Tag Archives: Vortex Flow Meters

Steam Flow Energy Measurement

From facilities management to district heating applications, accurate steam flow energy measurement is a critical flow measurement needed to incur substantial savings on energy and maintenance costs. However,  steam flow energy measurement is also the most difficult flow measurement to make due to the unknown factors of what type of steam is being produced, various pipe sizes, and difficulty in steam flow meter installation. In most cases, you need to shut down the steam production, which can cost thousands of dollars in lost productivity, to install the steam flow meter.

Glen Coblentz, VP Sales North America for Sierra, has over 30 years experience dealing with the challenges of getting accurate steam flow measurements in facilities. Learn some tricks of the trade in his new Flow Tip Video, “Do You Know Your Steam Flow Measurement?” He tackles 3 important questions for accurate steam flow measurement:

  1. What kind of steam is your facility making? Are they producing saturated or superheated steam?
  2. What type of measurement, mass or volumetric, provides the most accurate steam flow measurements?
  3. What do you do when you absolutely cannot shut down the process, but you find you need to measure steam flow?

Determine if your Steam is Saturated or Superheated Steam

To measure steam flow effectively,  you need to know what type of steam you are producing. Saturated steam and superheated steam are very different and measuring incorrectly for either one will cost you big time.

It may seem like this would be obvious, but let’s say you are creating superheated steam.  If you have to continually add lots of heat (energy) to the steam so that you can create the superheated steam you may have something wrong with your process. When you specify, your steam flow meter make sure you know what type of steam you are measuring as this determines how the steam flow meter is set up from the factory. Incorrect set up results in incorrect steam flow readings. The density of saturated steam varies with either temperature or pressure, while superheated steam varies with temperature and pressure, so multivariable vortex flow meters assure the flow meter’s density calculations are correct, and therefore, mass steam flow measurements are correct maximizing steam productivity. Sierra’s multivariable vortex flow meters provide steam accuracy of +/- 1% of reading, 30:1 turndown plus pressure and temperature compensation.

Use the Right Flow Meter Technology to Ensure the Most Accurate Steam Flow Measurements

While there are a multitude of steam flow measuring technologies out there, an insertion multivariable mass flow vortex meter will be your best option for accurate data to help make informed decisions about your steam flow system.

Unlike differential pressure devices commonly used for steam flow which are inherently volumetric flow measurements, a multivariable mass flow vortex uses mass flow as its basis of measurement. This is important,  because changes in pressure and temperature will change the mass flow rate of steam. Even a “small” change of 10 percent in steam pressure will result in a 10 percent error in non-compensated mass flow. This means that, in a typical differential pressure measurement installation, the volumetric flow rate measured by the device must be compensated by measuring temperature and pressure, and then these three measurements (ΔP, T and P) integrated with a flow computer to calculate mass flow.

Choosing an insertion multivariable vortex meter gives engineers the benefit of using one instruments and one process connection to simultaneously measure mass flow rate, temperature, pressure, volumetric flow rate, and fluid density.

When Shutting Down is Not an Option – Hot tap

In many facilities, a very real challenge is the need to measure steam flow but shutting down your process is not an option. So, what do you do in these situations?

The answer is to use Sierra’s 241i insertion vortex flow meter. Unlike other options out there, the 241i has full packing gland and hot tapping capability allowing engineers to insert the sensor into any size pipe they want, anytime they need to do so to make a steam flow energy measurement without shutting down the process.

    • Insertion probe up to 72 inches (2M); optional hot tap
    • Ideal for saturated or superheated steam, gas, and liquid
    • Low-cost alternative to Coriolis meters for large pipes and ducts
    • Easy single-point installation; hot tap and hot tap retractor available
    • Volumetric flow rate or mass flow
    • Multivariable for five measurements in one device with one process connection:
      • Mass flow rate
      • Volumetric flow rate
      • Temperature
      • Pressure
      • Fluid density
    • Complete suite of digital communications
    • Rugged, long-lasting design for the toughest applications; no leaks with all welded gasket-free flow body

Learn more about Sierra’s vortex volumetric flow and multivariable mass flow meters.

Discover how vortex flow meter works.

Getting The Most Out of Your Steam Flow Measurement with Vortex Mass Flow Meters.

