Refinery problems (Cross-post from GICC) : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

All of the following thread is from GICC:

"Refinery problems" figure into soaring gasoline prices : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

9:05 AM - May 26, 2000 CST "Refinery problems" figure into soaring gasoline prices

From Pro Farmer

We're posting the daily AP commodity roundup below because there's a quiet zinger tossed into Dave Carpenter's comments about gasoline price rises: "problems at refineries" figured into concerns about gasoline prices. Our sources suspect that many of these persistent problems trace back to old process controllers with embedded chips -- which were time sensitive and never replaced during the petroleum industry's massive effort to retool for Y2K -- Year 2000 -- rollover. Although those concerns are largely forgotten, they're not really gone.

A significant fraction of the processors used on assembly lines and process control equipment were stock items which depended on Y2K-sensitive timing logic. Although nobody's focusing on Y2K specifically, these bugs are now cropping up, seemingly at random, causing occasional hassles and chipping into production-line efficiency. That's especially significant in oil refining, which is now crowding its maximum effective capacity. Just a few percentage points of lost efficiency can mean a substantial jump in price. Gasoline prices, like pork prices, are fairly "inelastic:" A 1% shortage raises the price substantially more than 1%. Here's the AP commodities report:


Associated Press Online // By Dave Carpenter

Unleaded gasoline prices zoomed higher Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, pushing to nearly a nine-year high on the eve of the U.S. summer driving season, which traditionally begins this weekend.

Natural gas futures and crude both joined the bull market for energy products -- natural gas hitting its highest levels in four years, crude its priciest in nine weeks.

In other commodity markets, gold futures tumbled and so did prices for America's top two crops, corn and soybeans.

Gasoline futures topped the $1-a-gallon mark and pushed to within a penny of the nine-year high of $1.025 set in March, just before OPEC countries raised production. Gasoline for June delivery settled 3.19 cents higher at $1.0121 a gallon.

The latest surge comes just as demand is expected to start soaring on Memorial Day weekend, when American motorists hit the roads en masse. Thirty-four million people are expected to travel 100 miles or more over the weekend.

``It's reality setting in,'' said Phil Flynn, energy analyst for Alaron Trading Corp. in Chicago. ``Traders are realizing we're coming into the summer driving season with the tightest supplies in years.

``We're really in a situation where refiners are going to have to refine at a 97 percent clip just to keep up with demand,'' he said.

The latest figures from the American Petroleum Institute, released Tuesday, showed refiners operating at 94.5 percent of capacity last week.

Two other factors buoyed the gasoline market Thursday.

Specifications for reformulated gasoline, a cleaner-burning brand of fuel that represents about a third of the nation's supply, are changing at retail pumps as of June 1, now less than a week away. Refinery problems also exacerbated concerns about low supplies.

Valero confirmed that a sulfur plant at its 80,000 barrel-a-day Houston refinery experienced an unplanned shutdown Thursday. And Venezuela's state oil company was reported to have shut down a 90,000 barrel-a-day facility at its Amuay refinery for 30 days of routine maintenance.

June natural gas rose 16.3 cents to $4.236 per 1,000 cubic feet amid doubts that storage facilities will be replenished by next winter.

July crude settled 58 cents higher at $30.51 a gallon after peaking at $30.55. Also, June heating oil rose .58 cent to 79.09 cents a gallon.

In London, July Brent crude from the North Sea rose 58 cents to $29.19 a barrel on the International Petroleum Exchange.

Gold prices slid in what market watchers described as a technical slide. Dealers said buying interest has dried up in the wake of Tuesday's British gold auction, which produced lackluster results.

June gold settled down $3.10 at $270.70 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Merc.

Soybean prices dove after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called for a significant reduction in drought conditions in the western Midwest.

Most of the Midwest is expected to receive 1 to 3 inches of rain in the next five days, with the hardest rains falling on the center of the worst-hit drought area. Three to five inches of rain are forecast for eastern and southern Iowa.

July soybeans fell 15 cents to $5.27 1/4 a bushel.

-- Martin Thompson (, May 27, 2000 ________________________________


The story about the connection between the refinery outages and embedded chips will be the Y2K story of the year.

-- spider (, May 28, 2000.


Here is a related article from IEE:

The Institution of Electrical Engineers

The Millennium Problem in Embedded Systems

Embedded Systems Fault Casebook (May 1999)


Equipment Type DCS

Industry Sector Oil & Gas

PC or Computer based No

System Age 6 years

Application DCS control system control for petrochemical plant

Description of the Problem Online rollover to Year 2000

How was it Identified During testing. Offsite testing on a testbed was performed with satisfactory results. Upon testing of stations on site, control was no longer possible after the system had rolled over to Year 2000. It was not until this problem was evident on three of the four operating stations was testing aborted.

