SAT/Enron/Gartner : LUSENET : Millennium Salons : One Thread

Author: David Fletcher

Email: Date: 1998/09/04 Forums

SAT is a Vienna, Austria based supplier of highly complex solutions for distributed control of power and transportation systems. One such system controls the flow of all fuel from the Adriatic to Austia. They have installations across Europe and in the US. Here is a list of automation for a typical process (this one for pipeline control)  teletransmission of measured values, binary information and commands from and to the remote control centre  avoidance of unallowable pressures through selective disconnection of pumps and monitoring of pressure gradients along the pipeline  pressure-drop and flow-change monitoring in the stations  leakage detection and simulation of leakage detection (working together with the master computer)  tank-level and tank-temperature data acquisition  valve control  monitoring and control of the high-voltage installation in the tank farm area  uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for the stations  automation of the emergency diesel generators  command management  automation of pig traps  sampler control  station coupling for disconnection on unallowably high pressure

Special Features

 Serial interfacing with other systems: - AEG Geatrans 1100- H&B controller over Modbus - SAAB tank-level radar over Modbus - SAT 210 telecontrol system in Lannach - AEG IFS6 radio relay monitoring system

SCADA systems and other control systems are all vulnerable to Y2K failures. My question is: how many potential failure points would there be in a system like this. One of our local water districts that services a population of only about 8,000 people found many failure points when analyzing their SCADA and associated data collection and control devices. SAT has not given a lot of Y2K information other than that their systems could have a lot of problems and that they are willing to offer a "millenial evaluation" (text is below). Their site has many interesting examples of the complex systems that support our modern society:

Here is SAT's statement regarding the Year 2000:

"The "millennium bug" has constituted a threat ever since information technology was introduced to companies. It is rooted in the use of only two digits for displaying the year and calculating date-related data.

Related effects can also occur in systems which are equipped with SAT products. Possible causes may be identified not only in the linkage to external systems or bought-in hardware and software components, but also to a lesser extent in SAT's own software components.

However, due to the complexity of the issues involved, reliable diagnoses concerning the "millennium stability" of any existing SAT system can only be provided by examining the system configuration in question. Therefore if you so require, we are prepared to offer you a "millennium examination" for your system."


Corp description from the Hoover site:

Enron, the #1 buyer and seller of natural gas in the US, also builds and manages worldwide natural gas transportation, power generation, liquids, and clean fuels facilities. Although most of its business is in domestic gas operations and power services, Enron focuses on emerging markets with power plant and pipeline projects (Bolivia, Brazil, China, and Puerto Rico). It also operates a natural gas pipeline in Argentina, markets gas in Europe, and has oil and gas exploration and production units. The company is seeking to take advantage of the increasing deregulation of the electric power market and become a major player in this field. Enron has acquired giant electric utility Portland General.

Enron Oil & Gas is an independent oil and gas company engaged in exploring for, developing, producing, and marketing natural gas and crude oil. The company operates in major production basins in Canada, India, Trinidad, and the US. Subsidiary Enron Oil & Gas Marketing negotiates short- and long-term sales contracts with third-party producers, pipelines, and other marketing companies. Enron has net proved natural gas reserves of four trillion cu. ft. and net proved crude oil, condensate, and natural gas liquids reserves of 78 million barrels. Energy company Enron Corporation owns 55% of the company's outstanding common stock.


SEC disclosure date 8-14-98, find at Yardeni site or the Edgar Database

(I've edited this down because it is quite long, well worth reading in full, but want to hit what I discern as the highlights)

Enron`s Board of Directors has been briefed about the Year 2000 problem generally and as it may affect Enron. The Board has adopted a Year 2000 plan (the Plan) covering all of Enron`s business units.

Enron is implementing the Plan, which will be modified as events warrant.

Under the Plan, Enron will continue to inventory its computer hardware and software systems and embedded chips and software; assess the effects of Year 2000 problems on all Enron enterprises; remedy those problems to the maximum practicable extent; verify and test the systems to which remediation efforts have been applied; and attempt to ameliorate those aspects of the Year 2000 problem that cannot practicably be remediated by January 1, 2000, including the development of contingency plans to cope with the consequences of Year 2000 problems that have not been identified or remediated by that date.

The Plan also recognizes that the computer, telecommunications, and other systems (Outside Systems) of outside entities (Outside Entities) play a major role in the conduct of Enron`s business. Enron does not have control of these Outside Entities or Outside Systems.

Enron and all its business units are in the process of completing preliminary assessments of Enron`s Year 2000 problem, and Enron`s business units are at various stages in implementation of the Plan.

From a forward-looking perspective, the extent and magnitude of the Year 2000 problem as it will affect Enron, both before and for some period after January 1, 2000, are difficult to predict or quantify for a number of reasons. Among the most important are the difficulty of locating all software internal to Enron that is not Year 2000 compatible, as well as "embedded" chips that may be in a great variety of hardware used for process or flow control, environmental, transportation, access, communications and other systems. Enron believes that it will be able to identify and remediate mission-critical internal computer systems and systems containing embedded chips and will have contingency plans to deal with these systems. Other important difficulties relate to the lack of control over, and difficulty inventorying, assessing, remediating, verifying and testing, Outside Systems connected, and vital, to Enron`s computer, telecommunications or other mission- critical systems; and the unavailability of certain necessary internal or external resources, including but not limited to trained hardware and software engineers, technicians and other personnel to perform adequate remediation, verification and testing of Enron systems or Outside Systems. Year 2000 costs are difficult to estimate accurately because of unanticipated vendor delays, technical difficulties, the impact of tests of Outside Systems and similar events. Additionally, there can be no assurance for example that all Outside Systems will be adequately remediated so that they are Year 2000 ready by January 1, 2000, or by some earlier date, so as not to create a material disruption to Enron`s business. If, despite Enron`s diligent, prudent efforts under its Year 2000 Plan, there are Year 2000-related failures that create substantial disruptions to Enron`s business, the adverse impact on Enron`s business could be material. Moreover, the estimated costs, referred to above, of implementing the Plan do not take into account the costs, if any, that might be incurred as a result of Year 2000-related failures that occur despite Enron`s implementation of the Plan.



Ok folks, one can assume that the info in the SAT post and pages are fairly universal within any complex pipeline system. Enron is doing Assessment, yet look at how much they enter so many of our lives. Even if you don't get gas directly from them, chances are that some of your food is touched by their energy.

Then come the Garter Report from a couple of weeks ago. A fairly good report, until they address embedded systems. This part of the report completely flies in the face of all I've been reading for months now, and Gartner doesn't back up their view. They indicate that embedded systems problems will be minor, yet, think back... The VP of GM saying that the ES on their mfg floor spell catastrophy for GM. Then what about the OilCo. that tested and every valve and its controlling mechanism had to be replaced in the whole refinery? What about the headline just from this week say that intravenious (IV) pumps can fail because of ES? What about all that ES stuff on the Shell Oil pages, especially in ref to Ocean Drilling Platforms? Then what about the thread of a couple days ago on csy2k where someone pointed out that ES failures could trail out over years because some clocks only advance when the systems is powered?

Yet Garter assures us that ES will be a minor problem. I guess that must make Y2k software problems bigger than even I regularly contemplate, in order that ES are no big problem.

Ciao, mitch

-- Mitchell Barnes (, October 15, 1998

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