Three tips for maximizing your vortex shedding meter’s efficiency.

As far as steam flow measurement goes, vortex mass flow meters have become the flow technology of choice for most facilities and plants looking to incur significant savings on energy, maintenance, and processing costs. Vortex flow meters are perfect for measuring saturated and supersaturated steam in facilities looking to improve steam production efficiency and allocation. However, when it comes to vortex mass flow meters for steam flow measurement, there are three things to keep in mind to achieve optimal meter performance.

  1. Upstream/Downstream Lengths- Make sure you have the correct upstream and downstream diameter.

    When selecting a site to install a vortex flow meter, locate a space that has ample upstream and downstream (uninterrupted) runs so that you ensure a fully developed flow profile inside the pipe. Unlike thermal flow meters, vortex shedding meters will not work with flow conditioning plates. Vortex meters must have a straight run of pipe to function properly. Turbulent conditions caused by interruptions in the run (90-degree bends, T sections, valves, etc.…) add variables to the application that can impact the effectiveness of the meter.Countless times, when end users believe their meter is not working, it is probably because the meter was not installed properly.

    Additional Tip: Typically, you will need a straight run of at least 10 diameters upstream and 5 diameters downstream.

  2. Inline Over Insertion.

    We know an insertion meter is an attractive option. The ability to install a vortex meter (hot-tap) without shutting down the process has its place. However, think about installing an inline meter when the site is down or even designing a system from the start with inline meters in mind.

    Why?

    Inline meters use all of the application flow in measuring the vortex phenomenon whereas an insertion meter takes a sample of the application flow and extrapolates against a (presumed) flow profile. This makes Inline meters slightly more accurate as they can capture small variables in the application flow and also use the entire flow profile instead of extrapolating.

  3. Avoid Vibration/Noise Signals.

    Locations with lots of vibrations and noise signals can affect flow accuracy and therefore impact your bottom line. Look for a meter installation site that is supported or braced to avoid excess pipe vibration.

    Vortex shedding meters rely on technologies that can be impacted by vibration and constant htz electronic noise. Industrial flow meters have systems in place to combat these disturbances, but if they can be avoided you will ensure the meter is working with the strongest, cleanest flow signal possible.

    The same principles apply to electrical noise produced by machinery that may be connected to the line (such as a boiler or heater). The further away you can get from other equipment that may be generating electrical noise, the stronger and cleaner your flow signal will be to give you better accuracy.

Sierra’s Solution for Steam Flow Measurement- InnovaMass 240i/241i -Provides Proven Accurate Steam Flow Measurement

  • Multivariable: mass flow rate, volumetric flow rate, density, pressure, temperature
  • Accuracy of up to 0.7 percent of reading; 30:1 turndown
  • Dynamic density calculation improves steam metering accuracy
  • Hot-tap probe retractor for easy steam installation
  • Onboard software Apps like meter set up, in-situ calibration/validation, tuning

Discover How Vortex Mass Flow Meters Work.

Get more Flow Energy Management Applications-Installation Tips & Tricks.

Learn about Sierra’s InnovaMass Vortex Mass Flow Meters.

Watch the video to discover additional Vortex Flow Meter Mistakes to Avoid

How to Choose the Perfect Flow Meter to Reduce Flow Energy Costs in Your Facility

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s almost October and Fall is in the air. 2020 has turned out to be a tumultuous year and things seem to only be heating up. COVID-19 continues to be a daily factor in our lives, civil unrest is abundant, and the US economy remains volatile.

However, despite these obstacles, common among all manufacturing is a desire to optimize business processes, cut costs where they can, and keep the doors open while still providing the best possible service for their customers. A tangible way to do this is to focus on managing the flow energy in their facility to control costs, increase process efficiency, improve profits. And this all starts with providing facility operations managers and engineers the most accurate flow data to make informed, smart decisions about how to better manage the flow energy in their facility.

Here are some steps to identifying the flow energy applications in your facility, asking the right questions, and then specifying the correct flow meter for the fluid and application to get the most accurate flow measurement possible.

Step 1. Understand Your Plants’ Key Flow Energy Applications and Ask the Right Questions.

The key to getting the best data to manage your facility is to know your plants key flow applications. Common applications across many facilities are natural gas measurement, compressed air measurement, steam production, usage, and allocation, water and energy BTU measurement. The common denominator is all of these are flow processes that need its specific flow energy measured.

