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Security Considerations for Floating Offshore Wind

14 April 2020

Security Considerations for Floating Offshore Wind

As we enter the third decade of the 21st Century, we are being assailed on all fronts by transformational changes in technology, business models, autonomous systems, new manufacturing technologies all resulting from the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As a result, we will see ever increasing demand for clean energy, particularly electricity. As existing green energy developments start to meet restrictions around accessibility, concentration and availability of “real estate”, many see Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) as a viable, indeed necessary method for meeting these energy demands. There are however many challenges to be overcome. One of these challenges will be security and resilience. As the sector develops, we now need to adopt highly agile and progressive approaches to security in a collaborative manner working with our colleagues in other areas of the energy sector.

The UK Department Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, through the Offshore Wind Sector Deal, recognises this change with clear recommendations across the sector including around technology and innovation. Looking in more detail at the sector deal, it contains a wealth of recommendations and provides the UK with a real opportunity maintain a position as a leading innovator in the global offshore wind sector.

The new multi-role technologies such as robotics, autonomous systems, data and analytics, 5G communications and AI and their deployment in the wind sector are being developed rapidly. This innovation is being driven by global demand in consumer markets and other civilian applications. Let’s speculate for a moment about just how our offshore wind energy will look in this new advanced technology future, driven by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

We will see highly automated platforms, of ever increasing capacity, exploiting advanced communications technologies such as 5G, with on-board sensors and intelligent systems, using lightly manned semi-autonomous, and in time, un-manned and fully autonomous capabilities to support them and monitor the environment around them. New and novel architectures to implement Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) Systems will be deployed. They will operate seamlessly with digital, inter-connected land-based infrastructure, to drive up efficiency and productivity through the imaginative use of data analytics and AI. The asset data from disparate sources both ashore and on the platforms, combined with Metocean data relevant to the area of operation will be managed using technologies such as block chain to quickly, securely, and accurately, connect owners, operators, maintainers and consumers through complex supply chains, with real time information about their performance and operational status.

During times of reduced energy consumption, the systems will automatically transfer to using the capacity for generating other fuels (such as hydrogen and ammonia) either locally or ashore at appropriately equipped terminals. This will lead to greatly enhanced energy productivity and operations serving the ever-increasing demand for low cost clean energy. Alongside this we will need to drive regulatory change, enabling these potential new operating paradigms and alongside this, the need for new operating practices and procedures. A key element will be the ability to maintain and safeguard the required high levels of physical, cyber, personnel and information security in this complex environment.

As the uptake in Floating Offshore Wind accelerates, it will give rise to several interdependent challenges for maintaining the security and resilience of the platforms and associated “value chains” managing and distributing the energy produced and throughout the enterprise:

  • The fast-paced technological changes will require us to adopt highly agile and robust mechanisms to maintain security at all levels throughout the enterprise and its supply/value chain, collaboration will be essential if we are to avoid security weak links.
  • There will be a need for continuous investment in maintaining and updating security systems both physical and cyber, to stay ahead of emerging threats, security and resilience will need to be a central part in operational technology development and selection.
  • As technologies such as the Internet of Things, 5G and cloud-based systems continuously evolve and generate colossal amounts of data, new methods, controls and governance will be required to safeguard critical data, whilst also maintaining compliance with emerging regulations and requirements (for example GDPR), as well as the protection of “mission critical” commercial information.
  •  The digitalisation of the operating methods, will require us to move away from traditional “perimeter” type methods of protection such as firewalls, etc, we will need to build in safeguards within our systems to compartmentalise any compromised systems rapidly, in particular solutions with links to publicly accessible networks
  •  Sub-contractors and other third parties will need to be carefully assessed and their compliance with security and resilience required assured before they are contracted to work in the facilities.
  • The development of enterprise wide regulatory standards needs to be addressed and appropriate measures for enforcement adopted.
  • The human element will become critical, the design of the systems, their operating practices and the training of the individuals needs to be a key element. Solutions which focus on technology solutions to drive economic/business benefits may fail to address the people aspects could lead to security weaknesses, disaffected staff and ultimately to the “enemy within”, where deliberate acts of sabotage take place (insider threats). If we are to benefit from the technology and reduce security risks, we will need highly trained, motivated and committed personnel or we simply will not achieve competitive edge. A key element will be sourcing and training future talents, and developing transferrable skill sets across existing workforces, that are able to take full advantage of future technologies and much leaner organisations.

We need to think hard about how the sector can afford to include all these requirements, It’s a capital-intensive business – the platforms and infrastructure are expensive to build, and they are built to last a long time, meaning margins are often low. Given the extent of changes the industry is under pressure to implement – new physical infrastructure, new technologies, expanded trainings for personnel – there are significant concerns around whether businesses can make the transformation a financially secure one. In the development and operational processes security will be a risk, security must not be seen as a bolt on.

As an enterprise we now need to consider:

  •  Dependencies: how reliant will our energy systems be on a future highly connected data and information ecosystem to drive operations and how will this change over the coming decade?
  • Risks and Vulnerabilities: what are the areas of our operations where disruption will have significant and unintended consequences and how can we build in resilience?
  • Governance and Decision making: have the leaders of our businesses validated, understood and have evidence of how they made, and monitor, decisions relating to investment in security and cyber?

BMT sees a future in which many local and multinational consumer companies not only thrive within the sector, but go deep into one country and then proliferate across its business environment, thus appreciating the need for collaboration and local relationships which are critical for the growth of FLOW in a data-driven world. No one company can have a complete set of skills and capabilities to take a view of the sector, we need to blend experts in energy and energy supply with experts in platforms design and development, experts in data and analytics and experts in security and cyber, To deliver this as a unified, connected system and to get all the necessary economic benefits, we need to work together to bridge these different silos and encourage cross-interest collaboration.





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