Improving Productivity in Oil & Gas Laboratories with LIMS

Basin Electric was formed in 1961, in the upper Midwest and West, to provide supplemental electricity to the farms and rural areas in the region. Basin, a consumer-owned regional transmission and generation cooperative, operates at a capacity of over 3,300 megawatts, with power plants located in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

Basin Electric supplies electricity to over 1.5 million people in an 8 state region, through its 118 member cooperatives. In 1988, Basin bought the Great Plain Synfuels Plant from the Department of Energy. The plant, a 2.1 billion-dollar project, was created by several energy providers in 1983. Dakota Gasification Company (otherwise known as DGC) to this day continues the work towards energy independence, as well as investing energy into the development of new, innovative uses for lignite coal, supplied by Freedom Mine.

Freedom Mine is one of the ten largest coal-producing mines in the United States, and is the largest surface mine in North Dakota. Each day, the Great Plain Synfuels plant produces enough gas to heat 300,000 homes - or about 160 million standard cubic feet of natural gas.

By-products of this include the following:

  • 1,200 tons a day of Anhydrous Ammonia
  • 450 tons a day of Ammonium Sulfate
  • 45 tons a day of Phenol
  • 45 tons a day of Cresylic Acid
  • 9,500 liters a day of Kryptonxenon
  • 95 million cubic feet a day of Carbon Dioxide
  • 23,000 gallons a day of Naphtha
  • Liquid Nitrogen

The plant has 750 total employees, and the laboratory itself has 33 full-time staff.  The laboratory has multiple functions, including product quality, quality assurance of process control, industrial hygiene monitoring, environmental monitoring, quality assurance of coal for mining operation, lubrication of oil quality, process research, by-product development/pilot plant support and contract laboratory for nearby energy plants.

In addition, the laboratory analyzes solids, liquids and gases. The equipment of the laboratory is varied, and includes 12 GC’s, 2 GCMS’s, 5 HPLC’s, 2 IC’s, CE, 4 Auto-titrators, ICP, GFAA, AA, Mercury Analyzer, XRF, distillation and wet chemistry equipment and coal equipment.

Key Challenges

The biggest challenge for DGC was in finding reasonably priced LIMS that would provide data instantaneously to customers, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.

System Sought

The specification requirements of DGC were strict. The system had to have an easy and open interface, be easily configured, maintained and all the while reliable, as well as offering a way to automatically log in 150 daily routine samples. Another requirement was that the scheduler portion had to be able to log in the same sample point at different times, with different parameter lists on Customer Case Studies Describing Utilization and Application of LabVantage Software Solutions on various days during the week and on specific days during the month.

A further requirement yet was that the system had to have a method by which it could import data from various instruments within the laboratory. In addition, DGC required the system to include limit checking to hold “out-of-specification” results for approval and release, while releasing other analytes within specified limits at once.

System Selected

Given the need for these multiple and divergent functions, DGC decided on LabVantage LIMS, as they felt the LABVANTAGE system would most likely meet the needs, as well as boasting the ability to tailor the system to fit their needs.

System Delivered

DGC staff traveled to New Jersey in October 2000, in order to configure the system. The sample scheduler and several configured actions regarding trend checking, approval, release and deletion of records were several of the items configured during this trip. DGC continued to configure specific reports and subsequently populated various tables.

LabVantage was able to visit DGC to fulfill the requirement of configured actions, such as for importing data from instrumentation. This was attained, offering direct importing of results from much instrumentation within the laboratory to the LabVantage database. This extra functionality, above and beyond base requirements, has been a vital component which has greatly improved both productivity and efficiency.

LabVantage was also able to build an action which would delete data from non-analyzed samples (for various reasons) while managing to keep a record of the sample for archive purposes.

DGC built archive tables in the Oracle database, which could then be accessed by the plant staff. Data spanning the years of 1987 to 2000 was stored in the archive tables. Following this, DGC went live with LabVantage LIMS on 1st May, 2001. The accessibility was such that training each member of staff was not only hugely simplified and streamlined, but took under 10 minutes to instruct each member of staff how to log in samples, print out bench work lists and enter sample data.

Unforeseen Benefits

The greatest advantage was increased efficiency. Thanks to the fact that 90% of data entered into LabVantage LIMS is done via import actions, the efficiency of the laboratory has increased exponentially. The laboratory has been able to adjust to a one-third increase in workload without the added expenses or inconveniences of additional staff or overtime, thanks to the efficiency of the LABVANTAGE system.

A further advantage has been dependability. The dependability of the system has surpassed all else. The system has never been down an extended period of time.

Increased interface with other products. Customers can now take data from the system and merge it with other systems. Sample data from LabVantage LIMS is combined with further information from Aspen Process Explorer – the latter is software which extracts information from process analyzers.

This information permits production staff to review overall process data and subsequently allows them to make process decisions based on the information. The maintenance required by LabVantage has been minimal after the initial setup of the system.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by LabVantage Solutions, Inc.

For more information on this source, please visit LabVantage Solutions, Inc.

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