Application #1
Precise Natural Gas Measurement-Improve Boiler Efficiency/ Sub-Metering

Need to measure fuel gas flow over a wide range? A single thermal mass flow meter can measure very high flows at peak demand or very low flows during startup and shutdown to always assure the best fuel to air ratio in your burners and boilers. Additionally, thermal mass flow meters can help you to control natural gas costs with sub-metering that will deliver improved accuracy and substantial savings.

Key Questions to control costs and improve process

  • Are your boilers running efficiently?
  • What’s the inlet flow rate of natural gas to your boiler?
  • How can you accurately measure your flow over a wide flow range?
  • If temperature or pressure change in your line, how do you maintain an accurate flow rate?
  • What flow meter technology is best for natural gas measurement?

Application #2
Compressed Air Measurement-Identify Costly Leaks & Inefficiencies
Want to be convinced that the energy costs to generate your compressed air don’t go to waste? Thermal mass flow meters are ideal for detecting compressed air leaks. Due to their low flow sensitivity and compact insertion probe design, you can easily move from place to place to find and eliminate leaks when you see flow where there is no air demand.

Key Questions to control costs and improve process

  • How much compressed air are your air compressors producing?
  • How much compressed air is being allocated to other processes?
  • Are there compressed air leaks in the system?

Application #3
Steam Flow Measurement-Production, Usage, and Allocation
Concerned that pressure drop in your delivery system is affecting your steam flow? Multivariable vortex flow meters measure steam pressure, temperature and mass flow with one compact meter, so you have confidence your steam plant and delivery system are efficient.

Key Questions to control costs and improve process

  • How much steam are your boilers producing?
  • Is your steam pressure drop affecting your flow measurements?
  • How can you measure steam in large pipes without shutting down your operation?
  • When pressure or temperature change, how do you know if your steam flow measurement is still accurate?
  • How much steam are you allocating to each part of your facility or campus?
  • Do you have a steam leak?

Application #4
Water Measurement & Energy BTU Measurement-Optimize Energy Efficiency
Water supply and usage has a significant impact on costs. Measure every drop without cutting a single pipe with a clamp-on ultrasonic flow meters. Integrated temperature measurements know how many BTUs your hot or chilled water loop actually delivers.

Step 2. Find the Right Flow Meter to Accurately Measure Your Key Gas, Liquid and Steam Flows

This is easier said then done. With all the various applications, it is a challenge 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 has solved this issue with our Big-3™ flow energy management strategy. We manufacture one complete family of flow meters we call the iSeries which work as a team to handle nearly any flow application found in industry. They provide a complete flow solution spread across three technologies, Thermal, Vortex and Ultrasonic. They feature user friendly apps and share a common user interface, so facility managers don’t have to re-learn each meter.

Regardless if you opt for the Big-3 option or just pick and choose one or two types of technologies for your process, the meters should:

  • Have high Accuracy and repeatability
  • Ability to measure a wide flow range – meters than can measure low to high flows.
  • Have Digital Communications Options
  • Calibrated to NIST standards
  • Able to validate in the field for easy in-situ calibration ( thermal/ vortex meters)
  • Have the necessary capabilities to measure flow rates required by governmental regulations

Work with one flow energy management expert that can help ease the burden of specifying new meters and recommissioning.

Our Big-3™ flow energy management strategy gives managers a best case scenario to deal with one flow meter company to specify and support instrumentation for all your gas, liquid, and steam flow measurements. This means one point-of-contact for product specification (measurement goals, fluids, flow rate, turndown requirements, temperature and pressure) and installation, one operating system for easy integration, and one local support team over the lifetime of the product.

Sierra’s Big-3 includes:

Download Flow Energy Guide for additional details to managing flow energy in your facility.

Watch Flow Energy Videos to learn more about how to measure e air, gas and steam better in your facility.

Avoid Common Flow Meter Installation Mistakes to Optimize Flow Meter Performance

In our last blog, we discussed how plant and operation managers are searching for ways to manage the flow energy in their facility to cut costs and increase their process efficiency.

