We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Sun 12 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Passive discovery

Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) has achieved higher levels of security, by addressing not just active components but also the actual physical layer of cabling.

Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) has achieved higher levels of security, by addressing not just active components but also the actual physical layer of cabling.

Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) is one of the biggest exploration and production companies in the country of Oman. The company accounts for 90% of the nation's crude oil production, apart from nearly all of its natural gas.

Owned in partnership by the government of Oman, Royal Dutch Shell, Total and Partex, the company has worked from its inception, with the highest quality standards in mind, to achieve its goals.

We are an oil and gas company; our core business is not IT. What we need to do is make sure that we provide what the business needs and work in line with the business requirements.

"PDO finds oil fields and develops them into productive assets by drilling wells and constructing and operating hydrocarbon treatment and transport facilities. PDO develops and operates natural-gas fields and associated production systems. The company delivers gas to the government gas system, which supplies fuel for most of Oman's power stations and some industries, and to the Oman Liquefied Natural Gas (OLNG) plant," says Ali Al Lawati, head of IT infrastructure management at PDO.

According to Al Lawati, the information technology arm of the organisation undertakes its tasks with the business of the firm in mind.

"We are an oil and gas company; our core business is not IT. What we need to do is make sure that we provide what the business needs and work in line with the business requirements. Our aim is to serve these larger business goals. Whether it is major oil and gas development project or just maintenance work, we make sure that in the end the business terms are met. We work on value creation," states Al Lawati.

With a huge IT team to support the business, the firm has used technology in an intelligent manner to address requirements across remote sites, disparate offices and the main headquarters.

"We have a stringent evaluation process for every technology investment. We have a set of functional requirements. These include things like high reliability, scalability and security. Once we have this done, they are matched to the technical requirements. Both of these are used to evaluate the solutions that are offered by vendors to choose the one that fits the bill the best," states Al Lawati.

Keeping its unique nature in mind, the organisation has implemented and has been using a reliable LAN and WAN, supported by a leased line from Omantel, in order to enable PDO to stretch connectivity to remote oil wells and sites.

"Apart from this, we extensively use wireless infrastructure for our new requirements in remote sites. It is very quick to put in place, because we use wireless infrastructure in the field, and we can extend it as and when necessary for operations. This is especially helpful for rather quick deployments, which do not have very complicated needs. However, if there are requirements for high capacity and better reliability, then we connect these sites using fibre. For very big projects, we lay this fibre along with the oil pipeline, and for smaller oil wells we use wireless," states Al Lawati.

While the firm has many remote sites, it classifies eight major areas or connection points in Oman. These areas have small datacentres implemented, all of which are connected to the main one in Muscat.

"These micro datacentres serve mainly as intermediate points. All of these sites are connected via dedicated fibre through a leased line. Having our own facilities ensures that we are connected seamlessly with higher levels of security, and all the information flows into the control room and ends up in the headquarters. Engineers sitting here can then access and analyse the data, and provide optimisation solutions where necessary," states Al Lawati.

Apart from this, systems positioned in remote sites for monitoring oil flow and pressure, and controlling the same, are remotely managed, for better and faster resolution of any problems or issues.

The security game

For PDO, which processes data concerning existing wells, as well as information for finding new wells, complete security is of the highest concern.

"We have everything necessary for security including firewalls, IPS, IDS and security levels across routers turned on. We have had an effective security policy in place for over seven years now and all investments and usage is directed by this comprehensive policy," says Al Lawati.

Overview of LAN infrastructure

• PDO's headquarters are located in Muscat, which is connected to eight remote sites. All the locations have LAN. Services provided include voice, ATA (office, telemetry/SCADA, Control and automation), and video.

• The physical layer is operated and maintained by PDO staff located in the areas.

• The total WAN bandwidth is STM-1 (14Mbps). LAN in the headquarters is up to 1Gbit/s. LAN in interior locations is up to 100Mbit/s.

• More than 3000 users across the whole network.

• The backbone is based on fibre optic leased from local service provider (OmanTel).

Recently, the company started on a new initiative to increase security across its disparate oil and gas facilities.

