Oil sector and railroad derailments - for the archives

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In Infomagic's "Locktime" article, published early to mid-January, 2000, he spoke of waiting until March before we could even begin to understand the impact of Y2K on the economy. Other than capacity problems in the petroleum mining and refining business, I've not seen substantial evidence of cascading failures or the domino effect. Have we had enough month-ends and run time with embedded system to be able to assess Infomagic's position?

-- D. Howard Rusling (jdrusling@aol.com), March 11, 2000



For those so quick to dismiss y2k, out of hand, answer these questions:

WHY is our oil inventory running 14% under this time last year? (O.K. O.K., on this one the "conventional wisdom" answer is a resounding: OPEC.)

BUT. . .seeing as how I think all will agree that OPEC has absolutely NOTHING to do with the following, WHY these energy shorfalls:

Natural gas inventories: down 27%

Propane inventories: down 48%

Nuke Power: 40% more reactors off-line than at this time last year.

Coal: down 20%.

Operating oil and gas rigs in the U.S.: 35 fewer than 2 weeks ago, a 4.5% decrease.

WHY this startling set of coincidences? If not y2k, there must be some common thread, somewhere. Certainly, it's NOT OPEC.

Anybody have an alternative, reasonable explanation?

-- Wellesley the Wiser (wellesley@bigfoot.com), March 11, 2000.



Can you please provide some links that back up your statistics? For example, I posted a link in another message here about the number of operating rigs this year compared to last. There are HUNDREDS of more rigs operating this year, exactly what you'd expect with rising prices. Even if the number of rigs is less on a one week basis, this is a very poor comparision to use for Y2K problems.

I'm totally baffled by this fascination with Infomagic. Here we have an poster that, as far as I know, has no expertise in any of the fields he writes about. He was absolutley, totally wrong about all his predictions regarding the calamities that would take place at rollover. When the rollover faded on him, he said wait until everyone goes back to work. When that prediction went belly-up, he now wants to wait until the end of March. When nothing happens then, it'll be the planetary alignment thing in May, I suppose.

-- Jim Cooke (JJCooke@yahoo.com), March 12, 2000.


You are right. The high point for rigs operating in the U.S. was hit in 1981--4,500. The low point was hit April 9 of last year--498. Since that time there has been a big increase in the number of operating rigs, chasing the price of oil, up to 768 active rigs now. Source is Baker, Hughes, Inc., Houston, who have been reporting the number of operating rigs in the U.S. weekly since 1944. The downward trend is VERY RECENT. In the past 2 weeks, at a time when the number of rigs should STILL be increasing, chasing the price of oil ever-upward, the numbers have, instead, started to drop--down 4.5% in the past two weeks.

My sources for Natural Gas down 27% is the AGA, for the 48% dip in propane, OPIS, for the 40% increase in off-line Nukes, Reuters, and for the coal decline, an AP wire report.

Add to this, another chunk of REAl BAD NEWS: As you may know, Canada is a major natural gas supplier to the Northern U.S. states. Well, they now have but 31% of their capacity filled in storage--A WHOPPING 43% DECREASE from a year ago. This, according to a news release from the Canadian Gas Association issued last Thursday.

So, while the rest of your are arguing about y2k--is it yet real, or still a hoax?--I will add to my stock of 6 battery-operated fans. I expect a LONG, HOT SUMMER.

-- wellesley the wiser (wellesley@bigfoot.com), March 12, 2000.

I'm not sure where Reuters got their nuclear figures. I checked outages for 2/25 on NRC's board and the number of plants down for maintenance/refueling is actually lower this year.

-- John (littmannj@aol.com), March 12, 2000.


You asked "1) If these are y2k problems, why has y2k been so amazingly selective about energy? The processes involved, while various, are not particularly specialized to energy in most respects. Why are NO other sectors, many of them even more computerized and automated than energy, and using essentially similar equipment, not experiencing similar problems? "

Can you identify a different industry that is as visible as oil, gas, propane and nuclear that would also loose capacity if (and I mean IF) Y2K problems were hitting them in a similar way? Energy seems to have various organizations watching it. This gives us a way to gauge it's performance. I guess we need to know what other industry uses similar equipment and where do we go for production and inventory data for it.

Watch six and keep your...