After the purchase decision is made, correct installation and calibration are the next steps to maintaining the equipment over the lifetime of the product and lowering the cost of ownership to increase the cost savings of the facility overall.  Let’s look at three common installation mistake to avoid and other ways to ways to lower cost of ownership and optimize your flow meters’ performance.

Avoid Common Installation Mistakes

Once you have identified the right flow meter for each type of fluid and application, proper installation of your flow meter is critical for successful flow readings.  Many times, if you think your flow meter “doesn’t work,” it could just be that the meter was not installed properly.  Here are some installation tips for thermal mass, vortex, and ultrasonic flow meters:

  1. In order to achieve accurate and repeatable performance for thermal mass flow meters, install the flow meter using the recommended number of straight-run pipe diameters upstream and downstream of the sensor. The chart below shows basic good plumbing practice for common upstream obstructions and meter locations.

Another solution for insertion flow meters is to install flow conditioning plates in the flanges somewhere in the straight section, requiring three diameters of pipe run (two before, one after). This installation will totally disrupt the flow, creating a “flat” profile.

2.  Avoid the following mistakes when installing vortex flow meters:

    • Not having the proper upstream and downstream diameter. Unlike thermal flow meters, vortex meters do not work with flow condition plates, so they must have a straight run of pipe to function at optimal levels. In most installations, you need a straight run of at least 10 diameters upstream and 5 diameters downstream.
    • Installing the vortex meter backward. When installing a vortex flow meter, make sure the orientation of your meter is in the direction the flow, so your meter’s flow sensor can measure your fluid accurately. Most vortex flow meters have some type of flow direction indicator to help you point downstream.
    • Measuring the incorrect fluid type in the pipe. In some situations, an end user might be measuring steam flow and think they are producing saturated steam, but in fact, they have a 50% over heat and are measuring superheated steam. (add link to blog explaining this)
    • Don’t shutdown your steam flow to install a vortex flow meter. Many insertion vortex flow meters have a retractor to make hot tap installation much easier. This means you can install the insertion vortex flow meter in large steam pipes with no process shutdown.

3. For ultrasonic flow meters, consider clamp-on sensors for field flexibility and offer for easy setup. With a portable ultrasonic flow meter, you can use one in several locations throughout your flow process. Fieldwork calls for flexibility in your equipment. Look for a liquid flow meter clamp-on sensors with a high-powered ultrasonic pulse and digital signal processing that requires just one set of transducers for a wide range of pipe sizes and materials like metal, plastic, and concrete.

In-Situ Calibration Increases Throughput & Avoids Costly Shutdowns 

The measurement accuracy of your device is critical in determining efficiency, performance, and cost-savings. So the more accurate your flow meter is the better data you have to make cost saving decisions.  Thermal mass flow meters with in-the-field in-situ calibration validate the meter’s accuracy without shutting down the facility. Learn how In-Situ calibration works in this video.

Learn more about how to manage the flow energy in your facility.

Download Flow Energy Guide for additional details on managing flow energy in your facility.

Watch Videos on how to measure air, gas, and steam better in your facility.

 

 

 

 

Top Blogs of 2020

Even though 2020 has come and gone, we would like to take a minute to recognize our Top Blogs from 2020.  As with most things in 2020, the theme of  “get back to the basics” resonated with our readers.

The winning blogs of 2020 all answered foundational questions like: “How does this work?” or “How do I do this?” Enjoy getting back to the flow basics.

Top Blogs of 2020 – Answering Your Top Questions

  1. What Is a Flow Rate Totalizer & How Does It Work?
    Discover how to correctly use flow meter totalizers and understand the power of the iSeries flow meter totalizer in the number one read blog of 2020.
  2. How do Ultrasonic Flow Meters Work?
    Get an in-depth understanding of how ultrasonic flow meters work and why you might choose one for your application.
  3. How a Vortex Flow Meter Works?
    This blog gives explains how vortex flow meters work and the various vortex sensor technology available for steam flow measurement.
  4. Tips & Tricks to Installing Your Flow Energy Meter
    Get practical hands-on advice on how to properly install your flow energy flow meters in this blog. To get an accurate measurement, proper installation is key. Most of the time when your flow meter “doesn’t work,” it could be that your flow meter is not installed properly.
  5. How do Water Flow Meters work?
    One of the most common applications and biggest markets out there is water measurement so it’s no wonder that our blog on how water flow meters work was a top read. Discover the four types of flow meter technologies for water applications and how they work today.
  6. How to obtain perfect gas mixing and blending?
    Offering a complete Guide to Gas Mixing and Blending, this blog dissects this challenging application and discusses how to obtain perfect gas mixing and blending with capillary thermal mass flow controller technology.
  7. Why mass flow instead of volumetric flow?
    Watch this quick tip-video blog to find out the difference between direct mass flow and volumetric flow technology and discover the advantages of direct mass flow.

