The increasing energy demand globally has accelerated the search for oil and natural gas reserves. This has resulted in increased demand for analytical testing of oil and gas samples and products obtained from crude oil and natural gas. The oil and gas production mainly involves upstream, midstream, and downstream phases. The upstream phase involves the exploration of oil and natural gas reserves, drilling, and extraction. The downstream phase involves separating extracted raw materials, refining them to remove impurities, and converting crude oil into usable products, such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel. The midstream phase connects upstream and downstream phases and involves transportation from the extraction site to transport terminals or refineries. Analytical testing of oil and gas samples is important to maintain quality through the supply chain and to ensure that the products adhere to government safety standards.
Challenges of Oil and Gas Testing Laboratories
Oil and gas testing laboratories receive a multitude of test requests on a day-to-day basis. The testing laboratories need to quickly turnaround samples, ensure analytical data precision, follow stringent regulatory guidelines, such as ISO/IEC 17025, and report results as per customer and regulatory requirements. Oil and gas companies also need to meet stringent environmental regulatory guidelines.
Oil and gas companies need to meet quality requirements, besides increasing production demand. Therefore, it is important to avoid maintaining data islands in production plants and analytical laboratories. Regular exchange of product quality data and analytical results between production plants and analytical laboratories is paramount because both are dependent on each other.
How a LIMS Automates & Streamlines Oil and Gas Testing Workflows
An oil and gas laboratory performs several concurrent test requests on a day-to-day basis which cannot be efficiently managed using paper-based methods and spreadsheets. This creates the need for an automated solution where incoming sample and analytical data can be securely stored, managed, and quickly retrieved when required with data integrity being maintained at all times.
LIMS software for the oil and gas industry helps in automating testing workflows, right from receiving test requests to reporting results to customers. A LIMS also helps in automatically assigning tests to competent staff as soon as a laboratory receives a test request, saving time. A Petrochemical LIMS also helps ensure that tests are conducted as per established Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) with the workflow steps locked if the upstream steps are not complete. It helps to seamlessly manage sample batches, multiple concurrent tests, test results, and validate results before reporting them to customers. Furthermore, a LIMS also helps in comparing the operational performance of multiple processing plants and helps make informed decisions.
Statistical process control (SPC) charts enable laboratories to identify processes that are deviating out of control at initial stages. The SPC charts help to identify trends based on the data collected from samples at various spatial and temporal points, helping laboratories to determine variation in analytical results. Using SPC charts, a LIMS automatically flags statistically improbable results. It helps laboratories to catch analytical errors earlier in the process rather than correcting them at a later stage, preventing loss of time and resources.
A LIMS also helps in recording laboratory activities, following Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), maintaining staff training records, quality control results, enabling petrochemical laboratories to demonstrate its conformance with internal and external standards and regulatory guidelines. A LIMS also helps in managing analytical instruments, tracking their calibration status, and managing maintenance data. It automates the scheduling of calibration to ensure timely calibration of instruments which is crucial for analytical data accuracy. A LIMS also helps to track deviations or non-conforming activities by maintaining an audit trail and records all laboratory activities with a date and time stamp.
A LIMS for oil and gas labs usually has an in-built flexible reporting tool that allows the creation of multiple templates based on the reporting requirements of customers and regulatory authorities. This facilitates the generation of custom test reports using the data stored in the LIMS and other in-house databases through integration.
Oil and Gas laboratories need to maintain safety data sheets of materials. The safety data sheets contain information on physical and chemical properties, stability and reactivity of materials, hazards to the environment and humans, spill clean-up procedures, and precautions for safely storing, transporting, disposal of such materials. A LIMS for oil and gas labs helps to electronically store safety data sheets for purposes of hazard communication and ensures their quick availability to staff.
Why is Data Interoperability Important for Oil and Gas Laboratories?
Traditionally, in petrochemical laboratories, data from different systems is captured and manually analyzed for decision making. This process is cumbersome, error-prone, and time-consuming because different systems have different data dictionaries, user interfaces, and data structures. The lack of interoperability between systems in a laboratory can often lead to data silos and information gaps. Furthermore, it can result in data redundancy due to the chances of the presence of identical data in different systems.
Automation can facilitate data interoperability seamlessly between different systems and instruments. A LIMS is a crucial tool for driving automation in oil and gas laboratories. A LIMS facilitates data interoperability by interfacing with various enterprise systems and instruments. The integration eliminates the need to manually collect and transfer analytical data from instruments to a LIMS post analysis, ensuring analytical data transparency. The integration facilitates the transmission of data to a LIMS as soon as the results are generated by analytical instruments. A LIMS can be integrated with systems, such as batch tracking and enterprise resource tracking systems, billing software, oil movement system, operations management systems. This facilitates easy accessibility of data required to seamlessly meet quality, safety, and regulatory requirements.
The data interoperability between a LIMS and other software and instruments helps in assimilating data, enabling data warehousing in one system. This, in turn, helps in making more informed and faster data-driven decisions about operational conditions, quality of crude oil and final products. Enterprise-wide deployment of an Oil and Gas LIMS helps in minimizing operations costs, removing data silos, and enhancing efficiency.
To help oil and gas companies improve time to market, petrochemical laboratories need to increase productivity by minimizing turnaround time. LIMS software for the oil and gas industry enhances operational efficiency by automating laboratory processes, mitigates risks through quality analytical testing, reduces operational costs, and accelerates data-driven decision-making processes. A LIMS provides unparalleled support to meet the stringent regulatory requirements. A LIMS can be integrated with analytical instruments and software systems to maintain data integrity and to bridge the information gap between laboratory-generated data and enterprise-level data which assists in informed decision making. Hence, a LIMS is an indispensable tool for present-day high throughput petrochemical laboratories for driving continuous improvement in the production process and meeting compliance.