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Different Flow Meters and Their Applications

What is a flow meter?

A flow meter is a tool that measures the volume or mass of a liquid, gas, or other substance. The linear, nonlinear, mass or volumetric flow rates of a gas or a liquid are measured using flow meters, which are flow measuring devices. Flow gauges and flow measurement tools are other names for flow meters. Depending on the business, this device may also go by the names flow rate sensor, liquid meter, flow gauge, or indicator, but it operates on the same principles in each case. Open channels like rivers and streams are measured using these meters. Some meter types concentrate primarily on the liquids and gases in a pipe. The accuracy, resolution, and precision of the liquid are improved, which is one of these meters’ key advantages.

The goal of a flow meter is to measure the volume of gas, liquid, or other streams passing by the instrument. Although they operate differently, these devices have the same overall purpose.

They provide accurate flow measurements that are repeatable for a variety of applications, including semiconductor production and process control.

This meter computes either volume or mass. The cross-sectional area of a meter and the liquid flow velocity can be used to calculate the liquid flow in the pipe (Q = A * v). The formula = Q (where Q is the liquid flow rate and is the fluid density) can be used to calculate the flow of mass. The movement of the mass is frequently the primary factor, especially when it comes to the sale or purchase of gases, chemical processes, combustion, etc.

Types of Flow Meters:

Differential Pressure Flow Meters: A differential pressure (DP) flowmeter is one of the most popular types of flowmeters. This sort of flowmeter is based on scientific theories that control how gases and liquids move through pipes.

Fluid moving from a wider pipe to a narrower one must travel through at a greater velocity to maintain a constant flow rate. A fluid’s pressure lowers as its velocity rises. Bernoulli’s theorem states that one can determine the flow rate of a fluid using the square root of the differential pressure. In other words, one can calculate the flow rate by calculating the differential pressure. DP flowmeters come in a variety of varieties, but they all work on the same principles.

The fluid being measured enters a smaller pipe section through an aperture plate in a differential pressure flowmeter. A differential pressure flowmeter, as its name suggests, monitors the pressure difference that results from the flow-restricted area. A DP flowmeter then performs the appropriate calculations to show the fluid’s flow rate.

Differential flowmeters are widely used in many sectors where fluid flow rate measurement is necessary. These include, among others, the mining, oil and gas, water treatment, pharmaceutical, food and beverage, and HVAC industries.

Orifice Flow Meters: The most common liquid flow meters in use today are orifice flow meters. An orifice is just a flat piece of metal with a hole cut into it that has a certain size. Concentric orifices make up the majority of those in use, but segmental, eccentric, and conical (quadrant) types are also available.

In actuality, two flanges are used to put the orifice plate in the pipe. The orifice, which serves as the main device, restricts the liquid flow to create a differential pressure across the plate. To find the difference, use pressure taps on the opposite side of the plate. The lack of moving parts and relatively flat cost of orifices make them excellent choices for pipes of all sizes.

Quadrant and conical orifices are more recent inventions. The main purpose of the units’ development was to measure low Reynolds number liquids. At R values below 5000, essentially constant flow coefficients can be kept. The depth and angle of the upstream bevel on conical orifice plates must be determined and manufactured for each application.

A variant of the segmental orifice is the segmental wedge. The flow of liquids containing solids is primarily measured using this restriction orifice. Low Reynolds numbers can be measured by the unit while still maintaining the appropriate square-root connection. Its design is straightforward, and the wedge gap is the only important dimension. Only about half as much pressure is lost through the unit as through traditional orifices.

Integral wedge assemblies fasten a one-piece pipe connection to a traditional pressure transmitter while combining the wedge element and pressure taps. The gadget can be installed in a pipeline without the requirement for any specific plumbing or fittings.

The installation circumstances, the orifice area ratio, and the physical characteristics of the liquid being measured all affect the metering accuracy of orifice flowmeters.

Venturi Flow Meters: The ability to manage enormous flow volumes with low-pressure drops is a benefit of venturi tubes. In essence, a venturi tube is a length of pipe with a straight neck and a tapering entrance. The velocity of the liquid rises as it moves through the throat, creating a pressure difference between the inlet and output regions.