More To Come In 2021

In 2021, you can expect in-depth content from Sierra Instruments that focuses on “how-to” content to achieve accurate flow measurement, increase energy efficiency, and save money on energy costs.

Welcome to 2021! Let’s make it an amazing year.

Reducing the Likelihood of Fluid Hammers In Steam Applications

innovamass water hammer Sierra

Many of us have heard the sound of pipes banging as we turn a faucet on or off. This sound is the water in the pipe being forced to stop or suddenly change direction and is called “water hammer.”

Did you know that water hammer is not just limited to water pipes? In fact, water hammer, more generally called  “fluid hammer” or “hydraulic shock,” is possible with any gas, liquid, or steam.

The Main Cause of Fluid Hammer in Steam Pipes

How does fluid hammer in steam piping occur? In many steam plants, steam under high pressure is held behind an isolation valve (also called a “steam stop”). If you open that valve too fast, the steam enters the cold downstream piping and condenses into water.

In some cases, this slug of condensed water can act like a bullet. This hydraulic shock happens because steam flow velocity can be ten times faster than water flow.

Pushed by the steam behind it, the water bullet can break and shear off anything in its way, like gate valves, orifices, and insertion meters. Think of shooting a drop of water through a straw.

Reducing the Likelihood of Fluid Hammers In Steam Applications

Scott with InnovaMass 241i

One of our flow energy management experts, Scott, with a vortex flow meter that takes the guess work out of knowing your steam pressure.

Steam fluid hammers can be damaging, but fortunately, they are preventable. Here are some ways you can avoid fluid hammers in your steam pipes:

  • Warm up the downstream piping to minimize condensation. This is why most steam plants have a bypass valve around all their big stop valves so they can bleed steam into the pipe.
  • Install steam traps to collect any condensation that does form.
  • Monitor temperature, pressure, and steam velocity. These metrics should be watched closely, especially during startup. Having the ability to monitor and adjust your flow meters in the plant with apps is crucial to not only preventing water hammer, but ensuring optimal energy flow management.

Do you really know how much steam pressure you have flowing in your facility’s application? If not, talk to a flow energy management expert today.

If you want to learn more about a product that takes the guessing out of knowing your steam pressure, check out our InnovaMass Vortex Flow Meters for your steam application >.

 

Flow Energy Management: 3 Killer Apps To Lower Energy Costs

More and more, buzz words like “flow energy” or “flow energy management” have become prevalent as companies grapple to control costs, reduce energy use, and comply with government regulations—all while trying to increase profitability. But what are flow energy and flow energy management? Why should you care?

In this three-part series, we will:

  • Explore what flow energy is
  • Discuss the applications and flow meters that really impact the bottom line
  • Give tips and tricks for using flow meters to improve energy efficiency
  • Look at real-world examples of managing flow energy and how they have benefited from this practice

3 Killer Apps to Lower Energy Costs With Efficient Flow Energy Management

Flow energy is defined as flows that are critical to your facility’s every day operation.  In other words, continuous flows that cost money. These flows include natural gas, compressed air, water, and steam.

Facilities managers often have the challenging task of managing all the flow energy in their facility. Since none of these commodities are “free,” they must strive to measure their “energy” usage accurately, determine the processes that use the most energy, and make them more efficient. These initiatives contribute directly to the bottom line.

The challenge is deciding which flow meter technology should be used for each fluid. In this first part of our blog series, we look at the best measurement applications (or “killer apps”) for optimal flow energy management for gas, liquid, and steam measurement and explore the best flow meter technology for each.

