“A project of Pearl GTL’s magnitude hasn’t been attempted before,” said Ajith Kumar, senior business analyst for Qatar Shell GTL. “With billions of investor dollars and tens of thousands of jobs at stake, data management was a major priority. To maximize production with quick decisions, we needed condensed, accurate information at our fingertips at all times.”
With so many prerequisites for success, Pearl GTL needed a proven solution. The right laboratory information management system (LIMS) would allow Pearl GTL’s sampling program to meet its designers’ sophisticated ambitions. It would present accurate, unbiased information that enabled Shell to maintain the highest standards of safety, regulatory compliance and environmental commitment without sacrificing financial performance. In fact, a LIMS would enhance Pearl GTL’s bottom line by collating testing data, which allows managers to make impactful business decisions quickly.
Pearl GTL has no shortage of world records: Established by Shell and Qatar Petroleum in 2006, the facility is the largest GTL plant on earth. GTL technology enables Qatar – in partnership with Shell – to open up new opportunities in new markets, monetizing its enormous natural gas resources through the creation of high-quality, easy-to-export liquid fuels. The facility processes 1.6 billion cubic feet of wellhead gas per day, using the proprietary Shell Middle Distillate Synthesis process to convert gas field output into fuels, lubricants and other high-quality products that Shell ships to markets around the world.
It was clear from the beginning that Pearl GTL would need a highly sophisticated software solution to manage the data coming out of a quality control system that receives a constant stream of 34,000 transmitted measurements. These tests gauge well content, volume, emissions, equipment condition and hundreds of other issues integral to the plant’s operation. In addition to collection and storage, the data also needed to be organized, integrated and analyzed to ensure product quality, plant and customer safety, environmental protection and production efficiency.
In addition to organizing sample results, Pearl GTL’s LIMS would need to be fully integrated and communicate with a variety of other systems or a venture the size and scale of Pearl GTL would be nearly impossible. Shell chose Thermo Scientific SampleManager LIMS for its state-of-the-art testing laboratories, because the solution offered unparalleled support for each of its stringent requirements.
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One of Shell’s principal reasons for choosing the LIMS was its ability to work with other systems. At Pearl GTL, the LIMS is integrated with an operations management system (known as OTTER), process historian (PI), the oil movement and batch tracking system, laboratory instruments and other production systems. The way the LIMS integrates with PI is a particular source of efficiency. Where some labs manually send test results to operations, technologists and process engineers, among other users, at Pearl GTL results become available to all relevant parties within the PI system as soon as they are authorized in SampleManager. This means that the many employees whose work hinges on quality sampling are receiving the information they need in real time.
Another critical consumer of lab data is Pearl GTL’s oil movement and batch tracking system. Again, the LIMS creates efficiencies by eliminating wait times. When panel operators need to move oil to new tanks in preparation for shipping, for example, they do not have to wait to be notified of test results, minimizing demurrage charges for loading delays that can cost as much as $35,000 per day. As soon as the results have been issued in the lab, SampleManager notifies operators through the oil movement system, with which it is seamlessly integrated. Since Pearl GTL opened, the facility has incurred no demurrage charges, an incredible feat for an operation so large.
A LIMS also helps Pearl GTL operators more efficiently collect data from the field for analysis in the lab. Using the OTTER system, all sample points in the field are marked with radio frequency identification tags. When field operators perform sample rounds, a handheld computer guides them to each sample point and then automatically records the required information, whether the sampling task is routine or non-routine. The data are then instantly transferred to SampleManager from the field, saving Pearl GTL an estimated 2,400 hours worked per year.
“It’s amazing how much overhead we were able to eliminate with the OTTER system,” said Mansoor Al-Shamri, laboratory manager for Qatar Shell GTL. “Field operators can do their jobs faster and also more accurately, since they’re not recording readings by hand. And ultimately, it’s SampleManager that enables the real-time aspect of the OTTER system to be possible.”
Shell and Qatar Petroleum used a LIMS to help their ambitious vision excel by managing a highly sophisticated sample program. Pearl GTL’s testing program enables the world’s largest gas to liquids facility to operate efficiently and safely while adhering to regulations and maintaining profitability, and Thermo Scientific SampleManager makes it all possible.
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