Tag Archives: Steam Flow Measurement

Sensor Probe Insertion/Retractor Simplifies Installation of Steam Flow Meters in Hot Tapping Applications

retractor-equation-2jpgAccurately measuring fluid flows like steam in large ducts or pipes is a challenging application. Large ducts and pipes often have swirl or turbulent flow which makes accurate flow measurement difficult. Not to mention, installation of steam flow meters can be extremely challenging since in many cases you will need to shut off the steam flow to install the meter. This is just not practical.

For many facilities, “shutting the steam down” for flow meter installation is cost prohibitive due to the loss of energy allocation or halting critical process.  One common practice to install steam flow meters into the active flow is to “hot tap” the flow meter into the pipe without shutting down at all.

As you can imagine, due to high temperatures and pressures hot tapping in large pipes is an application that very few flow measurement devices can handle.

Sierra’s insertion retractor for the InnovaMass Vortex Flow Meter, however, can be easily “hot tapped” into any size pipe with process connections from 150 lb. flange up to 600 lb. flange with its newly re-designed retractor.

Watch our “how-to” video demonstrating the newly designed, compact, ergonomic InnovaMass iSeries vortex flow meter insertion/retractor which makes hot tapping into large pipes easy, no matter the pipe orientation. It has a 180 degree rotation and works well in tight spaces. The video also shows how to install the retractor, how to find the centerline of the pipe, and how to actuate up and down. Use one retractor for multiple products!

Already have a 241i with a retractor? What are your thoughts?

Need additional information? Visit our guide to the InnovaMass 241i.

Sierra’s Biggest Stories from 2016


2017 is here and this year will bring many new exciting developments at Sierra, but before launching completely into the new year, let’s take a look back at our top stories of 2016.

New at Sierra in 2016

We’re always looking for new ways to communicate and interact with our customers and industry. Find out about three new initiatives we started in 2016 that will continue to grow in 2017.

Minute Flow Tip YouTube Videos

At Sierra, we get very excited about flow measurement and control as you can imagine, and sometimes we want to spread the information we have quickly without a whole lot of fuss. That’s the spirit behind the “Minute Flow Tips” video series we launched in 2016.  We cover a variety of flow measurement control tips to help you strengthen your flow measurement capability to improve your overall process quality.

Application Tech Notes

Sometimes you need quick information about a specific application, that’s where our new Tech Notes come in. You can quickly and easily learn about the challenges of an application and which flow meter or controller will help overcome this and provide precise measurement. You can currently download Tech Notes on Upstream Oil & Gas, Burner Control in Manufacturing and Beverage Manufacturing Applications with more applications coming in 2017.

Sierra on Instagram

In 2016 we expanded our social media presence to Instagram. You can now follow us to get an inside glimpse at what happens at Sierra and view photos of flow meter applications from around the globe. Have a photo of a Sierra flow meter in action? Send it to us and you may just see your name and photo in our feed!

Most Popular Blog Posts from 2016

Our Let’s Talk Flow Blog gives us an opportunity to share with you the latest happenings at Sierra, product news and flow meter education. Here are the top three articles our readers found most interesting in 2016. If you missed one, click through and catch up!

boilermactlogo-3Tuning Your Boiler for EPA Boiler MACT Compliance

Compliance with the EPA’s Boiler MACT regulations was a hot topic in 2016 with the three-year grace period on Major Source Boiler MACT coming to an end. In this article, we discuss the regulations, three ways to tune a boiler for compliance with the regulations and how flow meters can be used to help companies comply.

For Vortex Flow Meters, Accuracy Matters in Steam Energy Flow Measurement

innovamass-landing-page-slideMost facilities managers are in the hot seat to account for all of the flow energy, going in and out of their facility which is no easy task. This mandate is no different for steam flow measurement. In this article, we discuss the challenges of steam flow management and which type of flow meter is most accurate and maximizes steam productivity best.


sierra flare gas solutionsHow to Reduce Methane Emissions with Thermal Mass Flow Meters

Meeting EPA CFR 40 standards for methane emissions in the oil and gas industries continues to be a hot topic. In this blog post, we discuss how flow meters can help companies comply and Sierra’s solutions.

