as “that dangerous intersection.” It Intersection 1could be a roundabout or just one yield sign on a road. But it’s the place where accidents always happen, and nobody is especially surprised.

The same is true in our energy and engineering organizations, except that these dangerous intersections can be even more difficult to distinguish. It’s only when combustible dust catches fire or there is an oil spill resulting from an outdated procedure that has not gone through a management of change (MOC) update.

Three Work Streams that Feed a Power PlantOnce you have identified the three work streams driving your organization (see my last blog), the next step is to uncover your onerous intersections. The third work stream, managing your Plant Information Asset™, is an appropriate place to begin.

Death, Taxes, and Regulations – True for Every Industry

Let’s look at a common activity among energy and engineering customers, which parallels many industries governed by regulations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Management of Change process instigates many sets of information and tasks. For virtually every activity that we perform in a plant that deals with safety related systems, we need to propose, document, implement, verify, update documentation, and advise personnel in order to adhere to OSHA regulations.

The lesson we have learned over and over again is that having a consolidated set of electronic information to flow through the third work stream of managing the Plant Information Asset is critical. It does not come from the CMMS system or the process control system.

The requisite information to support the third work stream includes plant configuration information (specifications, drawings, schematics, etc.), management of change documentation, procedures, training materials, and regulatory/licensing documentation. This information is often scattered everywhere, on paper, shared drives or not findable in the plethora of documentation, as our video aptly describes.

A Real-Life Example

A valve that is leaking needs to be replaced. The maintenance management system has alerted the maintenance supervisor to allocate repair time. And a contractor technician is called on site to implement the repair. Sounds routine?

Unfortunately, the technician has no access to electronic documents detailing the current valve configuration schematic and specification. Just an old hard copy of a repair manual was provided. Schematics for the plant are at a different location, too far away to transport to the work site on time.

Nonetheless, the work gets completed, and the maintenance management system documents that an update was made. However, all of the below information and procedures never made it to the rest of your work streams:

  • The newer valve model has a slightly different threshold pressure point than the former valves
  • The contractor technician learned, through trial and error, that two steps are required before valves can be installed, otherwise they won’t function properly
  • The change was never communicated to plant operators for review and sign-off on, and no advisement/training was completed regarding the changed operating procedure, all of which is typically required by OSHA

Imagine the safety hazard of running an oil refinery with the wrong valve pressure point information! Not to mention the regulatory fines and subsequent maintenance issues lurking in this scenario.

Plant operators thought they were maintaining the plant. They thought stop signs were enough to prevent accidents. But it takes knowing what information is flowing through your organization and how it interacts with your critical work streams before you can improve safety.

Where are the dangerous intersections in your organization? What people, processes, and technologies can you deploy to alleviate them?

When Taking a System Offline Is Acutely Unacceptable

Tom Broering

Tom Broering

Head of Americas Alliances and Channel Sales, Information Intelligence Group at EMC

Keeping enterprise-scale repositories online with minimal downtime to handle backups, data repair and recovery saves more than dollars, as Mike Fernandes, VP, Products, enChoice, can attest. Read his blog below to understand the truly critical impact of backup and recovery in today’s connected world, particularly in the highly regulated industries that EMC and enChoice serve.

When Taking a System Offline Is Acutely Unacceptable

Mike FernandesMike Fernandes, VP, Products, enChoice
Mike Fernandes has over 20 years’ experience in the technology industry encompassing the management of IT departments, online banking hosting centers, and B2B support organizations.

In life sciences, energy, financial services and just about everything else, compliance is the 800-pound government gorilla in the room. Following the rules has never been simple, but the often mind-boggling complexity of the process for regulatory audits, inquiries, inspections, and eDiscovery, plus industry-specific documentation requirements with all their associated demands and deadlines, makes it almost unthinkable to take a major system offline for any significant length of time.

Imagine the consequences if a major bank runs afoul of Dodd-Frank because of a glitch that interrupts the mandated capture and preservation of data at numerous points along the value chain. Now imagine the compounding of the pain when ordinary recovery processes, requiring a system shutdown, trigger permanent data loss or corruption.