-- eyes_open (best@wishes.2all), March 12, 2000.

eyes: Look at the various manufacturing sectors. Would we notice if the automakers couldn't produce cars? By now, probably so. I work in manufacturing, and we haven't noticed any unexpected shortages of parts -- tens of thousands of different ones, any of which would shut down a line if missing. No lines have even slowed down.

Process problems in the chemical industry would also have ripple effects pretty quickly. But none have beenreported. Transportation? Zip.

Also, I think oil is visible only because the rising prices have made it so. If oil was fine but car dealers were screaming for inventory, I think we'd somehow find cars to be very visible. Look back at recent history, and we find media focus on any problem area, no matter what or why.

The whole point is that y2k problems were supposed to be systemic by nature, not specialized and certainly not delayed.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), March 12, 2000.

Flint Some denizens of this board have been pointing to OPIS reports as evidence that an increase in failures in oil have been occuring since the begining of the year. You suggest I look at he various manufacturing sectors. Part of my observation was "how?".

I understand the tendency for some people to see what they want to see in events. Especially if it involves hotly contested points of veiw. Not that would ever happen on a board like this, of course! ;-) I consider that a possibility as well.

I have seen a few Y2K software errors. Allstate for instance, as I described about three weeks and two message baords ago. I have seen a rise in the number of burst water mains locally. Three in two weeks. But when it comes to manufacturing, I have few tools to detect a slow down. What I was hoping for was an industry that used the same sort of equipment as oil that is also watched by industry outsiders.

Which, now that I think about it, is asking for quite a bit.

But I can hope. Any suggestions?

Watch six and keep your...

-- eyes_open (best@wishes.2all), March 12, 2000.

Might I suggest that a key industry to watch--that is probably representative of what's going on behind closed doors in umpteen-zillion other companies and industries across the world--is railroads.

Since 1967 there have been 11 derailments per year, on average, or, roughly one every 33 days. Derailments are a good measuring stick. They involves switches and signals, which, in turn, involve computers. And, their failures are highly visible, not subject to the cover-up which is most likely going on in many industries. When a train runs off a track, people notice.

Now get this: so far this year, there have ALREADY been 11 derailments in the U.S. So, as you can see the current average of 1 derailment every 7 days is CONSIDERABLY higher than the 33-year average of 1 per each 33 days. This is a PHENOMENAL increase of some 400%.

Tell you anything? It speaks volumes to me.

-- Wellesley the wiser (wellesley@bigfoot.com), March 12, 2000.

Perhaps you might recommend an other industry that is as dependent on the same type of flow control technology??

Water perhaps??

You have already talked about gas (nat and pro).

What other industry has the same reliance on flow technology??

Perhaps the failures are in the flow control architecture, which you WILL admit is QUITE different from Manufacturing Control Architecture.


PS your communications systems might be considered here but you would have to look closely at the architecture.


-- Joss Metadi (warhammer@Pride.of.Mandeyne), March 13, 2000.

What oil shortage? We have high prices but no gas lines. 1974 was a shortage. This is OPEC economics 101.

-- Chief (bmc@sealret.com), March 13, 2000. Wellesley,

Where do you get such figures about derailments? Here's the actual data from http://safetydata.fra.dot.gov/OfficeofSafety/ 09 Derailments 1995 1,742 1995 1,816 1997 1,741 1998 1,757

Not 11!! If you've only found 11 we have are having a fabulously good year for derailments. In addition, most derailments occur at points removed from any switch or signal.

If you want to worry, at least do some research. And post links to your data if you expect anyone to believe you.

-- Jim Cooke (JJCooke@yahoo.com), March 13, 2000.

My derailment figures are for REPORTED ACCIDENTS, out on the lines, where damage is incurred, not every silly little railroad yard goof that happens every day when the RR people are putting cars together at 2 miles an hour.

Also, I must correct you, Jim, on WHERE derailments occur. If you knew anything at all about the operations of the rails you would be fully aware that these can occur ANYWHERE--often far away from a signal or switch. (Although, often a siding is involved.)

As to my research, it is THOROUGH. I do it primarily for my own enlightenment. This is entirely an avocation to me. Thus, I couldn't care less whether anyone believes me or not.

-- wellesley the wiser (wellesley@bigfoot.com), March 13, 2000.

-- GICC Sysop (y2kgicc@yahoo.com), July 18, 2000

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