Oldies, but Goodies

We publish a lot of new content each year but there is some content from previous years that continues in popularity and helps customers. Here’s a look at the top three articles from previous years that are still popular with readers.

Flow Meter Do’s and Don’ts with Ammonia

Flashback to Pitcon 2012 for the inspiration for this blog post. There were many engineers and researchers stopping by our booth that year in need of a solution for ammonia flow measurement. Find out the precautions you need to take when using a flow meter in an ammonia application.

Insertion Flow Meter Straight Run Requirements

This instructional post continues to be a helpful resource for those deciding on the most optimal placement of their industrial thermal insertion mass flow meter. Jim Oswald, Sierra’s Technical Support Manager, shares his technical expertise and tribal knowledge to help you find the best point of insertion.

Wireless Networks for the Digital Flow Meter, Part 1

Need to improve network speed to flow meters that are wired into your infrastructure? Wireless communication continues to be a popular topic and this post provides an example of how you can use wireless technology as a solution to this problem.

2017 Preview

This year, as we do every year, we have big plans to make your experience with Sierra even better and more engaging.  Keep an eye out for our increasing library of Application Tech Notes, Infographics, and videos to both inform and help guide you in flowmeter choice and selection. In addition, we have some very exciting product launches and improvements that we know you will love. As always, Sierra will continue to serve our community through outreach programs and focus on employee and customer training programs.

Stay tuned in 2017 – It’s going to be a great year!

Upgrades to Food Processing Boilers Worth Their Salt: a Steam Flowmeter Case Study

When the operations staff at a large food processing plant wanted to reduce utility costs and better analyze boiler performance, they chose to retrofit their 35-year-old boilers with new electronic controls, as well as several of our Innova-Mass® Model 241 immersible multivariable mass vortex flow meters to accurately measure steam discharge. Previously run by old pneumatic control systems, these boilers produce steam that is piped to various sites within the plant and used to power equipment and processes.

The Innova-Mass unit, a steam flow meter that’s won an innovation award, allowed them to troubleshoot their boilers and diagnose several unsuspected problems. The principal engineer told me our meter saved him a great deal of time in several ways, not the least of which was the time required to install, commission and configure the meter.

Plus, during the installation, they discovered that they had ordered the wrong range setting. However, they were able to quickly and easily reconfigure the flowmeter, saving them several weeks of time because they did not have to return equipment to the us.

They also found the multivariable mass vortex steam flowmeter meter’s interface to be very intuitive and easy to use. The meter’s electronics are accessed locally via six buttons that can be operated either directly, on the display panel or with a handheld magnet through the explosion-proof enclosure. Using this method allowed the customer to configure the device without compromising its hazardous location integrity.

Thanks to the Innova-Mass Model 241, this food manufacturer is really cooking – and saving money, too!

Now Measure All Flow Energy In Your Facility — One Solution — Three Metering Technologies

oil and gas refineryFacilities managers at large facilities often have the challenging task of managing all the flow energy in their facility with the mandate from upper management to save money on energy costs. To accomplish this goal, it’s critical to get accurate flow measurement data of the flow energy in your facility such as: natural gas, compressed air, steam, chilled and hot water.

The next challenge is to find the right flow meters for these gas, liquid, and steam applications. Often many different technologies are needed depending on the type of fluid being measured and many different flow meter companies must be used. Dealing with different companies and technologies can be very time consuming, expensive, and ultimately frustrating.

Sierra is tackling this issue with our new Big-3™ flow energy management strategy. Sierra now offers facilities managers a “one-stop shop” for all flow meters needed for effective flow energy management—all made in the USA and supported globally by our network of over 150 locations in over 50 countries.

We design and manufacture thermal mass flow meters for accurate compressed air and natural gas measurement, vortex shedding flow meters for steam and water measurement, and transit-time ultrasonic flow meters for liquid flow measurement. Product commissioning and training, lifetime tech support, and a global network of flow experts from one company make it easy to install and operate all gas, liquid and steam flow meters.

