Sakhalin II in big data management

November 25, 2015

Trish Meek provides insights into how massive amount of data in Russia’s first LNG project is being integrated and processed across all operations, including the main LNG and upstream satellite laboratories.

Sakhalin oil export terminal. Images from Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Sakhalin II is the world’s largest integrated oil and gas project, located in the harsh subarctic environment of Sakhalin Island in the Sea of Oshotsk. It is Russia’s first offshore development and first liquefied natural gas (LNG) project.

The field surrounding Sakhalin II contains approximately 140 million ton of oil and 550 Bcm of natural gas. The oil reserves are equivalent to more than one year of total crude oil exports from Russia, and the gas reserves represent nearly five years of Russian gas exports to Europe or enough to supply current global LNG demand for four years.

To export the gas, Sakhalin Energy built Russia’s first-ever LNG plant, which converts the gas to liquid by cooling it to a temperature of minus 161 degree Celsius, so that it can be transported by ship to consumers.

The Sakhalin LNG plant is the world’s second in a cold climate. The gas is transported from the gas field platform by pipelines to an onshore production facility (OPF) and then to Prigorodnoye in the south of Sakhalin Island, the site of the LNG plant and oil and LNG export terminals.

Since, Sakhalin is located close to emerging economies in Asia, it ensures uninterrupted supply of LNG to Asian markets year round. Customers in Japan, South Korea and the US have already bought all the gas to be produced at Sakhalin for the next 20 years.

Massive data requirements

The Sakhalin II project is a marvel of engineering, but its sheer size and throughput pose unique challenges for laboratory personnel, especially when it comes to compliance with standards, such as ISO 17025.

At the end of the day it’s all about quality, and the rigor required to document and deliver quality is enough to overwhelm even a small facility. Sakhalin II faces these challenges at a much larger scale.

To manage its complex sampling and testing requirements, which include critical integration with upstream satellite labs, Sakhalin Energy, relies on state-of-the-art sampling technology and a tightly integrated laboratory information management system (LIMS). From its nerve center at the heart of the facility, the company manages massive amount of data from a constant flow of samples that includes oil, gas, chemicals and wastewater.

According to Sunil Pandya, head of Sakhalin Energy’s laboratory, the lab has well-defined procedures for essential quality control work, from scheduling samples to managing resources and reporting on samples.

“However, to manage this workload and integrate with a variety of analytical instruments, we required an equally disciplined approach to collecting, managing and reporting. Not only within its main laboratory but across all upstream satellite laboratories as well,” he said.

ISO 17025 as a critical driver

The main Sakhalin II lab is an information hub, generating analytical reference data for product quality and custody transfer invoicing, calibration of on-line process analyzers, plant performance, equipment condition and environmental monitoring.

It also provides expert advice on LNG and crude oil sales purchase agreements (SPAs), plant troubleshooting and ad-hoc laboratory services to other Sakhalin Energy assets, OPF, pipelines and offshore platforms.

The data generated by the laboratory has strategic value across the organization. Among the internal stakeholders who rely on the analytical reference include operators, engineers, technology personnel, environmental service providers, marketers and finance staffs.

Any data required by these business stakeholders must be available on demand through its LIMS, and it must integrate seamlessly with critical information technology (IT) systems, including Sakhalin Energy’s corporate energy components (ER) package and process information (PI) system.

ISO 17025, the international standard for analytical laboratories is a critical driver that assists Sakhalin Energy in maintaining the discipline and transparency required to run an operation of this size. The deeper dive below into just the management requirements of ISO 17025 makes this point clear, and shows how important a system of record, such as a LIMs is helping the firm stay on track.

Management requirements for Sakhalin II

Grand Aniva LNG tanker

To achieve compliance, all labs affiliated with Sakhalin II must meet standards including third party and temporary facilities, such as field-based labs. A LIMS can help manage this complexity without disrupting daily activity. Proper security controls are especially important for external laboratories.

ISO 17025 also requires that quality systems be clearly documented and made available to all appropriate personnel. The LIMS used to manage the Sakhalin II project acts as the conduit for this quality system documentation and reinforcement. Relevant quality information is stored within the LIMS, providing reminders to staff at the point of execution.