Killer App #1: Natural Gas And Compressed Air Measurement

Natural gas and compressed air measurement hit the top of the list for “killer apps” that almost every facility must measure and manage. Many facilities use natural gas for burner control in manufacturing or to fire boilers to produce steam or hot water. Facilities may require tracking of gas distribution, allocation, and billing.

compressed air

All images courtesy of Sierra Instruments

Regardless of the application, facilities managers must have precise natural gas measurements to efficiently manage flow energy and thus lower energy costs.

Compressed air is another expensive flow energy, requiring energy-intensive compressors to produce it. Facilities managers are often tasked with conducting compressed air usage audits to determine compressor efficiency, find leaks in the system, and balance distribution and allocation.

In the past, facilities have used insertion turbine meters for compressed air measurement, but turbine meters don’t work well with low compressed air flows. Alternatively, insertion pitot tubes could be an option, but they don’t measure direct mass flow. Both technologies are prone to clogging.

The mass flow advantage

Thermal mass flow meters are ideal for natural gas combustion and allocation applications because mass flow rate, not volumetric, is the quantity of direct interest. For example, the optimal fuel/air ratio for efficient combustion is calculated on a mass basis. Natural gas is also billed on a mass basis.

Measuring compressed air presents its own challenges. In many facilities, usage varies widely throughout the day from very heavy at times of peak manufacturing to small flows (perhaps due to leakage) when most production is on standby. Thermal flow meters have a very wide turndown (100:1) to handle these fluctuations. Further, they have little to no pressure drop. The facility has already paid to have the air compressed, so needless pressure drop is wasted money.

Because thermal mass flow meters count the molecules of gas, they are immune to changes in inlet temperature and pressure. In a thermal flow meter’s simplest working configuration, fluid flows past a heated thermal sensor and a temperature sensor. As the molecules of the fluid flow pass the heated thermal sensor, heat is lost to the flowing fluid. The thermal sensor cools down, while the temperature sensor continues to measures the relatively constant temperature of the flowing fluid.

how thermal mass flow meter works

Figure 1. Thermal mass flow principle of operation

The amount of heat lost depends on the thermal properties of the fluid and the flow rate of the fluid. Thus, by measuring the temperature difference between the thermal and temperature sensors, the flow rate can be determined (Figure 1).

New developments in four-sensor thermal technology, coupled with stable “dry sense” sensor technology and advanced thermodynamic modeling algorithms, enable some thermal flow meters to attain +/-0.5 percent of reading accuracy, rivaling the accuracy of Coriolis flow meters at a fraction of the cost (Figure 2). On board, software apps also enable gas mixing capability, in-situ validation, and dial-a-pipe.

four-sensor thermal technology

Figure 2. QuadraTherm® insertion thermal flow meter with four-sensor thermal technology

Advantages of thermal mass flow meters for gases:

  • Direct mass flow measurement of gases eliminates the need for temperature or pressure compensation
  • Accuracy +/- 0.5 percent reading; high flows 60,000 sfpm (0-305 smps); 100:1 turndown
  • Multivariable: Mass flow rate, temperature & pressure
  • Advanced four-sensor “dry sense” technology minimizes drift and enables field validation
  • Insertion version with hot tap capability for easy installation
  • Software applications for easy set-up, in-situ calibration, dial-a-pipe, and gas mixing
  • Digital communications suite

Killer App #2: Steam Production, Distribution, & Allocation

Steam is used almost everywhere in industry, from process flows in chemical plants and refineries to geothermal steam in energy production. The steam produced by a boiler must be measured in order to optimize boiler efficiency. Steam is used to heat buildings, in food processing, and in heating water. Even nuclear power plants use the steam produced from the heat of the nuclear fission.

multivariable insertion vortex flow meter

Figure 3. Multivariable insertion vortex flow meters are ideal for saturated and supersaturated steam measurement.

Traditionally, steam flow has been measured with a differential pressure device. This is typically an orifice plate. However, such devices are inherently volumetric flow measurements. Changes in pressure and temperature will change the mass flow rate of steam. Even a “small” change of 10 percent in steam pressure will result in a 10 percent error in non-compensated mass flow. This means that, in a typical differential pressure measurement installation, the volumetric flow rate measured by the device must be compensated by measuring temperature and pressure, and then these three measurements (ΔP, T and P) integrated with a flow computer to calculate mass flow.

