For decades, the giants of the oil industry were confounded by salt.
While oil companies for years had shot sound waves into the deep to help create images of undersea geology, salt located far under the floor of the Gulf of Mexico was unpredictable. It muffled reflections, or bounced them away from survey vessels, leaving geophysicists in the dark.
But that was before a series of recent seismic imaging breakthroughs involving supercomputers and the largest moving objects in ...the ocean.
Hackers are finding ways to steal information from even large energy companies, breaking in through poorly defended subcontractor systems on their way to financial data, fluid formulas and other goodies.
Nanotechnology’s latest party trick involves red wine and a pair of white jeans.
When “Back to the Future” moviegoers in the 1980s saw a mad scientist refueling his car with discarded eggs, soda and other garbage, the idea may have seemed a little far-fetched.
But at a presentation from Royal Dutch Shell on Thursday, scientists talked up an advanced biofuel that will essentially fuel cars with trash.
A 60-day mandate that President Obama make a decision on Keystone XL in 2012 unnecessarily delayed the pipeline, the director of the project said Wednesday.
Republicans in late 2011 proposed and pushed the mandate into law, forcing Obama to make a decision on the pipeline within a 60-day time frame.
The president has delayed it. Protesters tried to stop it. But the Keystone XL pipeline is approaching a major finishing line anyway, setting the stage for a rush of new oil to move through Texas.
Ford Motor Co. will offer a natural gas option for its 2014 F-150 pickup truck models, turning drivers of America’s most popular vehicle into potential consumers of the low-cost fuel.
INGLESIDE — The giants are visible from more than 20 miles away, rising like monuments from the shores of the Gulf of Mexico.
They are oil platforms under construction — huge structures of steel piping, cranes and heavy machinery on top of towering hulls. At least five massive vessels were being built at yards in Ingleside earlier this month, employing thousands amid a resurgence of activity aimed at oil riches in the Gulf.
Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Anadarko Petroleum and o...thers are rushing to finish the platforms for duty tapping vast new oil frontiers in the sea’s deep waters.
The facilities are a direct response to technological breakthroughs that are allowing geologists and engineers to find and reach large oil reserves in previously mysterious regions deep under water and deeper under rock.
Google may not seem like an energy company, but it sure is acting like one.
Through more than $1 billion in investments and through large contracts for renewable power, Google has become the most significant player in the energy business outside of actual energy companies and financial institutions.
FRANKLIN, La — Deep in the swamplands of Louisiana, out of a clearing in the dense foliage that covers this coastal stretch, the roar of jet engines echoes across the landscape.
It is the sound of military aircraft — an escalating hum that evokes images of acceleration, takeoff and things on the move.
But these engines — which once transported troops in Iraq and Afghanistan — now move water. Millions of gallons of water....
They are a part of what two Louisiana companies believe will be the next step in the high-powered, fuel-intensive business of hydraulic fracturing — the technique that has created an American oil and gas boom.
(Photo: Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle)
In the same year that a massive explosion and oil spill rocked the Gulf of Mexico, a digital disaster played out halfway around the world.
A drilling rig was at sea after leaving its construction site in South Korea when malicious computer software overwhelmed it.
The malware spread so thoroughly through the rig’s systems that it infected even the computers controlling its blowout preventer, a critical piece of safety equipment. That infection could have caused the preventer ...and other systems to be unresponsive if the rig were drilling, possibly leading to a well blowout, explosion, oil spill and loss of life.
The rig shut down for 19 days as workers tried to clear the problem, which has plagued other offshore oil vessels, knocking out their networks and forcing shut downs because of potential conflicts with safety systems.
So far no offshore catastrophes have been blamed on computer infections, and that may be why the serious dangers they pose have not drawn the same scrutiny from regulators and industry as mechanical systems did after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf.
Yet online threats increasingly are affecting energy companies and offshore rigs, both through targeted attacks and randomly acquired malware that would be harmless to an up-to-date iPhone but could jam systems on a complex rig with old software and poor security measures.
Photo: Simone Sebastian/Houston Chronicle
Exxon Mobil Corp. is targeting employee habits in its effort to improve computer security, which has become “extraordinarily important” to preventing disasters and safety risks, CEO Rex Tillerson said.
In an exclusive interview with the Houston Chronicle, Tillerson said the company is educating its employees on safe computer behavior, just as it has done for its physical operations.
Computers controlling massive oil company systems, including those on offshore rigs, have been... targeted by online attacks and are especially vulnerable to infection with malicious software that could disrupt operations and potentially lead to a major disaster, the Chronicle has reported.
(Photo: Nick de la Torre/Houston Chronicle)
Exxon Mobil Corp’s CEO, in an exclusive interview with the Houston Chronicle, said a rupture and oil spill last week from a company pipeline in Arkansas was regrettable, but that he is proud of the quick response to the incident.
“We’ll see what the cause was here, we really don’t know yet,” Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson said in the interview. “But I’m proud of the response and I’m really proud of the coordination we’ve had with the local authorities.”
Computer systems that keep offshore drilling rigs running safely are among the most vulnerable to security threats because of old software that oil companies have been reluctant to update.
The aging software exposes offshore systems to digital infection that could cause equipment to malfunction, even triggering blowouts, explosions, oil spills or lost lives in a worst-case scenario, security professionals say.
Energy companies faced more targeted malware attacks in a six-month period last year than businesses in any other field, with hackers sometimes breaking into systems to steal geologic and financial data, according to a Houston network security firm’s research.
Alert Logic is releasing a report Tuesday detailing the incidence of attacks on its customers in different industries and the digital weapons hackers used in their attempts to infiltrate systems from April 1 to Sept. 30... last year. FuelFix examined the report ahead of its general release.
Photo: Cody Duty/Houston Chronicle
In the months since a virus ripped through 30,000 of Saudi Aramco's computers, the world's largest oil company has become the canary of the industry, warning others of the serious threats already lurking on their systems.
Although the attack did not disrupt Saudi Aramco's oil and gas operations, the company's top man warned in a recent interview with the Houston Chronicle that the risk to the industry remains high.
Photo: Johnny Hanson/Houston Chronicle