At each stage of a drug’s development, the FDA watches everything from software systems to labeling information, all with strict guidelines for record retention and compliance. Violations can halt production, delay or deny an approval, and patients who need the drug, don’t get it, certainly not when they expected it. Data must be protected, and 24-hour or multi-day downtime windows for fixing problems is not an option.

NuclearFrom OSHA to FERC, operating an energy enterprise is a nonstop exercise in regulatory routines with little leeway. Non-compliance can lead to significant fines, business shutdowns, and a damaged reputation. Not to mention the lights going out.

Next-generation data protection software, like our CYA HOTBackup and CYA SmartRecovery solutions, appeal to organizations concerned with compliance issues, because they factor in the human cost along with the dollars. Having the ability to back up your ECM system without shutting down, without risk of data loss or corruption, cannot be underestimated. The capability to recover from operational incidents in minutes, with everything running, instead of after 24 hours or even days of system inactivity, is a game-changer, and it’s going to become equally attractive elsewhere.

We are exploring deployment possibilities in areas where the human cost of taking a system offline, even for a short time, is acutely unacceptable, and data loss, no matter how small, is intolerable. Judicial. Military. Corrections. Places where for obvious reasons, records cannot afford to go missing or get damaged, and slow, imperfect recovery can be disastrous. We expect broad acceptance as the benefits become apparent. Because so much is at stake.

How would a data disruption affect your compliance environment? Have you dealt with compliance violations brought on by corrupted or lost information? Let us know.

Three Streams that Feed a Plant

Joe Morray

Joe Morray

EMC Information Intelligence Group Worldwide Energy and Engineering Practice

Customers handle complex plant processes all day long. Yet many admit they’re not sure how to tackle plant information strategically across departments and locations. Our energy & engineering expert Joe Morray starts a blog series by pinpointing the main categories of content “powering” today’s energy plants.


Many of you might wonder what the heck this headline has to do with energy and engineering. Obviously, I’m writing about a different kind of plant (power, refining, etc.) and different streams (as in work processes and the flow of information).

A Plant’s Work Streams

A process or power plant represents a highly complex set of physical components, Power Plant and Streamactivities, and interdependent information, but I will argue that there are fundamentally
three work streams that require our attention. Defining these is important, allowing us to identify and map the information that feeds each one, and thus effectively navigate the streams. Two work streams are well known, with major systems available to address them:

  • Maintenance management and work order processing:  Fueled by information that helps plan and execute preventive and reactive maintenance activities, the information includes equipment details, tag information, and repair procedures. Information is typically maintained in a maintenance management or CMMS system.
  • Plant operations and the process control: This requires the vast data delivered by the plant digital control system and allows the efficient and safe operations of the plant.

There is a third stream which is enacted every day, though occasionally not distinguished from the two above:

  • The plant information management work stream, which we call the management of the Plant Information AssetThe requisite information to support these activities includes operating information (specifications, drawings, schematics, etc.), management of change documentation, procedures, training materials, and regulatory/licensing documentation.

The Third Work Stream

I have often seen the information for this third work stream spread across numerous repositories, shared drives, paper, and all forms of personal computers. Ther3 Work Streams that Feed a Power Plante is no consistent or current view of data, and thus there are significant implications to plant efficiency, safety, and compliance.

The lesson we have learned over and over again? Having a consolidated set of electronic information to flow through the third work stream is critical. And it does not come from the CMMS system or the process control system.

I’m Missing Information – Where Do I Start?

It’s helpful to first understand your plant’s position in the information maturity spectrum.  A good starting point is to compare yourself to the maturity model in this eBook.

In my next blog, we can discuss real-life examples of what is often overlooked if the third work stream is misunderstood or left unaddressed. We can also detail the many benefits incurred when maintenance management and content management applications work in synergy.

Regardless of your stage, align your applications and systems to span all three work streams and their related information sets. Any questions or comments? Share your feedback below.

