Global power industry faces threats from ‘daily’ cyberattacks, warns GE

The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team has accused the Russian government of a ‘multi-stage intrusion campaign’ targeting the US energy grid. (Shutterstock)
Updated 13 June 2018
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Global power industry faces threats from ‘daily’ cyberattacks, warns GE

  • GE’s Justin Eggart: “There are some bad actors out there. We talk to customers every day and it is the fastest growing threat.”
  • Justin Eggart sees lots of opportunities in the Kingdom as it works to diversify the economy away from oil dependence under the Vision 2030 strategy.

ATLANTA: Daily cyberattacks on power plants around the world are one of the biggest issues the global energy industry faces, according to senior executives of General Electric, the giant US engineering conglomerate.
“There have been attempted attacks at virtually every customer site in the world,” said Justin Eggart general manager of GE’s thermal power division based in Atlanta, Georgia.
“There are some bad actors out there. We talk to customers every day and it is the fastest growing threat. We’ve never had a successful cyberattack on our operations here (in Atlanta), but some of our customers around the world have been impacted,” he said.
Christopher Held, engineering manager at the GE monitoring and diagnostics (M&D) center in the city, added: “We see people trying to hack in every day but they have never succeeded. It is something we take very seriously and have a big team working on it.” He added that attacks came from several countries, including Russia and China.
The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team in March accused the Russian government of a “multi-stage intrusion campaign” targeting the US energy grid with a campaign of cyberattacks stretching back at least two years.
GE is one of Saudi Arabia’s longest-standing industrial partners; there is a unit of the company’s M&D operation in Damman, opening in partnership with Saudi Electricity Company. GE also works with Saudi Aramco in industrial power generation.
Eggart said that he saw lots of opportunities in the Kingdom as it worked to diversify the economy away from oil dependence under the Vision 2030 strategy. “As the economy develops that will change the nature of power production and consumption, and we can help with that,” he said.
The Atlanta operation monitors the global power generation network GE runs around the world, as well as selling monitoring services to other manufacturers of power generation equipment, overseeing 946 plants in 76 countries.
Held said that the center processed one million pieces of information per second, and that there were about 60,000 alerts per year. Some 180 “major events” involving a total stoppage of power and costly damage to generating equipment were prevented last year, he said
M&D is one of GE’s fastest growing business streams, with 30 to 40 percent increases witnessed since 2016, similar growth rates projected in the coming years Eggart said that the power industry was facing “significant challenges” in addition to cyber threats, including the transition to renewable technology, lack of infrastructure in some parts of the world, and the need for new investment in aging plants and distribution grids.
He also criticized tariffs on imported steel and aluminum introduced by the Trump administration, noting that the move was driving up costs across GE’s business.
“We’re not supportive of tariffs, and would rather support free trade. Tariffs raise the cost of manufacture and we would rather not see them,” he said.


Libya’s National Oil against paying ‘ransom’ to reopen El Sharara field

Updated 14 December 2018
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Libya’s National Oil against paying ‘ransom’ to reopen El Sharara field

  • Ransom payment would set dangerous precedent
  • NOC declared force majeure on exports on Monday

BENGHAZI: Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corp. (NOC) said it was against paying a ransom to an armed group that has halted crude production at the country’s largest oilfield.
“Any attempt to pay a ransom to the armed militia which shut down El Sharara (oilfield) would set a dangerous precedent that would threaten the recovery of the Libyan economy,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla said in a statement on the company’s website.
NOC on Monday declared force majeure on exports from the 315,000-barrels-per-day oilfield after it was seized at the weekend by a local militia group.
The nearby El-Feel oilfield, which uses the same power supply as El Sharara, was still producing normally, a spokesman for NOC said, without giving an output figure. The field usually pumps around 70,000 bpd.
Since 2013 Libya has faced a wave of blockages of oilfields and export terminals by armed groups and civilians trying to press the country’s weak state into concessions.
Officials have tended to end such action by paying off protesters who demand to be added to the public payroll.
At El Sharara, in southern Libya, a mix of state-paid guards, civilians and tribesmen have occupied the field, camping there since Saturday, protesters and oil workers said. The protesters work in shifts, with some going home at night.
NOC has evacuated some staff by plane, engineers at the oilfield said. A number of sub-stations away from the main field have been vacated and equipment removed.
The occupiers are divided, with members of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) indicating they would end the blockade in return for a quick cash payment, oil workers say. The PFG has demanded more men be added to the public payroll.
The tribesmen have asked for long-term development funds, which might take time.
Libya is run by two competing, weak governments. Armed groups, tribesmen and normal Libyans tend to vent their anger about high inflation and a lack of infrastructure on the NOC, which they see as a cash cow booking billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues annually.