The Best Measure of SCADA Success

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The Best Measure of SCADA Success

  1. 1. SCADA Success the Best Measure of Darwin Jayson Mariano With almost RM88 billion in assets, according to its 2012 Annual Report, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) is the largest electric utility in Malaysia and selected as the No. 1 “Electric Utilities in Asia” in the coveted Platts Top 250 Global Energy Company Rankings for 2013. Employing more than 33,500 people group-wide, the company serves more than 8.3 million customers Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Labuan and continues to provide reliable and efficient electricity services for more than 60 years now.
  2. 2. Aside from its people, TNB’s success can also be attributed to their investment in world-class infrastructure and top-notch systems and processes to support its growing network of customers. And one of the key systems right at the heart of TNB’s operations is SCADA. SCADA or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition is a type of Industrial Control System (ICS) that monitors and controls industrial processes that exist in the physical world. SCADA systems historically distinguish themselves from other ICS systems by being large scale processes that can include multiple sites, and large distances. When applied properly, SCADA can help industries eliminate the need for site visits by personnel for inspection, data collection, etc. The software tool enables real time monitoring of operations as well as make modifications to systems, troubleshoot and generate reports automatically. The end result is tremendous savings in time and money, not to mention enhanced operational efficiency, which could translate to increased revenue and profits for the company. However, implementing successful SCADA systems require detailed planning, not to mention massive investments of time, people and financial resources. In going about such a major undertaking, engineers and project managers have outlined the following ‘rules’ to observe during implementation and operations of SCADA systems: Choose your system wisely There are two main things that should be taken into consideration when purchasing a SCADA system: a) Which provider to opt for: legacy providers, historical reputation and peer preference are all factors that play a part in this; and b) Sector-specific needs: making sure that the system you choose is aligned to the requirements of your organisation and sector is key. Get network integration right Migrating from one system to another can often lead to significant downtime as well as data loss, damaged data integrity and inaccurate data transfer. In an oil & gas or petrochemical facility, such losses could be detrimental to consumers or potentially catastrophic, so making sure that integration is carried out efficiently and with contingency planning in play is vital. Prepare for environmental hazards If remote terminal units (RTUs) are based out in the open, extreme conditions will eventually take their toll. Improving the durability of SCADA equipment is paramount for regions such as Asia with scorching temperatures during the day, cold nights and abrasive and inhospitable conditions. For maximum performance, periodic maintenance should be carried out in-line with a 10 – 15 year equipment lifespan. Plan for replacement of obsolete units The obsolescence of integral parts of the SCADA framework is inevitable with the march of time and quick-fire advancements in technology, so having a replacement plan is a must to prevent loss of money and time. This downtime can also be minimized by initially selecting a SCADA package that improves usability, maximises flexibility and provides for future expansion.
  3. 3. Keep security threats at bay Computer viruses evolve quickly as their uploaders are diligent, and threat profiles are updated with frightening constancy. Having regular and thorough auditing strategies is one way to make sure that security threats are always in check and your SCADA systems are up to the task. Assess your vulnerability regularly Given the myriad threats that exist out there, it is still difficult to quantify exactly how vulnerable a SCADA system is to an attack. Assessments can be made to reduce the causes of vulnerability through threat simulation, and the most classic of these methods is the use of attack trees. An attack tree may be an extremely complex analysis of thousands of different potential pathways from root threat to attack completion, yet it would be impossible to cover all the possible routes, so running regular checks is absolutely necessary. Ensure interoperability without sacrificing security Many SCADA systems use their own dedicated and proprietary communication protocols as opposed to shared and open systems. Within wide-ranging networks, the interoperability of different systems is crucial to the smooth running of the framework as a whole. SCADA : A TNB Case Study For Tenaga Nasional, operational efficiency is clearly an important aspect of the business – and one that TNB is exceptionally good at. In an interview with Michael Khor, TNB’s Deputy Chief Engineer for SCADA, he explained the ‘indispensable’ role of SCADA systems: “SCADA systems bring significant value to organizations such as power utilities. It is the indispensable technology that enables the safe, secure and economic operation of the power grid. Together with the relevant suite of power applications, SCADA is typically utilised in the form of Energy Management Systems for transmission grids and as Distribution
  4. 4. Management Systems for the distribution system. The ultimate just-in-time supplydemand paradigm of power grids perhaps bring forth many folds of benefit, to more than justify the direct cost of SCADA ownership. There is significant contribution to the bottom line when operations are made more efficient, mistakes are reduced and costly blackouts are averted,” he explains. While the indispensable role of SCADA systems couldn’t be overemphasised, Mr. Khor also noted that threats, in relation to SCADA systems, continue to exist and should be managed on a regular basis. One of which is the threat on cyber security. “Cyber security should be viewed in respect to how it can potentially disrupt business continuity. Be it traditional hackers, careless or disgruntled employees, organisations need to recognise the multi-dimensional security threats from both internal and external sources. “The risks associated with these threats can be mitigated by, for instance, carrying out an assessment, which will provide the relevant directions and drive the strategies that will best address the threats. Having adequate security does come at a cost, in terms of procurement and also in terms of ownership. It certainly helps to procure from vendors that have incorporated security features in their design. Better still are vendors that get their SCADA system design security certified,” enthused Mr. Khor. In its 2012 Annual Report, TNB revealed that it “has completed the installation of the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system in 94% of its primary substations. All primary distribution substations are targeted to be equipped with SCADA by 2015.” If further reveals that “secondary substations in prime areas are also equipped with SCADA facilities.” The installation of SCADA across almost all primary substations gives TNB the ability to have monitoring and control capabilities in even the most remote areas. This enables “personnel at the control centres to restore electricity supply quickly in the event of an unscheduled power outage, thereby reducing the duration of outage as measured by SAIDI (System Average Interruption Duration Index). The table below indicates a significant reduction in SAIDI over the last two Financial Years. Voltage FY 2009/2010 FY 2010/11 % Reduction 33 kV 58.52 47.03 20% 22 kV 88.16 62.74 29% 11 kV 80.85 72.06 11% Source: Tenaga Nasional Berhad Annual Report 2012
