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Cyber Security

How Cyber Security Helps to Transport Gas Safely Across the Continent

| Editor: Dominik Stephan

Today’s natural gas transmission and distribution systems are heavily dependent upon computer technology and SCADA systems to operate safely and efficiently
Today’s natural gas transmission and distribution systems are heavily dependent upon computer technology and SCADA systems to operate safely and efficiently (Picture: Honeywell Process Solutions)

Operating and maintaining a gas pipeline involves numerous safety concerns. Cyber security assessment is one of the solutions that helps to maintain safety parameters - especially when handling such explosive and flammable goods such as natural gas...

The pipeline organization, which was incorporated in the USA in the early 1900s, is one of the largest combinations of natural gas and electric utility companies. While large interstate natural gas pipelines may serve major wholesale users such as industrial or power generation customers directly, it is the distribution system that actually delivers natural gas to most retail customers, including

residential users.

A gas utility‘s central control center continuously monitors flow rates and pressures at various points in its distribution system. Sophisticated computer programs are used to evaluate the delivery capacity of the network and ensure that all customers receive adequate supplies of gas at or above the minimum pressure level required by their gas appliances.

Computers are the Backbone of Today's Gas Economy

Today’s natural gas transmission and distribution systems are heavily dependent upon computer technology and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems to operate safely and efficiently. For gas utilities, the challenges involved in ensuring effective cyber security are similar to those faced by bulk electric system and local power distribution providers, except that natural gas systems transport molecules, not electrons, and are equipped with safety devices, which are, in most cases, manually operable as federally required.

But all of these groups depend on communication infrastructures, computer technologies and people, to safely and efficiently transport the energy product to the end-user.

Risk Factors for Pipeline Operators

Designing, operating, and maintaining a pipeline facility to meet essential availability, reliability, safety, and security needs as well as process control requirements requires careful evaluation and analysis of all the risk factors. Attacks on a cyber system may involve only the cyber components and their operation, but those impacts can extend into the physical, business, human, and environmental systems to which they are connected.

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