What was the Solution No known workaround. Plant had to be operated from one station until problem could be rectified

Consequences for the SYSTEM System Stops

Consequences of failure to the BUSINESS Near catastrophic. Limited reliability and operability of plant. Reduced production

The Institution of Electrical Engineers

-- spider (, May 28, 2000.


Martin: Thanks so very much for the post.

Thanks, Spider, for the IEE material.

I am attaching an excerpt from a report of the International Energy Agency that serves as a perfect complement to your posts.

FORWARDED MATERIAL (This material was posted on the web in May of 1999. The actual report may predate that posting.)

Oil Refineries Are at Risk, Says IEA Report


Refineries are by design highly complex relying heavily on computers for smooth operation. An extensive survey of a refinery in the UK identified 94 systems requiring investigation for Y2K compliance. Of the systems assessed it was found that three would fail and that two of these three failures would cause a shutdown.

Attempting to trace even a small number of potential Y2K problems at a refinery is undeniably a major undertaking.

Refining is but a part of the general problem facing oil companies trying to address Y2K issues. It is a technologically intensive industry and companies are likely to operate myriad date sensitive integrated systems.

Embedded processors are the main source of this sensitivity and are found in devices such as flow meters, transmitters and smart valves. They are found throughout the oil industry and in all sectors, including drilling platforms, production platforms, pipelines and process plants. In the case of process plants, the devices containing embedded chips are interconnected, making the problem even more complex and increasing the possibility of Y2K failure.

A pilot inventory and assessment of a catalytic cracker and co-generation plant in the US revealed 1,035 systems of which 21% were not Y2K compliant and 6% that would lead to serious plant shutdowns or reduced production capabilities. The catalytic cracker would fail, rendering the refinery incapable of making gasoline. Given the widespread use of catalytic crackers in modern refineries, questions must inevitably be raised about their reliability in other refineries. For the co-generation plant 19% of the hardware, 36% of the software and 24% of the custom code was found to be non-compliant.

In late 1997 one oil companys engineers testing valve control equipment in their refineries discovered thousands of terminals controlling the dispensation of oil to have microchips with Y2K problems. All of the chips required replacement, however it was discovered that the replacement chips would not fit on the existing motherboards. It was therefore necessary to order both new chips and motherboards. Worse still, the replacement motherboards were found not to fit the old valves so the valves themselves had to be replaced. This example demonstrates how a Y2K problem can escalate beyond the original fault to include systems that may actually be compliant. An items Y2K compliancy is therefore no guarantee that its replacement will not be necessitated by problems arising in other equipment. End of forwarded material

-- Paula Gordon (, May 28, 2000.

[End of forwarded GICC post.]


-- Paula Gordon (, May 28, 2000


The Dave Carpenter AP article is here.

-- News (
from@the.wires), May 28, 2000.

The idea that Y2k "problems" at refineries are having an economic impact is ridiculous.

The above cited article only refers to "refinery problems" in a general sense, and no mention is made of Y2k. The two examples, a refinery with an unplanned outage and another with a planned maintenance outage, have occurred and continue to occur in the energy industry, regardless of Y2k.

The embedded issue died some time around January 3 of this year. The IEA site quoted had this to say (

"By noon Paris time, ...the IEA had yet to record a single serious instance of disruption in the world's energy system."

Refineries and electric power plants are very similar as it relates to the Y2k issue--use of DCS's with transmitters. Because of this, the two industries worked together on the Y2k issue, and the results were the same: VERY FEW IF ANY SHOW STOPPERS. I have talked IN PERSON to Y2k project managers from Chevron and Texaco (Texaco since the rollover), and their reports were the same. No serious problems anywhere. No refinery shutdowns. NONE.

Anyone who tries to suggest that embedded problems could "linger" throughout the year has a serious technical deficiency about the subject. The rollover demonstrated this beyond any shred of doubt.

Paula, we've asked you before, and I plead with you again, to STOP THIS NONSENSE.

-- Dan the Power Man (, May 28, 2000.

The AgWeb can be found for the time being at this link.

-- News (from@the.wires), May 28, 2000.


Thanks for providing the link.

-- Paula Gordon (pgordon@erols. com), May 28, 2000.

The latest figures from the American Petroleum Institute, released Tuesday, showed refiners operating at 94.5 percent of capacity last week. Um, guess what Paula, operating at 94.5% capacity is as good or better than last year, those y2k bugs must be helping at this point, lol.

The problem is one of supply and demand and reserves, not y2k. "Pro Farmer" needs better sources, and so do you. For the topic of oil and gas supplies, may I suggest a source a little more credible:, May 28, 2000.

Energy Information Administration

Now Paula, you are a riot and I love ya, but hey, reality is knocking hard, you may want to crack the door and AT LEAST TAKE A LOOK FOR GOD's SAKE! :)

-- FactFinder (, May 28, 2000.