Data Security, the Cloud and National Interests: Lessons from Indonesia

Martin Richards

Martin Richards

EMC Corporation’s Information Intelligence Group Senior Director of Energy Industry Solutions

Road Warrior Journal

Road Warrior Martin Richards visits Indonesia and discusses cloud solutions and data security.

Road Warrior Martin Richards visits Indonesia

The security of cloud-based data has been front and center of the news recently. A continuing stream of highly personal celebrity photographs, taken from Apple’s iCloud service and published on the public internet, has grabbed the world’s attention. This event serves to intensify the fears that big companies have when trusting their data and intellectual property to the public cloud. My travels around the world meeting with energy organizations give me the opportunity to see how this issue is viewed from a national perspective and highlight the many inconsistencies and misperceptions.

Ensuring Data Security with Legislation

On a recent trip to Indonesia, I met with a number of companies involved in running major capital projects and operating assets  in oil & gas, and energy production. Indonesian law states that data relating to these activities must reside on a data server in Indonesia. The same is true for many other countries including Brazil, Egypt, and China.

The apparent reasons for this restriction are twofold:

  • When participating in joint ventures, Indonesia wants to gain control over the asset data.
  • When dealing with data relating to energy assets, there is a data security risk, especially in a part of the world that is subject to regular terrorist attacks.

Indonesia believes that having this data within its boundaries and control lessens the risk of the data being accessed by unauthorized parties.  From the Indonesian government’s perspective, this makes sense and serves to protect Indonesian assets and intellectual property.

Global Teams Increase Quality, Efficiency and Complexity

Working with a network of suppliers ensures quality equipment, maximum efficiency and cost control on projects and operations.

However, the problem is that the increasing globalization of business, especially the energy industries, works counter to this logic. Companies such as Chevron and INPEX – both of which are deeply invested in Indonesia – operate as global organizations. Working with a network of suppliers that are sourced from all parts of the globe ensures they get the best quality equipment and the maximum efficiency and cost control on their projects and operations. Improved quality and efficiency benefits Indonesia. In fact, joint ventures with companies from more developed countries are driving projects in Indonesia and other developing nations.

A report produced by the Business RoundTable, a US-based association of leading CEO’s, neatly summed up the paradox in Indonesia’s position:

“When governments impose blanket restrictions on trade such as local data server requirements, they fight the battle for economic growth with one hand tied behind their backs. … When trade barriers disrupt the free flow of lawful information, they can result in a slowing of technological innovation and prevent companies from offering certain products and services, consequently dampening economic growth.”

During a recent trip, I was fortunate to be able to discuss these issues with representatives from the Indonesian government. It appears there are now grey areas that may allow data to be more effectively managed. The scenario we discussed was using a secure, public cloud, hosted service for supplier collaboration, EMC Supplier Exchange, which integrates with a system to manage their project documentation and processes, EMC Documentum Capital Projects. The master project documents would be stored in the management system within Indonesia; however, documents that need to be shared with the global suppliers would be transferred to the supplier collaboration space. These documents are available in the public cloud, but they remain accessible only by designated companies and individuals. Because documents are encrypted while being transferred and encrypted when stored within the cloud solution, the security risk of storing documents outside of the corporate firewall (and, in fact, the country) is minimized. To assure all parties of that the proper processes and precautions are being followed, all activities performed within the cloud solution are fully audited.

So the question to the Indonesian authorities is, “Does the use of this public cloud solution constitute an illegal act?”

Using a secure cloud solution provides improved protection compared to email, while fostering extended collaboration between project teams.

The current practice is to email documents from Indonesia to suppliers. This happens hundreds, if not thousands of times each day on a major project. Using email, data clearly leaves Indonesia, has very little security or audit control, and can be emailed to anyone anywhere in the world. It was clear to everyone involved in our discussion that using a secure cloud solution actually provides improved protection for Indonesian data and interests compared to email, while fostering extended collaboration between project teams.

Going forward, it is essential that the very real concerns of data governance and national laws are reconciled before the benefits of the cloud can be fully realized.

Has your organization reconciled data governance and the desire to collaborate using cloud solutions? Share your thoughts and experiences below.

Intrigued with this road warrior? Catch up on his other journal entries: