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Unlocking Cybersecurity for Energies and Chemicals: The Role of Digitalization and Industrial Electrification

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Energies and Chemicals industries are currently exploring various means for decarbonization. Strategies include improving energy efficiency, using renewables for industrial electrification, CCUS, Hydrogen production and biofuels as key considerations.

Energy efficiency and industrial electrification stand out as cost-effective strategies that can yield positive returns without depending on government incentives. Unfortunately, however, adopting higher electrical loads and infrastructure for electrification creates new safety concerns not seen previously in traditional oil and gas operations. Therefore, tighter cybersecurity protocols need to be imposed as digitalization plays an increasingly central role in industry operations, necessitating tighter cybersecurity measures to safeguard uptime, security, and safety of critical infrastructures.

Energies and chemicals companies recognize the immense potential of digitalization to reach their business and sustainability objectives. Digital technologies play a central role in improving operational efficiency, safety, sustainability and profitability by providing planning services, process automation tools, predictive maintenance management systems, anomaly detection services as well as energy management strategies.

Digitalization enables the connectivity of various products such as field devices and edge control systems with applications and analytics. Executing data analytics on interconnected systems enables value delivery throughout an enterprise’s supply chain. A value-driven digital transformation leverages connected devices connected via Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to extend operational life of facilities while decreasing capital expenditure (CapEx) and operational expenditures (OpEx).

Decarbonization through industrial electrification and renewable energy offers substantial scope for expansion. Clean electrification powered by renewables offers numerous advantages over its alternatives: it boasts greater efficiency, improved remote control through digitalization, lower maintenance costs and lower electric motor efficiency (around 95% while thermal energy conversion reaches 99%), surpassing fuel-powered systems which typically range between 25%-40% efficiency. Industrial electrification remains underutilized in oil and gas refineries and 20% among petrochemical facilities respectively.

As IT and OT converge, each asset within a plant or enterprise becomes autonomous, collecting real-time data and being controlled remotely. Due to digitalization and electrification trends, cybersecurity measures must evolve accordingly; IT deals mainly with cyberspace while OT connects cyberspace to physical reality while managing critical processes and assets.

Schneider Electric leverages its expertise in energy management and industrial automation to assist its clients in adding value to the OT side of their operations. Schneider Electric’s cybersecurity strategy follows four principles – permit, protect, detect, and respond. Access to operational systems and information are controlled via network and physical controls while ongoing protection mechanisms are put into place by specific controls implemented for ongoing protection; threats in the operating environment are monitored regularly while procedures and systems are created quickly in response to cyber incidents.

Schneider Electric’s cybersecurity strategy offers numerous benefits, including protecting critical digital assets according to cybersecurity standards, ensuring business continuity with adequate security controls and designing products to be cybersecure from their inception, offering full coverage through risk analysis technology partnerships and offering vendor-agnostic services provided by certified and skilled professionals. In addition, consulting methodologies such as assessment, design implementation monitoring and maintenance and training help clients benchmark and improve their cybersecurity strategies.

In order to address the constantly-evolving cybersecurity landscape in Energies and Chemicals industries, organizations must embrace digitalization, industrial electrification and prioritize robust cybersecurity measures. By successfully combining these elements together, companies can achieve their business and sustainability goals while protecting critical infrastructure while simultaneously increasing operational resilience.

Michal Pukala
Electronics and Telecommunications engineer with Electro-energetics Master degree graduation. Lightning designer experienced engineer. Currently working in IT industry.