Paula Gordon:

Good show but no sale. You are a disgrace to any academic community that you associate with. A review by peers at GWU might be in order if you continue to make a jerk of yourself.

Now you are just trying to "keep your name in play". But, you continue to make a total fool of yourself in public.

A Ph. D. degree presumes that someone has enough education to know when to KEEP HER MOUTH SHUT OUT OF HER OWN FIELD. Even Gary North began to modify and waffle his Y2k views long before 1/1/2000.

You continue to use old data that was never information much less "knowledge".

You have proven you are a totally IGNORANT ASSHOLE about technical matters without the common sense to let this big judgement error on your part simply be forgotten.

Many gave you the benefit of the doubt because it was assumed you were grossly mislead by people like Lord Dumbo of the Navy Papers, Dr. Markie who should have stayed in his field of Quantum Physics and Michael Harden who should have known better.

In fact, the only bigger asshole than you re: Y2k matters was Ed Yourdon.

You make a lovely couple.

-- The Shadow (, May 28, 2000.

So Paula Gordon has posted all these words on THREE different threads so far, but in each case they say the same thing:

Paula has found NOT ONE documented refinery y2k bug that wasn't fixed. Anywhere.

Thanks, Paula, but we knew that already.

-- Flint (, May 28, 2000.

Thank you, Ms. Gordon, for your persistence in demonstrating the courage of your convictions and professional conclusions -- even after ALL the Y2K fans have left the stadium.

Also looks like you beat a few cooties out of the upholstery. How a simple news article merits such spleen is beyond me ..... I guess when Sec. Energy Richardson questions the reliability of the grid as "antiquated" and "outmoded', it's one thing; but the idea of having a GIRL come in and question the TINKERTOY infrastructure for oil refining .... !! AAAagh!! Brickbats for her!



-- (nuts@upina.cellrelaytower), May 28, 2000.


What the cooties are pointing out is that she hasn't found a single bug. Maybe she'd be better off abandoning what didn't happen and concerning herself with a genuine problem of some kind? Maybe she'd realize this if she knew what she was talking about? Just a suggestion.

-- Flint (, May 28, 2000.

I find it interesting that Paula can come back to this thread to thank somebody for a link, yet remains mute to the comments of Dan (and FactFinder and Flint and The Shadow and the others). Hmmm.... Could make a person wonder if she can't come up with anything at all in defense of her position. Is that the case, Paula?

-- CD (, May 28, 2000.

I don't expect we'll ever see 'proof' one way or another about whether there were y2k glitches in the oil industry. I tend to doubt there were any of significance.

Still, I do appreciate being able to hear alternative points of view. I don't see the harm in being able to read the opinion of the pessimists on this matter.

-- Read all points of view and be slow (to@form.opinions), May 28, 2000.

Silly "nuts", Cherri at TB2000 was my biggest ally in shooting down Paula's fluffballs, and she was a "gurlllll", lol. Paula wouldn't know an embedded system if it smacked her upside the head, and there have been NO reputable reports of shutdowns of oil refineries DUE to y2k problems. We also dismissed Yourdon, Hyatt, etc., and they were "guuuyyyyssss".

Lame. Try again, you're simply "nuts"! lol.

-- FactFinder (, May 28, 2000.

Ah squirrel looks like youve put your paw in your mouth again. Ill second the poster above that has told Gordon what a disgrace she is to herself, GWU, and common truth in general. Now isnt it time for you to cover up your nuts?

Andy Ray, please give us a little history on this shameless woman that would BS her way through grant after grant. The crime of it all is there are actually people that buy into this crap.

-- Ra (tion@l.1), May 28, 2000.

Ra, "Andy Ray"??? lol, wrong. I am 99.9% sure I know who the Shadow is, and it isn't Andy Ray. On the other hand, I am only 50% sure I know who Andy Ray is ;)

-- FactFinder (, May 28, 2000.


I was not suggesting that AR is the Shadow. Just asking for Andy to give us his teal review of the Gordon Follies.

-- Ra (Tion@l.1), May 28, 2000.


I think academic denial is like military denial only different. The military denyer can look you straight in the face and deny you're there. The academic denyer perfers to look right through you and *pretend* you aren't there. The military types are following orders, while I think the academic types actually believe you're not there if it doesn't fit their grant proposal.

When your thesis lacks so much as a *rumor* of plausibility, despite months of hard arm-waving, you start to cross over from looking dumber than sand to looking like an exposed fraud. And how does an academic career survive such insanity? I suspect many academics are in this same boat and it's a form of logrolling -- I'll pretend you're not an idiot if you'll pretend I'm not.

At least those of us who face the choice know better than ever to hire a graduage of GWU. They've obviously abandoned any pretense of intellectual integrity. Pity their students.

-- Flint (, May 28, 2000.

Sorry Ra, I misunderstand your post, it was pretty clear the second go around!

-- FactFinder (, May 29, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