"We felt the need to increase security across the network. This was because we had originally a mixed network connecting both office and process systems at oil and gas facilities. At the oil gathering stations, this would include everything from e-mail systems, to high-end servers for controlling the various elements of production and maintenance. All of them were working in a mixed network, a mixed environment with a mixed infrastructure," says Al Lawati.

"There was need to segregate these two areas into two separate networks and there was need for additional security across process systems. When we started to design the network, we looked not just at the active systems, but also the passive components. We wanted to ensure higher levels of security even with cable distribution," says Al Lawati.

The R&M project was started on a small scale in 2006, heavy implementation followed later in the year, and the entire implementation was completed early this year.

Al Lawati and his team started the search for a reliable vendor who could provide them with the necessary solution. After an arduous evaluation process involving several cabling vendors, the team picked R&M.

"There were two major specifications for the cabling solution. It would need to be an industrial solution, which can be implemented in harsh environments around oil wells. Normal office cabling is not really enough in some circumstances. Moreover, the cabling solution needed to address the essential security part. Both of these important criteria were only met by R&M in an effective manner," says Al Lawati.

According to Al Lawati, R&M's solution came with inbuilt security features covering sockets, design and components. The solution chosen from R&M included E2000 fibre solutions, Venus solutions for oil wells and E2000 UniRacks solutions, where E2000 9/125U solutions is being used for campus wiring and 62.5/125U for buildings.

IP67, which protects network connections from splashing water, dust and oil, is being used around the oil wells and refineries. Different levels of R&M's security system are being used by the organisation, including colour coding, key and jack systems.

The solutions were used in three sites, along with all the related sub-sites across Oman, and in some cases, Al Lawati explains, new cabling was laid, services routed and older cabling pulled out, in order to ensure that there was no interruption of work at the company's remote sites.

"We have taken the experience from this project and used it across some of our upcoming projects, which are on fibre. We are now standardising more based on the R&M project," says Al Lawati.

Paul Joseph Titus, VP of public networks for R&M MEA says that while the backend connections at PDO were provided with R&M's fibre solution, the inter-office cabling was done with copper, specifically a solution involving Cat6.

 The project was started on a small scale in 2006, heavy implementation followed later in the year, and the entire implementation was completed in the early months of 2008. According to Al Lawati, the company will look to use more R&M solutions across its office and remote locations in a mix to achieve higher productivity and efficiency from cabling solutions.

Other projects

Apart from this major cabling investment, the company has been involved in regular infrastructure and telecom equipment related upgrades.

"Storage is now becoming an area of growth, and we are looking into these solutions. But if you want to know where we spent the most last year, storage was not one of the highest, because we had a storage project implementation only a couple of years back," says Al Lawati.

He adds that most of the expenditure in IT last year went into setting up new projects or finishing up on the older ones. This is routine in the oil and gas business. Most of it was also spent on upgrading the telecom equipment in the company.

IT budgets in the company are based on five-year plans, though every year a budget is assigned based on the requirements for the specific annual plans.

"The business itself has corporate planning. Our plan is to work closely and align ourselves with the business planning group and see what the upcoming requirements are. And we also have divisions for particular functions. We talk to them and get their requirements. This could include anything from brand-new projects, to simply upgrading projects to keep providing existing services at the same level of quality," says Al Lawati.

Working with the business in mind, there is no doubt that there is very little chance of PDO's IT team failing.

A bit about PDO

Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) is the foremost exploration and production company in the Sultanate. It accounts for more than 90% of the country's crude-oil production and nearly all of its natural-gas supply. The company is owned by the Government of Oman (which has a 60% interest), Royal Dutch Shell (which has a 34% interest), Total (which has a 4% interest) and Partex (which has a 2% interest).

PDO finds oil fields and develops them into productive assets by drilling wells and constructing and operating various hydrocarbon treatment and transport facilities. PDO also develops and operates natural-gas fields and their associated production systems.

As part of its gas-production operations, PDO also supplies some 50,000 barrels per day of condensate (liquid hydrocarbons that condense out of natural gas) and about 200 tonnes per day of liquefied petroleum gas.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

For all the latest tech news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Real news, real analysis and real insight have real value – especially at a time like this. Unlimited access ArabianBusiness.com can be unlocked for as little as $4.75 per month. Click here for more details.