There are no moving parts in the flowmeters. They can be installed using flanged, welded, or threaded-end fittings in large-diameter pipes. To average the observed pressure, four or more pressure taps are often placed with the machine. The majority of liquids, particularly those with a high solids content, can be used with venturi tubes.

Pitot Tube Flow Meter: The typical method for installing pitot tubes is to solder a coupling to a pipe and then insert the probe through the coupling. The majority of pitot tubes are only useful for single-point measurements. Foreign particles in the liquid have the potential to clog the units. Pitot tubes include benefits including inexpensive cost, no moving parts, simple installation, and minimal pressure loss.

Positive Displacement Flow Meters: Positive displacement (PD) flowmeters are another typical form of the flowmeter. The only form of flowmeter that calculates a fluid’s flow rate based on the volume of fluid passing through the meter as opposed to some other characteristic of the fluid that is related to flow rate is a PD flowmeter.

Rotating parts of the meter that resemble mechanical cogs are present. These gears turn as a result of the flow of fluid through the meter. These revolving parts trap tiny pockets of fluid in the space between them as they turn, unlike gears that closely fit together. The system keeps track of how much fluid has passed through by counting the pace at which these parts rotate.

This method works because the cogs’ rotating speed and the fluid’s flow rate are directly correlated.

A PD flowmeter may measure the rotational speed of the spinning parts in a variety of ways. One method is to have magnets in the parts that activate sensors outside the fluid chamber.

Positive displacement meters are known for their unmatched accuracy. Their design takes practically all of the fluid that flows through into consideration, which contributes to this precision. The minuscule quantity of fluid that manages to get past the seal of the spinning components also referred to as “slippage,” is the only source of the margin for error.

PD flowmeters can handle a wide range of fluids in terms of viscosity and are also incredibly accurate. Given that they are less prone to sliding, PD flowmeters may even be able to provide a more accurate reading for fluids with higher viscosities.

Velocity Flow Meter: The working principle of a velocity flowmeter is that a fluid’s flow rate is equal to the cross-section of a pipe multiplied by the fluid’s velocity. A velocity flowmeter can therefore calculate the fluid’s flow rate by monitoring the fluid’s velocity as it passes through the pipe. The category of velocity flow includes a variety of flowmeter types.

Vortex: Vortex meters contain an impediment that obstructs the flow of the fluid and causes vortexes to form. The amount of vortexes that develop tells how fast the fluid is moving.

Electromagnetic: When all other variables are constant, the voltage created by a fluid traveling through a magnetic field has a direct relationship with the fluid’s speed. To determine the flow rate, an electromagnetic flowmeter monitors the voltage.

Turbine: A turbine meter has freely revolving propeller blades that are parallel to the direction the fluid is flowing. The turbine flowmeter determines the flow velocity by measuring the rotational frequency.

Paddlewheel: A turbine-style flowmeter is comparable to a paddlewheel flowmeter. In this instance, a sensor detects magnets in the paddlewheel as it turns because of the flowing fluid. Electrical pulses generated by them show the flow rate.

Ultrasonic: Ultrasonic flowmeters transmit sound waves through a fluid using transducers. Information regarding the fluid’s flow can be conveyed by the reverberating sound wave. Only particular kinds of fluids can be used with this technique.

Volumetric Flow Meters: Regarding volume flow rate, these instruments run linearly. Their rangeability is larger because there isn’t a square-root relationship (unlike with differential pressure devices). When utilized at Reynolds numbers above 10,000, volumetric meters’ sensitivity to viscosity changes is at its lowest. The majority of velocity-type meter housings have connectors or flanges that allow them to connect directly to pipelines.

Mass Flow: As the name implies, a mass flowmeter measures the mass flow of fluid as it passes through a pipe. The pharmaceutical, mining, wastewater, power, chemical, and gas industries frequently use mass flowmeters. When working with an extremely viscous fluid or when there is a need to quantify mass, these flowmeters are the best option.