Moreover, all documents, including manuals, methods and drawings that are generated during lab operations must be indexed and available on demand. The Sakhalin II LIMS can store relevant documents in nearly any standard format as an attachment, making compliance with document control a natural extension of routine laboratory work.

Another necessity is, all compliant laboratories must demonstrate that they have the experience, capability and resource necessary to meet the requirements of the client. Because a LIMS offers a system wide view of resources, methods, instrument calibration and more, it plays a central role in helping to manage contract review process for Sakhalin II.

Once work is complete, a LIMS also plays an important role in matching final delivery and pricing to scope of work. The LIMS tracks the handling of surface and subsurface oil and gas samples at all stages of the extraction and refining process. Everything is documented, ensuring full compliance and providing a record trail for ongoing quality control and efficiency analysis.

ISO 17025 requires that all laboratory subcontractors affiliated with Sakhalin II also be in compliance with the standard. It maintains an up-to-date register of all subcontractors, including their precise areas of expertise and an assessment of past performance. All this information is stored within comprehensive supplier tables for fast, universal access.

Specific procedures are in place for the purchase, receiving and storage of all supplies and consumables; failure to verify and document compliance with a stored consumable constitutes non-compliance. This is nearly impossible to achieve using a paper-based process. With LIMS, however, the Sakhalin II team can easily manage supplier statuses, using entry screens that feed into real-time reports and dashboards.

ISO 17025 includes provisions for prevention as well complaint resolution. This is one place where the regulations align with the LIMS best practices capabilities. This enables the Sakhalin II team to proactively identify issues before they become serious or systemic. The data feed into a built-in statistical quality control (SQC) package to proactively monitor analyses, identify trends and highlight potential issues.

Ensuring efficiency with LIMS

The Sakhalin II laboratory is designed for maximum efficiency, from extraction to issuing SOPs and certificates of quality. Laboratory sample data is centrally tracked and managed from within the LIMS, enabling the laboratory to operate according to GLP/OECD guidelines and demonstrate procedural conformity.

Sakhalin Energy staffs rely on the LIMS 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing access to critical data collected from the thousands of samples taken from across Sakhalin Island. Data from the facility’s state-of-the-art equipment, including gas chromatographs is directly transferred into the LIMS where it is used for data trending and analysis and to identify if or when product is moving out of specification.

The benefits of LIMS for Sakhalin Energy are significant, as it has improved sample turnaround times, centralized access to data and improved operational efficiencies. Together with the discipline established by GLP and ISO 17025, the facility can meet even the most rigid requirements for both standard and non-routine sampling. It is even capable of providing detailed audit trails for tracking deviations and making critical amendments to each study.

“Our laboratories have been designed from the ground up to support this site,” said Pandya. “This project represents the new frontier in oil and gas development, and our laboratory needed a LIMS that was proven to be reliable in this environment and dependable for the future of the project.”


ISO 17025 compliance in the oil and gas industry isn’t easy, especially in labs still using paper-based processes. However, when properly implemented, compliance processes can be part of an integrated program that improves overall multi-facility performance and profitability.

Whether an oil and gas laboratory chooses to implement a LIMS as a result of regulation or because it simply wants to improve quality, the end result is the same. It is an integrated system that can deliver the best of both worlds.

Better data management reduces complexity and provides executives with insights that can deliver unprecedented levels of operational performance. For Sakhalin Energy and its ultra-modern laboratory, the combination of ISO 17025 and LIMS provide a backbone that enables reliable data management.

Its laboratories are equipped with the instruments, software and systems that allow it to deliver consistent and reliable insights across the enterprise, from exploration to production and shipping of finished product. 

Trish Meek
is director of product strategy at Thermo Fisher Scientific.  Having been with the firm since 1999, currently Meek works closely with customers to understand their current business needs and long-term strategy to drive the informatics product roadmap and business strategy. Trish has a bachelor of science in chemistry from Loyola University, New Orleans.    

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