Feb 18, 2014

Keeping the energy grid safe from hackers

3 min
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By Adam Groff

With cyber-attacks affecting just about everyone equipped with a computer, it's no surprise that even utility companies are victims of hacking.

But, keeping the power grid safe from hackers is more complicated than anti-viral software, especially considering the grid stretches from shore to shore.

Here are just a few ways cyber-attacks affect utility companies as well as ways utility companies can fight back:

Why are utility companies so vulnerable?

Utility companies don't store detailed customer information on their networks, so hacking threats aren't a huge concern in terms of customer identity theft. That said, cyber-attacks still wreak havoc on the power grid due to the ease of infiltration.

Why is it so easy for hackers to break into utility networks and thus the power grid? For starters, the size of the power grid makes it highly vulnerable to attack. Because every city has its own utility installation that feeds into the main grid, attacks are harder to detect and once they are detected, it's usually too late.

Likewise, hackers infiltrate networks for many different reasons, one of which is to create widespread chaos on a digital level.

What attracts hackers to the power grid is the idea that an attack and disruption of the power supply could cause chaos for millions. Because of this, stopping cyber-attacks by combating big data skills, concerns utility companies on both a regional and national level.

What does hacking affect?

There are a number of ways cyber-attacks affect utility companies and the customers they serve.

Power disruption is definitely a concern, but there are other factors to take into consideration when power companies are targeted, including:

• Infrastructure Failure - U.S. cities live and breathe on the electricity that the power grid provides. If hackers are able to take down the power grid, the infrastructures of even the largest cities in the nation would collapse almost overnight.

• E-commerce - Among other catastrophic consequences, a disruption of the power grid due to a cyber-attack would also disrupt Internet service, which has untold effects on not only communications, but E-commerce as well. In other words, an attack on the power grid could also cause a financial disaster.

• Utility Bankruptcy - Cyber-attacks on the power grid are already taking place in the form of smart meter hacking. With the transition to digital utility smart meters on homes and businesses all across the nation, hackers have set their sights on maliciously hacking digital meters to drastically lower individual utility costs. This type of cyber- attack could cost utility companies billions in lost service costs, which has the potential to financially cripple the power industry.

How can utility companies prevent hacking?

There are numerous ways utility companies can prevent cyber-attacks from happening.

Common measures like password updates, anti-virus updates, and authenticity verification are always standard in terms of prevention, but utility companies need a uniform anti-hacking system.

This "anti-hacking system" would theoretically work as a universal network that stretches from city to city in order to better detect infiltration. Although no such system exists as of yet, utility companies are diligently researching ways in which to put an infrastructure-wide protection network in place.

When utility companies understand cyber-attacks, they are able to better defend the power grid.

About the author: Adam Groff is a freelance writer and creator of content. He writes on a variety of topics including technology and social media.

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Jun 7, 2021

Trafigura and Yara International explore clean ammonia usage

Dominic Ellis
2 min
Commodity trading company Trafigura and Yara International sign MoU to explore developing ammonia as a clean fuel in shipping

Independent commodity trading company Trafigura and Yara International have signed an MoU to explore developing ammonia as a clean fuel in shipping and ammonia fuel infrastructure.

Reducing shipping emissions is a vital component of the fight against global climate change, yet Greenhouse Gas emissions from the global maritime sector are increasing - and at odds with the IMO's strategy to cut absolute emissions by at least 50% by 2050. 

How more than 70,000 ships can decrease their reliance on carbon-based sources is one of transport's most pressing decarbonisation challenges.

Yara and Trafigura intend to collaborate on initiatives that will establish themselves in the clean ammonia value chain. Under the MoU announced today, Trafigura and Yara intend to work together in the following areas:

  • The supply of clean ammonia by Yara to Trafigura Group companies
  • Exploration of joint R&D initiatives for clean ammonia application as a marine fuel
  • Development of new clean ammonia assets including marine fuel infrastructure and market opportunities

Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, President of Yara Clean Ammonia, said the agreement is a good example of cross-industry collaboration to develop and promote zero-emission fuel in the form of clean ammonia for the shipping industry. "Building clean ammonia value chains is critical to facilitate the transition to zero emission fuels by enabling the hydrogen economy – not least within trade and distribution where both Yara and Trafigura have leading capabilities. Demand and supply of clean ammonia need to be developed in tandem," he said.  

There is a growing consensus that hydrogen-based fuels will ultimately be the shipping fuels of the future, but clear and comprehensive regulation is essential, according to Jose Maria Larocca, Executive Director and Co-Head of Oil Trading for Trafigura.

Ammonia has a number of properties that require "further investigation," according to Wartsila. "It ignites and burns poorly compared to other fuels and is toxic and corrosive, making safe handling and storage important. Burning ammonia could also lead to higher NOx emissions unless controlled either by aftertreatment or by optimising the combustion process," it notes.

Trafigura has co-sponsored the R&D of MAN Energy Solutions’ ammonia-fuelled engine for maritime vessels, has performed in-depth studies of transport fuels with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and has published a white paper on the need for a global carbon levy for shipping fuels to be introduced by International Maritime Organization.

Oslo-based Yara produces roughly 8.5 million tonnes of ammonia annually and employs a fleet of 11 ammonia carriers, including 5 fully owned ships, and owns 18 marine ammonia terminals with 580 kt of storage capacity – enabling it to produce and deliver ammonia across the globe.

It recently established a new clean ammonia unit to capture growth opportunities in emission-free fuel for shipping and power, carbon-free fertilizer and ammonia for industrial applications.

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