The IIoT has transformed the landscape of Asset Integrity Management for the oil and gas industry. By empowering owner-operators with the ability to interconnect a vast array of physical assets on one digital platform, IIoT facilitates improved productivity, profitability, inspection scheduling, and corrosion mitigation – all while significantly reducing the likelihood of asset failure. These benefits have been driving the increased adoption of digitalization in oil and gas AIM (Asset Integrity Management).
The new benefits of digitalization also come with new challenges. In the case of operational AI, that challenge is the security of inspection data. In order to protect the integrity of asset and inspection data, it is imperative that oil and gas operators take into consideration the potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses inherent within their AIM software and processes – and utilize the right tools to ensure that necessary countermeasures and safeguards are in place.
There are two facets to security in this industry: OT (Operational Technology), which refers to software (or hardware) that directly monitors and controls physical assets in the enterprise, and IT (Informational Technology) which deals more with overall information processing. For the purposes of this article we will focus on the OT aspect of oil and gas operations.
In the old technological climate, owner-operators would manually manage operational maintenance and equipment integrity using paper-based processes, Excel spreadsheets or monthly reporting cycles. In today’s era of digitalization, operators can deploy AIM software platforms that aggregate, centralize, store and analyze all data from disparate sources into one database. They can utilize intelligent data analytics such as RBI (Risk Based Inspection) and IOW (Integrity Operating Windows) to garner actionable intelligence from their data in real time, making it possible to stay on top of asset performance and adopt predictive maintenance before costly loss of containment or unplanned shutdowns occur.
The data from this software is stored digitally either in the cloud or in an on-premise database using the company’s own servers. Thus, the challenge becomes protecting the security and integrity of the data where it’s stored – ensuring no third parties can access or manipulate the information and protecting it from attack.
For oil and gas owner-operators, that risk can manifest in a multitude of ways. Incorrect data entry, access to and manipulation of data by an unauthorized user, storage of data on unprotected servers or databases or weak security processes that create vulnerabilities for the data to be altered or exposed to threat. Any of these can compromise the efficacy of the AIM program. The key to achieving the benefits of IIoT – optimized inspection scheduling, prolonged equipment life and fewer shutdowns – relies on the protection and security of the AIM data.
The best way to leverage technology is to seek out an AIM software that utilizes secure encryption, robust databases, and the option to host data either on-premises or in the cloud. While security experts had concerns about cloud hosting when the technology was in its infancy, these days it has become exponentially more secure – arguably even more so than on-premise servers. With automatic security controls in place, companies don’t have to invest the time and effort in protecting their on-premise data. There are fewer vulnerabilities to third-party access, no risks of physical access and better overall resiliency to threats such as natural disasters or fire. Additionally, the technology behind the cloud is always current and evolving automatically – unlike the manual process of updating and maintaining an array of physical hardware.
Advancements in AIM technology for oil and gas operations have led to the availability of software that offers securely encrypted cloud-based hosting. In fact, there are now field-based software tools that make it possible to conduct and manage asset inspections directly from the field via mobile tablet.
To ensure that your asset data is protected, seek out a software that provides:
- Robust database with secure encryption. This can be on-premises or in the cloud. Ideally, this should be an industry-standard database such as Oracle that professional DBAs can be hired to manage, audit and secure if on-site, rather than a proprietary system created by the AIM software developers.
- A designated security feature designed to control access to data, establish a hierarchy of user access designations and automate security countermeasures within the software. This feature should be fully customizable, allowing the operators to adjust security functions, user levels, etc., according to their unique needs and goals.
- Seamless regulatory compliance to all major regulatory industry codes (including ASME, API, OSHA, etc.). The software should be able to generate a customized report tailored to the specific industry standard with the click of a button – and securely retain all relevant data in a clear and transparent audit trail.
- Integration with Microsoft Excel. As the industry catches up with digitalization, there is still heavy existing use of Microsoft Excel by engineers in the field. However, leaving critical asset data in Excel leaves it vulnerable to access and manipulation. An AIM software with Excel integration can extract all of that data and lock it securely into the AIM database where it is protected from alteration.
- The ability to support Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.2, the current industry standard for secure connections which provides defense against exploits like BEAST, POODLE and DROWN.
- Mobile application with integration. The app should complement, connect to and seamlessly integrate with the larger AIM software – this helps mitigate data entry and human errors.
A quarantine feature for mobile asset inspection tools – one that places a hold on all inspection data received from the field so it can be thoroughly checked for quality assurance. Operators should also ensure that the AIM software selected comes with comprehensive support – this should include professional consultation and assistance with implementation, to ensure that the legacy data is properly sorted and populated; comprehensive training services to ensure that operators are aware of the most effective and secure methods for utilizing the software; and ongoing technical support to assist with, prevent and/or rectify any breaches or threats.
Image above courtesy of Metegrity
Oil and gas companies are regularly faced with many industry-specific issues to overcome. Such issues, including exploration and drilling, are often complex and intricate processes with many unique challenges to overcome. Data analytics can play a massive part in streamlining some of the most fundamental operations that are involved in the oil and gas industry.