Emerging Tech

CBP looks to blockchain to track Canadian energy imports

blockchain (vs148/Shutterstock.com) 

The Department of Homeland Security's technology directorate awarded a small developmental contract to a Canadian company for its blockchain-as-a-service platform to track oil and natural gas shipments coming into the U.S. over the northern border.

The $182,700 investment from DHS Science and Technology Directorate went to Toronto-based Mavennet Systems to adapt the company's commercial blockchain technology to facilitate Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) trade mission.

Canada exports an estimated 3.5 million barrels of crude oil per day to the U.S., mostly via pipeline, according to Natural Resources Canada, the country's energy agency. According to the agency, there are 70 operational transborder oil and natural gas pipelines – 31 for oil and 39 for natural gas.

Mavennet Systems, according to a Nov. 6 DHS statement, has built a blockchain-as-a-service platform for Canadian commercial oil markets that allows real-time audits of natural gas trading there.

In adapting the system to CBP, DHS said Mavennet will create a generic end-to-end platform the agency can adapt to track any variety of imported commodities. The platform includes automation and API integration, as well as the ability to adapt to legacy systems, according to DHS.

Anil John, S&T's Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) technical director said in DHS' statement the system will not only provide digital auditability, but also support emerging worldwide commercial oil consortium standards for decentralized identifiers and verifiable credentials for blockchain use.

The contract is a SVIP Phase 1 initial development award, which is a three-to-six month long proof-of-concept. It was made under Silicon-Valley-based SVIP's Other Transaction Solicitation Preventing Forgery and Counterfeiting of Certificates and Licenses, according to the statement. The solicitation looks for promising blockchain and distributed ledger technologies that could fill common needs across DHS' broad agency missions, it said.

If the platform is successful in Phase 1, it could progress through SVIP's four development phases, which could eventually lead to its operational testing in various environments at DHS, after demonstrations and pilots.

The agreement continues CBP's efforts to harness emerging technology. This past spring, the agency took public input on its 21st Century Customs Framework, or 21CCF, to process imported cargo. Lawmakers and shippers urged it to use blockchain and artificial intelligence in that effort.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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