By heating a portion of the fluid and observing the consequent temperature change, one common method of measuring mass flow can be accomplished. Keeping a probe at a constant temperature and noting how much energy is needed to do so is a comparable technique. 

Thermal dispersion flowmeters are mass flowmeters that measure mass flow using heat. A Coriolis mass meter is another typical form of the mass flowmeter. It is necessary to be aware that there is a distinction between mass flow rate and volumetric flow rate, regardless of the technique the meter uses to measure it.

A mass flowmeter measures the mass of the fluid that flows through, whereas a positive displacement flowmeter measures the volume of fluid that passes through. Measurement of volume might be expressed in terms of cubic meters per second or another way of expressing volume in a specific amount of time. Volume is different from the mass. It might be expressed in kilos per second or any comparable unit of measurement.

When it comes to determining a fluid’s volumetric flow rate from a measurement of mass flow rate these measures are connected, it turns out. A mass flowmeter can calculate the flow rate in terms of volume by dividing the mass flow rate by the fluid density. Although it seems simple enough, there may be additional processes needed to accurately calculate the fluid’s density because it can change based on the environment.

Open Chanel: This kind of flowmeter has a principal device, which resembles a dam. Usually, a fume or a weir serves as the main device. In a moment, we’ll examine how these two categories of gadgets differ from one another.

If there is awareness of the relationship between depth and flow in the pipes, one may use an obstruction to measure the difference in depth and utilize that data to determine the flow rate. Weirs and flumes are distinguished mostly by their shapes.

Weirs are rectangular or V-shaped openings that are located at the top of a dam.

The height of the fluid will rise as the water or other fluid passes through the weir and over the dam. A larger flow rate is indicated by a greater depth increase.

Weirs and flumes are related, although flumes only produce a narrowing in breadth. The water level fluctuates and is correlated to the flow rate as the fluid enters the channel’s narrower portion.

Open-channel flowmeters are a practical way to measure the flow rate in free-flowing bodies of water like streams and rivers, in addition to their importance in industrial applications like wastewater treatment.

How to tell when the flow meter has an issue?

Any flowmeter may encounter troubles, so it’s important to pay attention to the readings the company’s flowmeter is generating and assess whether it’s performing consistently or whether it might be experiencing problems that are preventing it from accurately measuring flow.

If the flowmeter doesn’t seem to be operating accurately right away, it was probably installed incorrectly. It could be necessary to move it to a portion of piping that will provide a more precise reading. Or perhaps the flowmeter’s calibration has been incorrect from the start.

There might be a maintenance problem if the flowmeter has started to behave more irregularly over time. To continue functioning efficiently over time, sensors, flow lines, and other components typically need some maintenance.

By carefully reading the manufacturer’s manual, be sure to pay attention to what kinds of maintenance procedures the company’s flowmeter requires.

Every type of flowmeter is prone to different potential issues. For instance, electrical detractors that interfere with the current might cause problems for electromagnetic flowmeters. Have a service technician evaluate the flowmeter if there is the detection of any signs that it may not be functioning accurately. They can identify the issue and recommend fixes.

Applications of Flow Meters:

Water Distribution Network: Accuracy is a key consideration when selecting a flowmeter for a water distribution system because the flow rate of potable water is already influenced by many geographic factors.

Lack of electricity is a problem for certain remote water distribution networks; the solution is a flow meter powered by lithium batteries.

There are high-accuracy ultrasonic and electromagnetic flow meters that are powered by lithium batteries (where required). It gives water companies the chance to increase revenue even with lower flow rates. These flow meters are specifically calibrated to maintain flat accuracy throughout the full flow range and can measure velocity down to 0.1 m/sec.

Wastewater treatment Process: The quality of raw water can differ depending on where it is extracted. To eliminate one or more impurities, the water treatment process uses pressure filter tanks in layers of filters. These tanks, which are stocked with quartz chips, clean the tainted water after filtering it.