In addition, for easy integration into your facility, Sierra’s “Big-3” thermal, vortex, and ultrasonic (TVU) flow meters have:

  • Sierra’s commitment to great sensors with lifetime warranty—over 40 years of flow meter innovation and expertise
  • Shared firmware platform—Raptor OS operating system
  • Shared software apps for ease of use, so no learning new software and local display interface menu structures for each device
  • Major focus on excellent, fully automated, calibration facilities
  • Broad application capability (gas, liquid, steam)
  • One company, one point of contact for all three flow metering technologies
  • All designed, built and calibrated by Sierra in Monterey, CA USA

Watch Video

Let me explain more about Sierra’s new Big-3™ strategy and how it can help you transform your flow energy measurement strategy by watching this short video.

Download the Big-3 overview brochure.

Stop Getting Steamed (Part 2): Easy Vortex Flowmeter Retrofit

In my last post, I outlined problems you may be facing if you need to measure superheated steam accurately, and I promised to share a success story about our Innova-Mass multivariable vortex flow meter.

A district energy provider for a Midwest city had hot air problems. Their old shunt meters were wearing out and leading to high maintenance costs and increased downtime. After considering several alternatives, including a standard volumetric vortex meter, they decided to try our insertion-type Innova-Mass because it simultaneously measures three process variables: velocity, temperature, and pressure (VTP) using one process connection. This allows real-time calculation of true mass flow.

Insertion vortex flow meters have seen limited use because they measure velocity at only a single point and are, therefore, greatly affected by flow profile. The Innova-Mass solves this inherent problem by measuring the Reynolds number in real-time, calculating a dynamic flow profile and determining correction algorithms for the point velocity. This provides a reliable insertion meter for very large pipes where an in-line flowmeter would likely be much too costly. Since everything is calibrated together in the Innova-Mass, complete system accuracy is very high — better than +/- 2.0 percent of reading accuracy and +/- 0.2 percent repeatability is the norm.

They easily retrofitted our Innova-Mass flow meter into existing steam lines and could directly measure mass flow with no extra equipment and no moving parts. By replacing the old shunt meters, this Midwest energy provider saved approximately 35 percent annually in maintenance costs and saw a 25 percent increase in billable steam flow. Clearly, a vortex flowmeter makes cents in steam applications!

Preventable Mistakes with Vortex Flow Meters

Vortex flow meter technology is an ideal technology for many applications particularly saturated and supersaturated steam, volumetric water applications as well as flow energy management (natural gas, compressed air, steam, water) in facilities and large campuses. In some of these applications, vortex installations can be tricky and take flow expertise for the most successful installations. Kam Bansal, the Director of Engineering, has some useful tips for successful vortex installations and common mistakes to avoid to get the most out of your vortex flow meters in your application.

Vortex Flow Meter Mistakes to Avoid

#1 – Water Hammer

If you’ve ever turned on your shower and the pipes made a loud bang, you’ve probably experienced the phenomenon called water hammer. Most commonly caused by opening or closing a valve too quickly, it occurs when a mass of water zooms through a pipe with enough momentum to pack a serious punch.

Commercial pipelines often allow these “water hammers” to reach such high speeds that they can damage the flow meter sensor. To alleviate the “water hammer” phenomenon,  try to avoid condensation in steam systems by opening and closing valves gradually to equalize pressure.

#2 – Incorrect Range or Pipe Size

Vortex flow meters are highly specialized devices, and each one is made-to-order based on customer application specifications. This means an out-of-the-box meter will only work for the original order’s conditions. Usually, you can’t make any changes once the meter is installed in the field. However, the software apps offered by Sierra’s InnovaMass iSeries allow you to change variables in-the-field with dial-a-pipe, and tune meter factors in-situ to fit your needs.  You can also adjust your vortex meter via the local pushbutton display interface. In addition, if you think your application may approach the meter’s maximum pressure or temperature, it’s better to buy a higher-rated meter than risk overheating or over pressurizing.

Now that you are aware of these preventable mistakes, think about your vortex meter installation process and specification process.

If you need a refresher, watch this short video by Director of Engineering, Kam Bansal, for an in-depth explanation on how to solve some of the common vortex installation mistakes.

Have technical questions? Comment below or contact us.

Stop Getting Steamed (part 1): Vortex Flow Meters Make Cents

If you’re a provider of superheated steam – commonly used to heat water and buildings in large cities in the northeastern United States – then you may be watching your revenue go up in smoke.

