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4 Things to Consider Before Selecting a Gas Flow Meter Technology

by | on | in Measurement and Control of Natural Gas | 0 Comments

Here are four things to consider when selecting your gas flow meter technology for an industrial process or natural gas pipeline uses, including custody transfer applications.

Gas Flow Meter Section Guide

Between traditional and new flow meter options, selecting the correct flow technology for an application is the first step to achieve accurate gas flow measurement. Unfortunately, this is one of the most overlooked steps when choosing a flow meter because it involves research and consideration. Consequently, many meters are chosen inappropriately and deliver unsatisfactory results.

Traditional Gas Technologies Newer Gas Technologies
  • Differential Pressure (∆P) (orifice plates, venturi tubes)
  • Turbine
  • Positive displacement (diaphragm meter, rotary meter)
  • Rotameter (variable area (VA))
  • Coriolis
  • Ultrasonic
  • Vortex flowmeters
  • Thermal mass flow

All meters have advantages, as well as disadvantages. Because no meter technology is perfect, to achieve accurate gas measurement the meter buyer must give thoughtful consideration for each application to find the technology where the strengths outweigh the weaknesses. To approach your search with the objective of finding the most inexpensive meter is usually shortsighted and often leads to a higher cost of ownership.

How can we help you?

To help with researching and considering your options, here are four areas to consider before selecting the proper technology.

1. What is the purpose or the application for your gas flowmeter?

Why do you need a gas flow meter? Do you need to measure the volume of a fuel gas? Is it for residential, commercial, or industrial use? Are you monitoring the flow of gas in an industrial process?

Custody Transfer or Fiscal Meters
  • Differential Pressure Meters
  • Turbine meters
  • Positive displacement flow meters
  • Coriolis flow meters
  • Ultrasonic meters
  • Vortex Flow Meters

Do you need to measure for custody transfer? Not all flow meters are approved for measuring gas for the transferal of ownership, or custody transfer applications.

Do you want to measure mass flow or volumetric flow?

In the gas industry, it is common to specify mass flow by correcting or adjusting the volumetric flow at standard pressure and temperature conditions (STP) and designating it as SCFM (Standard Cubic Feet per Minute). To adjust the volumetric flow, and express it as mass flow, pressure and temperature devices are required in addition to the volumetric meter.

Mass flow Meters
  • Coriolis flow meters
  • Thermal mass flow meters

Mass flow meters do not require the additional equipment to determine the mass flow and express as ACFM (Actual Cubic Feet per Minute).

Know your budget. Understand the meter cost, the installation, and maintenance costs associated with your meter section. What is the life expectancy of the meter and how do these expected expenses translate to the cost of ownership?

2. What gas do you need to measure or monitor?

What gas do you want to measure? Is it a single gas, or a mixture? Does the gas composition vary? Is it clean, or dirty? Is it pipeline gas, process gas, fuel gas, flare gas, digester gas or something else?

What is the operating flow range of the gas and accuracy requirement? Every meter is engineered for a specific flow range (as well as pressure and temperature ranges).Some meters have better turndown ratio (rangeability), meaning they can handle variations in flow ranges more effectively. Installing a meter outside of the operating flow range will lead to inaccurate readings. What is more important to your application, accuracy, or repeatability?

What is the process pressure range of the gas?

What is the process temperature of the gas?

3. Where do you intend to install the gas meter?

Where will the meter be installed? Are there any environmental conditions, such as electrical interference, heat, or cold that could impede the meter's performance? Are there government regulations that impact the location? Do you have sufficient straight run?

What is the pipe size? Alternatively, what is the duct size? What are the materials of the pipeline or duct? Are there environmental conditions that could impact the pipeline, and therefore the meter?

4. What do you need from your meter both short-term and long-term?

thermal mass gas flow meterA Sage thermal mass flow meter at a biogas facilityDo you need a flow meter totalizer? A totalizer will keep the running total of the gas flow that has passed within a specified time.

Will you need a local display on the meter? Alternatively, will you need an electronic signal output? Alternatively, both?

Understand the calibration needs of the meter. Every meter should come calibrated from the factory, but, some meter styles require frequent calibration and will need to be removed from service and sent it to the manufacturer or NIST certified calibration facility. Some meters offer calibration verification features that enable the user to check if the meter is still in calibration. Whether they do or do not, the user must follow the manufacturer's re-calibration guidelines.

Can the meter be upgraded? With the onset of advanced electronics, PLCs, SCADA systems, many manufacturers offer upgrades to ensure the meter works optimally, accurately and efficiently.

Know the meter's maintenance requirements. Every instrument requires periodic maintenance to ensure that it is operating correctly. While you may think a meter with no moving parts requires less maintenance, the ultrasonic flow meters or electromagnetic flow meters likely need their electronics inspected periodically. Be prepared to design your maintenance schedule based on the manufacturer's needs.

The informed, and educated meter buyer will have more success achieving accurate measurement in their applications.

If we can assist you in your gas flowmeter selection process, once you have given thought to these four areas, simply contact us now at (303) 697-6701.

Let us know what type of meter you would like a quote on.

Blog posted from 12450 W Cedar Dr, Lakewood, CO 80228, USA View larger map
Tagged in: flow meters
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About The Author

Tom is a former engineer for Xcel Energy, where he designed gas meter and regulator applications. He has also worked for mechanical contractors and engineering firms approving gas meters and regulators in various applications. He currently manages the Linc Energy Meter and Regular Department and is working on flare gas measurement.


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