Secure communication with the wellsite. (November 1998)

John Curtis (Petrolink) and Ian Hayes (BHPPetroleum) have contributed the following article on secure communications with the wellsite. Petrolink allows oil companies to share data between head office and the well-siteusing Lotus Notes and SSL data encryption.

The massive increase in connectivity between companies has started a revolution in the way that information is shared between companies in the Oil & Gas Industry, but there are several potential pitfalls in using the Internet for mission critical and or confidential data transmission. The Petrolink provides a secure means for the distribution of wellsite data both internally within a company, externally to joint-venture partners and to other interested parties. Secure Lotus Notes Domino Servers are used which can be accessed through private communications links or through the Internet itself.


The Lotus Notes Domino Server enables bi-directional data exchange over the Internet by a Browser using SSL data encryption. The Domino Servers use Lotus Notes databases, so that where a company uses a Lotus Notes Client or Server at the well-site or remote office it is possible to completely automate the process of ‘replicating’ data directly to and from the Domino Servers according to well-defined rules. In order to protect information during transfer over the Internet, the Domino Servers use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption. Information on the Domino Servers is stored in its native format within a structured database and does not need to be reformatted in any way unless this is specifically requested for ease of information distribution. In this way drilling reports, logs, seismics and pretty well any E&P document (including binaries and raw data) can be accessed remotely. Since the data is held as individual records within a structured database, it is possible to present various ‘views’ of the records, with data sorted by Date, Record Type, Rig or Well. Data from many Wells can be grouped within a ‘Field’ database, so that the structure is suitable for both current and historic data. For cross platform document portability the Adobe Acrobat PDF format is used.


Because Internet traffic can be transmitted via any route across the web, with the right knowledge and equipment, a person can redirect transmissions to and from almost any other computer on the internet via their own computer, allowing them to eavesdrop on files, mail and even passwords. Petrolink deals with this problem in a way that is practically transparent to the user. When entering the Petrolink Calgary site address, you may notice it is "Https://", rather than the more usual "Http:" – indicating a secure site. The browser sends a request to the site for the opening page and the server replies to this request that it is a secure site and then server and client negotiate a secure, encrypted connection.


Other security attacks by site break-in are countered by the firewall, which restricts what sort of Internet protocols can be used. Only Web Browser protocols HTTP and HTTPS are admitted which effectively means that the only possible connection to Petrolink Web Servers is through an Internet Browser or via another Lotus Notes server or client. As a final precaution all access to the site is recorded for IP addresses, data downloaded, server status codes and so on. This enables Petrolink operators to monitor all site activity for unusual occurrences - for example a user working from multiple IP addresses, or a user accessing the site at unlikely times. The above measures keep unauthorized users out of the site, but also ensures that authorized Petrolink users cannot access data on the site in which they have no legitimate interest.

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