As you know, steam is not free. Normally, it’s produced at a central facility and piped to customers. Like all other forms of heat, steam must be measured and billed according to usage. Unfortunately, most steam systems have been in operation for many years (sometimes for nearly a century) and typically rely on a legacy device calle­d a shunt meter to measure steam consumption.

Shunt meters have three major drawbacks:

  1. First, they are mechanical, so the device wears out.
  2. Second, they are a volumetric device, so additional temperature, pressure and flow computers are required to determine steam mass flow. The total system accuracy and repeatability is affected by each individual component.
  3. Third, process variables may be measured at different points.

All of these factors together lead to poor accuracy, typically around five percent. That is lost money to steam producers due to billing inaccuracies.

When customers come to us with steam consumption applications, we recommend our Innova-Mass multi-variable mass vortex flow meter, which will quickly solve the problems associated with shunt meters and help you capture revenue that’s been disappearing into thin air.

When I revisit this topic next week, I’ll share a case study that demonstrates how one maker of superheated steam discovered that the benefits and savings associated with our mass vortex flowmeters aren’t just a lot of hot air.

Striving For Perfection: Flow Energy Partnership Improves Geothermal Energy Production


Since the early twentieth century, geothermal energy has been used to produce electricity. In the 1980’s and 90’s, rapid expansion in the demand for geothermal energy put pressure on suppliers to reduce costs and increase efficiencies. Now geothermal energy production is becoming a common practice around the globe.

One of the largest energy companies in Turkey is blazing the trail for renewable geothermal energy production in the region, including the Middle East and Asia. They “consider sustainable energy a key element of sustainable development” which is the energy vision that drives Turkey and the region’s development. This major energy company has 3 geothermal power plants totaling 129 megawatts and 2 wind farms totaling 191 megawatts in Turkey. At the heart of these the geothermal energy production for this company, always remain: how can we produce geothermal energy in the most efficient way possible?

The Scoop on the Company’s Geothermal Process Needs

For efficient Geothermal energy production,  water is heated from the earth’s natural heat in geothermal wells, then is cooled off and sent back into the earth to be reused in the energy-generating process.  Companies need a water flow meter to accurately measure the water in this application, which is critical for assessing the efficiency of energy production.

To solve this water flow measurement problem, the energy company contacted, Elekon, one of Sierra’s flow partners in Turkey. They originally specified an an electromagnetic flow meter to measure the water before it travels back into the earth to be reused.  However, Elekon’s,  Robert Benbanaste (CEO/Owner of Elekon), noticed right away that the pipeline size was too large for an inline electromagnetic flowmeter (over 48” for the line size). Robert had the perfect solution for this application. Sierra’s 241i insertion vortex flow meter.

The application flexibility gained with insertion flow meters, versus the inline mag meter, is perfect for applications with large pipe sizes. The 241i insertion vortex can handle applications in pipes up to 72 inches (2M) in diameter and larger and has hot tap easy installation with an on board retractor.  With the 241i, volumetric or multivariable measurement is possible with a single pipe insertion point, greatly reducing installation and maintenance costs.

Hakan, one of Elekon’s seasoned application field engineers, worked right with the facilities managers at the company to hot top the vortex 241i into their pipe-fast, easy, and painless (see above photo). ATEX certification was also important for the company. ATEX is a certification by FM Approvals Ltd that certifies that the 214i vortex flow meter complies with the Essential Health and Safety Requirements relating to the design and construction of equipment intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres. The 240i and 241i Inline and Insertion Mass Vortex flow meters meet those requirements, specifically those relating to the process temperature and pressure.

Armed with their new vortex flow meters, the Turkish energy company is most pleased with the success of the cost savings and energy efficiency they have gained since their installation. They are so happy with the solution that they are placing an additional order—now that’s a sign of process success!

Want to get energy process gains in your application for vortex technology? Check out Sierra’s line of InnovaMass vortex flow meters.

If you’re not sure what type of meter you need for your project, contact an engineer today for a free consultation. We’ll help you find the right tools for your process—anyday.