  5. 5. TNB’s Michael Khor couldn’t have said it more simply: “Having an effective SCADA can be viewed perhaps as one of the more significant contributors to a power utility keeping the lights ON.” In its purest, most basic form, the best measure of SCADA success for utility firms – electricity, gas, water and telecommunications – is not tied to the number of installations done within a given period nor the percentage uptime per location/per quarter. It is essentially the ability of utilities to deliver the promised service to the consuming public in the most cost-effective and efficient manner. Learning how to achieve this goal using industry best practices as well as discovering the latest trends in SCADA implementation in your specific industries is absolutely crucial. SCADA : Interview with Mr. Michael Khor Q A Mr. Michael Khor, Deputy Chief Engineer - SCADA for Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) spoke to IQPC’s Darwin Jayson Mariano and discussed how exactly a power utility company like TNB, the largest energy and utility company in Malaysia, benefit from SCADA. Darwin Jayson Mariano: Please talk about some of the benefits of having a SCADA system in place to Tenaga Nasional Berhad’s operations. Michael Khor: SCADA systems bring significant value to organizations such as power utilities. It is the indispensable technology that enables the safe, secure and economic operations of the power grid. Together with the relevant suite of power applications, SCADA is typically utilised in the form of Energy Management Systems for transmission grids and as Distribution Management Systems for the distribution system. The ultimate just-in-time supply-demand paradigm of power grids perhaps bring forth many folds of benefit, to more than justify the direct cost of SCADA ownership. There is significant contribution to the bottom line when operations are made more efficient, mistakes are reduced and costly blackouts are averted. Essentially having an effective SCADA can be viewed perhaps as one of the more significant contributors to a power utility keeping the lights ON.
  6. 6. Q A Q A Q A DJM: Can you brief us on the key milestones of your SCADA Systems implementation? What are the important lessons learned along the way? Michael Khor: It is always quite important for the requirements analysis phase to start by considering user requirements, so that they can derive the optimum benefit when the new SCADA is implemented. Essentially the existing weaknesses are addressed while the best features are maintained. This is followed by translating these into specifications, followed by procurement; for us this is normally by tender. Later once awarded, there is need to agree with the proposed detail design and functional implementation. The acceptance tests in the factory and later on site are major milestones before the SCADA can commence commercial operations. Overall this is typically some 18 to 24 months from contract award. DJM: Can you talk about cyber security threats in relation to SCADA systems and what are the things that can be done in order to mitigate these threats? Michael Khor: Cyber security should be viewed with respect to threats that can potentially disrupt business continuity. Be it traditional hackers, careless or disgruntled employees, organizations need to recognize the multidimensional security threats from both internal and external sources. The risks associated with these threats can be mitigated by, for instance, carrying out an assessment, the analysis of which will provide the relevant directions and drive the strategies that will best address the threats. Having adequate security does come at a cost, in terms of procurement and also in terms of ownership. It certainly helps to procure from vendors that have incorporated security features in their design; better still are vendors that get their SCADA system design security certified. Consider too the vendors who have dedicated teams tasked to review security vulnerabilities and address these via patches or software revisions. DJM: In your opinion, what is the typical lifecycle of a SCADA System? Michael Khor: A while back, SCADA systems were like “married” to their hardware. Then it was not uncommon to consider upgrades after some 10 or even 20 years. While this is mostly no longer true, nevertheless the upgrade path remains much less simplistic than desired. SCADA systems comprise applications that typically reside on hardware developed for the increasing fast evolving IT industry. This implies an increasingly shorter hardware lifecycle. From a different perspective, consider the pairing of SCADA applications with operating system versions, which in a way dictates the choice of hardware. Consider also the typical 3 to 5 year procurement through implementation period. Thus to seriously attain even a 10-year upgrade cycle, the activities leading to the next upgrade need to commence perhaps almost back to back with the just completed upgrade.
  7. 7. Q A DJM: What are the key considerations in upgrading or replacing obsolete SCADA system? Michael Khor: Just like aging, obsolescence is unavoidable, but can be managed. In practice, some part of the SCADA is likely already to be superseded by newer versions the very first day the operators get to use it. As it would neither be practical nor economical to immediately replace any obsolete component, the strategy would be to manage such circumstances. A key consideration is the availability of support. Thus the so called drop dead upgrade by or replace by date is before end of support. It would also make sense today to select vendors that can provide an upgrade strategy or roadmap to steer through newer technology, in essence to as far as practical avoid being caught in the obsolescence trap. Unless absolutely required, it is thus better to avoid dependencies on proprietary technology or special customizations. Michael Khor, Deputy Chief Engineer – SCADA for Tenaga Nasional Berhad will be speaking at the 6th Annual SCADA Asia happening on 26-27 February 2014 at the Grand Millennium Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Discover the latest trends in SCADA implementation for Oil & Gas and Utilities and learn how to enhance security while communicating efficiently across a scalable SCADA network. Visit www.scadasummit.com Resources: Tenaga Nasional Berhad Annual Report 2012 (http://www.tnb.com.my/investorsmedia/annual-reports.html) Disclaimer: Please note that we do all we can to ensure accuracy and timeliness of the information presented herein but errors may still understandably occur in some cases. If you believe that a serious inaccuracy has been made please let us know. This article is provided for information purposes only. IQPC accepts no responsibility whatsoever for any direct or indirect losses arising from the use of this report or its contents.

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