In the water treatment process, the pressure filter and electromagnetic flow meter are both utilized. It can be put in a variety of places, including the pressure filter’s inlet and outlet to measure the flow of water during water treatment. Consequently, the flow meter is a very valuable tool for effective monitoring and regulating the water treatment process.

Aeration Process: To hasten the decomposition of sludge waste, biological tanks are supplied with oxygen via powerful aeration systems.

Compressed air must be used in aeration basins in addition to measuring the amount of dissolved oxygen present for bacterial growth to occur at its best. Large compressors are employed to supply the water’s microorganisms with oxygen continuously throughout the day and night.

Because high-quality thermal mass flow meters are unaffected by changes in temperature, they can be used to measure compressed air accurately.

Bio Gas Treatment: In both aerobic digestion (i.e., the presence of oxygen) and anaerobic digestion (i.e., the absence of oxygen), bacteria break down the sludge particles, releasing biogas in the process. Methane makes up around 50% of biogas, with carbon dioxide making up the remainder. Methane and carbon dioxide are both pricey gases that call for precise measurement.

The thermal mass flow meters don’t need to keep track of temperature and pressure to determine mass flow because they can measure incredibly low velocities directly. Flow meters are also used in the treatment of water for RO water (for hospitals, commercial establishments, pharmaceuticals, and power (for thermal boilers).

Choosing a Flow Meter:

Fluid Property: The Reynolds number of the fluid is an important factor to take into account. This value provides information on the flow of a fluid through a pipe. If it’s less than 2,000, the flow is laminar, which means it moves steadily. The fluid is more turbulent if the number is higher than 2,000. To make sure flowmeters are a good fit for the application, pay attention to the specific range that is designed to handle while there is a comparison of flowmeters.

Accuracy: There frequently are a variety of options to pick from, all of which can be practical for the circumstance. Some, though, might provide a greater level of accuracy than others. Consider the degree of accuracy that various flowmeters may provide. Positive displacement flowmeters are typically among the most accurate flowmeters available, however, depending on what plan to use them for, this may not always be the best option.

Accuracy is frequently expressed as a percentage, such as 1%. In this case, the flowmeter reading could be 1% higher or lower than the real value. Therefore, the flowmeter is more accurate the lower the percentage.

Cost Effectiveness: A practical consideration that is always important is cost. One might come upon a flowmeter that will produce incredibly accurate findings but is out of the price range. Strive to strike a balance between budget and selecting the finest solution.

Keep in mind that cost-effectiveness isn’t only about pricing. Anyone might come across a solution that appears to be effective and is quite affordable. It will ultimately cost more in the long term because there might be a replacement if it’s too inaccurate or breaks down soon after the installation.

Even if it means spending more money upfront, look for a choice that offers quality and endurance. With time, this method enables the installer to maximize the performance of the flowmeter.

How to Install Flow Meter?

Any enterprise must constantly measure the flow of materials, which is why flow meters have become so important.  A flow meter must be installed properly to deliver accurate and trustworthy data. Essential things to note while installation include:

The installer should be aware of the installation location.

Where there are magnetic fields or vibrations, it cannot be installed.

Know which way the flow is going.

Avoid downhill flow when using liquids.

put on a straight pipe only

Make sure the fluid is totally inside.

Examine liquids for vapors or air, and gas lines for droplets.

To get rid of solids, if at all possible, place a filter upstream of the meter.

Give the pipe room to expand.

When repairs are required, have a bypass line ready.

Selection Parameters for choosing Flow Meters:

Following are the selection parameters for flow meters:

  • The fluid phase and properties, such as gas, liquid, and steam, flow range, and circumstances, such as clean, unclean, abrasive, or vicious.
  • Process design, such as pressure, temperature ranges, density, viscosity, etc. 
  • Size, composition, flange pressure rating, etc. of the pipe
  • Precision is desired.
  • Type of Construction Material (corrosive or non-corrosive fluid).
  • Maximum, minimum, and turn-down rates for measurements.
  • Cost-efficiency and repeatability.
  • Several environmental considerations standards for licensing and certification.
  • The flowmeter’s position within the piping system.
  • Either a mass or volumetric measurement.

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