Out in the Cold: Mass Vortex Flowmeter Conquers Cryogenic Fluid

Cryogenic fluids are key in a variety of industries with very low temperature applications, including medical, large-scale frozen food processing and electric power transmission. However, these fluids must be handled – and measured – with great care, which can be a challenge if you’re using a traditional turbine meter or other tools to assess various fluid properties.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a single flow meter could do it all? Let me introduce you to one that can: the InnovaMass® Multivariable Mass Vortex Flowmeter, with technology that can simultaneously measure FIVE process parameters at the same time – mass flow rate, temperature, pressure, volumetric flow rate and fluid density.

We’ve extensively tested and field validated the extreme low-temp version of these flow meters over the last several years and have learned that most customers prefer the InnovaMass over turbine meters for measuring mass flow rates of cryogenic liquids down to -328°F (-200°C).  Using a special cryogenic temperature RTD, mass calculations are done with the latest density equations of state for liquid oxygen, nitrogen, argon and carbon dioxide. All models are fully field-programmable and configurable, and they feature RS485, MODBUS or HART protocols.

If you’re looking for a better way to measure cryogenic liquids, consider giving the InnovaMass flowmeter a try.

Sierra’s Top Flow Blogs of 2017

best of 2017

Another year has come and gone, and it certainly was a big one for Sierra and our customers! Let’s look back at the news and top content that we shared with you in 2017.

Most Popular Blog Posts from 2017

We love sharing our news and providing useful flow meter information with you through our Let’s Talk Flow Blog. Here are the posts that resonated best with our readers last year, complete with links so you can catch up if you missed any.



Measure All Flow Energy in Your Facility-ONE Solution-Three Metering Technologies 

The pressure is on your shoulders to make the smartest decisions in 2018 to measure all the gas, liquid, and steam flow energy in your facility. In this video, learn how ONE complete flow energy management solution can simplify the flow energy management in your factory.


minute.flow.tip.John.S.1.3.17[Minute Flow Tip Video] Mass Flow Versus Volumetric Flow Technology

What’s the Mass Flow Advantage? Chief Engineer, John Smitherman explains the vast differences between gas mass flow rate and volumetric flow rate.  Learn why mass flow technology greatly improves measurement accuracy in this Minute Flow Tip Video.


scott.video.207i.installation.1.3.17Making Ultrasonic Liquid Flow Meter Installation Easier
Clamp-on Ultrasonic flow meters are the perfect flow meter for liquid flow measurement. But finding the perfect signal can sometimes be difficult. Sierra’s Product Line Director, Scott Rouse, demonstrates how on board Software Apps on an InnovaSonic 207i ultrasonic liquid flow meter make set up simply with an easy “12-step” program.


compod.blog.2017.Best.of.1.3.17How to Supercharge the SmartTrak Mass Flow Controller with Compod
Learn how to streamline, simplify, and save time and money with the Compod upgrade for the SmartTrak 100 mass flow meter and controller.  Set up simple process control systems driven by SmartTrak with Compod without the need for PLCs or computers.




4-20.image.2017.best.of.1.3.18 Understanding  4-20 mA Current Loop Communications
Many times, customers ask  “how do I get accurate 4-20mA output readings?” for 4-20mA output devices. Kam Bansal, Director of Engineering, explains 4-20mA communications protocol, step-by-step to dispel the complications and confusion around the protocol to get you set up and running.



Oldies, but Goodies

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or so it seems based on the continued popularity of these older posts that continue to draw readers.

Tuning Your Boiler for EPA Boiler MACT Compliance
Our most popular new post in 2016 remained hot through 2017 as the three-year grace period on the EPA’s Boiler MACT expired in January 2017. In the article, we discussed the regulations, three ways to tune a boiler for compliance, and how flow meters can help your company comply.

Flow Meter Do’s and Don’ts with Ammonia
Five years after it was published, this post is still one of our most popular. We knew we had to write this post when a number of engineers and researchers stopped by our booth at Pitcon in 2012 to ask about ammonia flow measurement. Years later, the precautions stand true and are critical if you are using a flow meter for an ammonia application.

Methods & Pitfalls of In-Situ Calibration Validation of Thermal Flowmeters
“In-situ” means in place, meaning that you don’t have to return your instrument to the facility to have it recalibrated and recertified. You can certainly see the allure of that, but there are pitfalls. Read this post to learn how to get reliable results and avoid false positives.

We hope you enjoyed this look back at 2017 and that you continue to follow us through 2018. We look forward to bringing you more of the best flow information online in the coming year.