Flow meter technology could benefit process industries

A new type of flow meter under development could facilitate the measurement of multiple velocities of different substances in a pipeline.

The team behind the technology at Huddersfield University believes the extra data provided would prove useful in process industries, particularly oil, for plant optimisation.

Magnetic flow meters rely on the electromagnetic induction created by a conducting fluid, for example, water that contains ions. The resulting potential difference is proportional to the flow velocity perpendicular to the flux lines.

‘Most magnetic flow meters make a single potential difference measurement across the diameter of the pipe, and they use that one voltage measurement to obtain the mean flow velocity,’ Prof Gary Lucas of Huddersfield told The Engineer. ‘What we’re doing here is to take several voltage measurements between pairs of electrodes spaced all around the circumference of the pipe, and use those to reconstruct the velocity distribution.’

This is important because if, for example, you have a horizontal pipeline with most of the oil flowing quickly along the top and most of the water flowing slowly at the bottom you can’t work out the exact oil and water flow rates unless you can differentiate the velocities in different parts of the pipe.

Process industries such as oil and gas will be among the principal beneficiaries of the new technology, which will furnish them with invaluable data that can lead to substantial gains in efficiency and therefore cost savings.

‘A lot of the motivation for this work is really gearing up towards developing in-line multi-phase flow meters, which can do away with the big static separators that you see on oil platforms,’ said Lucas.

‘Where you get a number of pipelines coming to a central collection point, if you had one of these multi-phase meters in each of these individual pipelines you’d have correct allocation to the right well and possibly to the right owner.’