Skip to main content

Pearl GTL’s software challenge

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Established by Shell and Qatar Petroleum in 2006, Pearl GTL is the largest gas to liquids facility on the planet. Gas to liquids (GTL) is the conversion of natural gas to liquid fuels and other products, including gasoil, naphtha, kerosene, normal-paraffin and lubricants. Pearl GTL has a capacity of 140 000 bbl/d of these products and 120 000 bbl/d of liquefied petroleum gas, and the data produced by its quality control program is tremendous: more than 30 000 content, volume, emissions and equipment measurements are transmitted at any given time. With the integrity of its brand, the safety of its workers and the profitability of its enterprise on the line, Pearl GTL turned to a laboratory information management system (LIMS) to manage, analyse and integrate the data that keeps this facility functioning securely and efficiently.

The facility

Pearl GTL has no shortage of world records. The facility, located 80 km north of Doha, Qatar, includes the largest GTL plant and one of the largest instrumentation and control systems anywhere on earth. GTL technology enables Qatar – in partnership with Shell – to open up new opportunities in new markets, monetising its enormous natural gas resources through the creation of high-quality, easy-to-export liquid fuels. 

The facility, which became fully operational in 2012, processes 1.6 billion ft3/d of wellhead gas to remove contaminants and refine natural gas liquids. Using the proprietary Shell Middle Distillate Synthesis process, Pearl GTL converts output from the world’s largest non-associated gas field into fuels, lubricants and other high-quality products that Shell ships to markets around the world. Pearl GTL is unique as an integrated upstream/downstream facility that entails the full value chain of gas extraction and processing from offshore development through onshore refining.

The challenge

The scale and diversity of Pearl GTL makes it an incredibly complex operation. The building phase alone required Shell to create a private offloading quay in Ras Laffan City so it could import 2 million freight tons of necessary materials and equipment. More than 100 000 visas were issued to bring in workers who installed enough steel over five years of construction to build 40 Eiffel Towers.

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 organised, integrated and analysed to ensure product quality, plant and customer safety, environmental protection and production efficiency.

“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 maximise production with quick decisions, we needed condensed, accurate information at our fingertips at all times.”

Additionally, Shell and Qatar needed a solution that would ensure that Pearl GTL’s labs remained in compliance with standards such as ISO 17025. The ISO standard sets an international benchmark for running a testing laboratory, laying out qualifications for suppliers, training, record-keeping, equipment calibration and much more. Pearl GTL required the ability to comply with ISO 17025 and other standards at all times and retrieve data that demonstrated compliance in the event of an audit.

Written by Colin Thurston, Director of Product Strategy, Process Industries, Thermo Fisher Scientific. This is the first of a two part case study.

Read the article online at:


Embed article link: (copy the HTML code below):