Blog Writing

Cyber Attacks on Oil and Gas Are Not New

If you are like me, the attack on the pipeline that caused so much havoc in the Eastern U.S. came as a complete surprise. What I did not know was that this is nothing new. Saudi Aramco has gone through this at least several times that we know of. Check out this interesting read from SHALE Magazine: https://shalemag.com/hackers-price-aramcos-data-at-50-million-on-the-darkweb/

Saudi Aramco, the oil mogul of Saudi Arabia, confirmed the high probability that one of its contractors was responsible for leaking company data-centered in a cyber-extortion plot involving a hefty $50 million ransom. Keeping the contractor’s name private for now, the company informed the Associated Press they recently identified a limited quantity of data held by contractors and released without permission. Saudi Aramco has also maintained a level of secrecy regarding the incident and has not revealed if the source of compromise resulted from hacking.

“We confirm that the release of data was not due to a breach of our systems, has no impact on our operations, and the company continues to maintain a robust cybersecurity posture,” said Aramco.

Threat Identified

Taking credit for the attack, ZeroX claims to have hacked and stolen data from Aramco’s network and its servers. Offering the sale of the information on the Darknet, the threat group, as well as Aramco, told BleepingComputer the attack was not of a ransomware nature.

The $50 million prospective data sale includes valuable information associated with Aramco’s refineries, personal information pertaining to approximately 14,000 employees, system specifications, price sheets, and internal analysis information. Additionally, IP address security has been compromised along with crucial Wi-Fi data. ZeroX informed BleepingComputer the group is currently in negotiations to sell the data to five potential buyers.

Prior Attacks

Saudi Aramco is no stranger to cyber threats and attacks. The infamous 2012 Shamoon malware attack proved staggering in effect and contaminated every computer found at the oil company. Hard drives were deleted, and the finishing touch included the burning of the American flag on computer screens. As a result, the company was forced to destroy over 30,000 computers and shut down its network. 

A joint venture, known as Sadara, between Aramco and Michigan-centered Dow Chemical Company found itself under attack in 2017. Computers were disrupted, which officials at the time predicted as another version of Shamoon. Lastly, 2018 brought havoc again when a Shamoon malware variant once again entered the arena. 

Remaining on Top

Much can be said involving Aramco’s business model after surviving the string of cyberattacks and yet still steaming ahead. Even with this latest attack, Aramco still reigns as a significant player in the global oil market. After trading ceased for Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holiday, the portion of Aramco that trades on Riyadh’s Tadawul stock exchange found itself at $9.30 a share. While that might sound subpar, the company is stickered with a value of $1.8 trillion, solidifying it as one of the most valued in the world.

Nick Vaccaro is a freelance writer and photographer. Besides providing technical writing services, he is an HSE consultant in the oil and gas industry with eight years of experience. He also contributes to Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and follows and photographs American Kennel Club field and herding trials. Nick has a BA in Photojournalism from Loyola University and resides in the New Orleans area. 210-240-7188 Nick@shalemag.com

Green: Step by Step
Blog Writing

Green: Step by Step by Melissa Nichols

Many of the largest oil companies, primarily those in Europe, seem to be competing for bragging rights. BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron and Total are the most vociferous of the bunch so far. I’ve already outlined BP’s plans for themselves and the world. If you would like to read about the recent BP Week, click here.

How to get green “step” by “step”

In April, Shell announced its steps for becoming net-zero by 2050. Without delving into their detailed report, those steps are as follows:

  • An ambition to be net-zero on all the emissions from the manufacture of all our products by 2050 at the latest
  • Accelerating Shell’s Net Carbon Footprint ambition to be in step with society’s aim to limit the average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with the Paris Agreement’s goals on Climate Change. This means reducing the Net Carbon Footprint of the energy products Shell sells to its customers by around 65% by 2050 (increased from about 50%), and by about 30% by 2035 (increased from about 20%)
  • A pivot towards serving businesses and sectors that by 2050 are also net-zero emissions

To me, these seem more like goals than steps. Perhaps in the detailed report they reveal the actual steps. But if it is anything like political campaigns, goals and steps are rather fluid terms.

Chevron announced on their website what they are doing now to go green:

  • $100MM pledged to the OGCI Climate Investment fund
  • $1B in carbon capture and storage project investments in Australia and Canada
  • $100MM committed to Chevron Technology Ventures to set up the Future Energy Fund launched in 2018
  • 85% reduction of methane emissions from Chevron’s U.S. onshore production operations since 2013

Total also announced their “steps” for the future. For those who have not heard of it, Total Energy is a major energy player, which produces and markets fuels, natural gas, and low-carbon electricity. The steps they have laid out are:

  • Net Zero across Total’s worldwide operations by 2050 or sooner
  • Net Zero across all its production and energy products used by its customers in Europe  by 2050 or sooner
  • 60% or more reduction in the average carbon intensity of energy products used worldwide by Total customers by 2050 – with intermediate steps of 15% by 2030 and 35% by 2040

Say what you mean and mean what you say

Again, these aren’t steps so much as goals. But are they attainable goals, and are they goals that can be taken at face value? A website called Inside Climate News answers at least the second question. “But many of the pledges are misleading and misrepresent how much the oil giants are changing,” the article says. “Most glaring is that none of the companies has committed to cut its oil and gas output over the next decade, the simplest and most reliable way — one might say the only way — to cut emissions, and a must if the world is to avoid dangerous warming. In fact, the stated net-zero ‘ambitions,’ as the companies generally call them, do not require that greenhouse gas emissions fall to zero at all. They rely instead either partly or largely on capturing or canceling out these emissions with unproven technologies and reforestation at a questionable scale.”

I both agree and disagree with the Inside Climate News writer’s ire. These companies are already not trusted by many simply because they are large companies and by others simply because they are fossil fuel companies. They aren’t going to win points from either group by using wordplay. If they mean net-zero via carbon capture, they need to man-up and come out and say so. 

I also disagree because it is illogical even to pretend to think that fossil fuel companies, large or otherwise, can just turn off the tap and have everyone continue to live the lives they have grown accustomed to. We can rely more on green energy, sure, but on a small scale. California is proving that point for us. What they can’t get from renewables, they get from Russia and neighboring states. Plus, planes don’t run on peddle-power. No matter the size of your hamster wheel, it’s going to take some jet fuel to get a plane off the ground. For renewables to be viable, they MUST work hand-in-hand with fossil fuels. They wouldn’t even exist without fossil fuels to create them. No, turning off the fossil-fuel tap isn’t the answer, and neither is the large oil companies’ green chest-beating. We need plain talk and common sense, and we need it now more than ever.

Originally published on SHALEMag.com