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Pearl GTL’s software challenge – Part two

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Proven solution

With so many prerequisites for success, Pearl GTL needed a proven solution. That solution turned out to be a LIMS. The right 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. A LIMS would enhance Pearl GTL’s bottom line by collating testing data, which allows managers to make impactful business decisions quickly.

Given the operation’s complexity, not just any LIMS solution would do. In addition to organising sample results, Pearl GTL’s LIMS would be need to be fully integrated and communicate with a variety of other systems, including operations management, batch tracking and ERP systems. Without full integration of the LIMS to existing enterprise systems, making a venture the size and scale of Pearl GTL successful would be nearly impossible. 

Shell chose Thermo Scientific SampleManager LIMS for its state-of-the-art testing laboratories, standardising on the solution across all laboratory equipment and production systems. The LIMS offered unparalleled support for each of the Pearl GTL facility’s stringent requirements, and its implementation helped drive success from the very beginning.

Automation and error elimination

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 for Shell and Qatar Petroleum at Pearl GTL. 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 authorised in SampleManager. This means that the many employees whose work hinges on quality sampling are receiving the information they need in real time.

Faster production and reporting

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, minimising demurrage charges for loading delays that can cost as much as US$35 000/d. As soon as the results have been issued in the lab, LIMS 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.

The LIMS has also enabled a paperless environment that eliminates many human errors inherent in traditional laboratories. Human beings make an average of 3 - 6 mistakes for every 1000 lab readings transcribed. In a sampling program the size of Pearl GTL’s, this would amount to dozens of errors – if not hundreds – every day. SampleManager solves this problem by integrating with lab instruments that automatically transmit data to the LIMS as soon as final results are produced.

The LIMS aggregates all this data and combines it with information collected from other sampling systems, and even technicians in the field, enabling the vast array of data to be collated and presented in a logical format for managers to analyse, which makes for fast, effective decision making.

Integrating the field with the lab

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 LIMS is fully integrated with OTTER, so the data collected in this system are instantly transferred to SampleManager from the field for analysis by managers or technicians back in the lab, saving Pearl GTL an estimated 2400 hours worked per year.

Enhanced compliance and safety

Finally, the LIMS makes it possible for Pearl GTL to meet an increasingly crucial requirement of oil and gas laboratories: regulatory compliance. ISO 17025 established an international standard for how sampling labs manage data collection, security, instrumentation, traceability, personnel and more. By collecting complete data records, the LIMS ensures that Pearl GTL is always in compliance with ISO 17025 and other standards. The solution also guarantees that compliance can be easily proven in the case of an audit.

The LIMS even helps Shell go beyond ISO 17025 requirements in instilling a culture of safety at Pearl GTL. By tracking equipment condition, well content and many other issues that could become safety concerns at any GTL facility, SampleManager allows managers to make real-time decisions that protect workers and the surrounding environment. Shell’s and Qatar Oil’s dedication, coupled with the holistic LIMS solution have led to an impressive safety record at Pearl GTL. Despite its enormous size, in 2010 the facility hit 77 million hours worked without a single lost-time injury.


From the moment it broke ground in 2006, the ambitious Pearl GTL project needed to be grounded in proven, dynamic technologies. Shell and Qatar Petroleum used a LIMS to help their ambitious vision excel by managing a highly sophisticated sample program. The LIMS fully integrated multiple systems within the testing laboratory, including operations management, batch tracking and laboratory instruments. SampleManager also brought that integration into the field where the LIMS automates data transmission via handheld devices. Finally, the LIMS ensures that the facility constantly adheres to the highest standards of safety and quality. 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 a LIMS is the lynchpin that makes it all possible.

Written by Colin Thurston, Director of Product Strategy, Process Industries, Thermo Fisher Scientific.

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