Multivariable vortex flow meters increase accuracy

Insertion multivariable vortex flow meters allow one instrument and one process connection to simultaneously measure mass flow rate, temperature, pressure, volumetric flow rate, and fluid density (Figure 3). The density of saturated steam varies with either temperature or pressure, while superheated steam varies with temperature and pressure, so multivariable vortex flow meters assure the flow meter’s density calculations are correct. Therefore, mass steam flow measurement is correct maximizing your steam productivity.

Multivariable vortex flow meters provide steam accuracy of 1 percent of reading, 30:1 turndown plus pressure and temperature compensation.

For decades, vortex technology has been a stable and proven measurement technology for gas, liquid, and steam applications. Vortices are forces of nature, “swirls” formed as a fluid moves past an obstruction, like water flowing around a rock in a stream or the wind past a flagpole. In a vortex meter, a sensor tab flexes from side to side as each vortex flows past, producing a frequency output that is directly proportional to the flow rate (Figure 4). Multivariable mass flow is achieved when a temperature sensor is immersed in the flow stream to measure the temperature of the flowing gas, liquid or steam, while a pressure sensing port leads up to a pressure transducer. Advanced onboard software apps allow for easy set-up, meter tuning, and validation for ease of use.

vortex principle of operation

Figure 4. Vortex sensor cutaway showing vortex principle of operation

Advantages of multivariable vortex flow meters for steam measurement:

  • Multivariable: mass flow rate, volumetric flow rate, density, pressure, temperature
  • Accuracy of up to 0.7 percent of reading; 30:1 turndown
  • Dynamic density calculation improves steam metering accuracy
  • Hot-tap probe retractor for easy steam installation
  • Onboard software Apps like meter set up, in-situ calibration/validation, tuning

Killer App #3: Water & BTU Measurement

Water is also an expensive flow energy and limited resource. Many facilities measure water flows to verify billing, determine leakage rates, and measure influent and effluent flow. Another growing application is thermal flow energy measurement. Facilities must spend money to produce hot and chilled water for process uses or HVAC. This thermal energy must be measured for distribution, allocation, and billing.

There are of course many ways to measure water flow. Turbine or propeller meters are common but have moving parts that are prone to clogging. Vortex meters are also widely used but stop working at low flows. Magnetic flow meters are in use worldwide but cannot measure the de-ionized water that can be found in some process industries.

Clamp-On Ultrasonic Liquid Flow Meters Offer Ease of Use & Flexibility

Clamp-on ultrasonic flow meters are ideal for water flow applications. They achieve high accuracy at low and high flows, save time with no pipe cutting or process shutdown, and are not affected by external noise.

Coupled with temperature sensors on the “hot” and “cold” legs, the thermal energy gained or lost can be measured (Figure 5). This has widespread usage in distributed and district energy, where central heating and cooling plants provide HVAC to the entire facility.

clamp-on ultrasonic liquid flow meter

Figure 5. Clamp-on ultrasonic liquid flow meter with thermal energy/BTU capability

In a transit-time ultrasonic liquid flow meter, an ultrasonic signal is transmitted in the direction of the flowing fluid downstream, and then another signal is transmitted against the flowing fluid upstream (Figure 6). In its most basic form, the time for the sonic pulse to travel downstream is compared to the time for the pulse to travel upstream. This differential time is then used to calculate the velocity of the flowing fluid. The meter then uses this fluid velocity to calculate the volumetric flow rate in the pipe. BTU energy measurement can be derived from the volumetric flow rate and the temperature difference between the hot and cold legs.

New developments in ultrasonic technology coupled with modern software applications allow for real-time liquid density compensation for improved accuracy and setup functions with a visual signal for a correct installation.

Transit-time ultrasonic principle of operation

Figure 6. Transit-time ultrasonic principle of operation

Advantages of ultrasonic flow meters for water/BTU measurement:

  • Clamp-on or insertion transducers measure bi-directional flow
  • One meter for a wide range of pipe sizes from 2 to 236 inches (5.0cm to 6.0M)
  • Accuracy +/- 0.5 percent of reading from 0.16 to 40 ft/s (0.05 to 12 m/s)
  • Clamp-on or insertion PT 100 temperature inputs for thermal energy/BTU measurement
  • Software apps for easy set up for optimal signal strength

Putting it all together — Complete flow energy management solution

Most facilities managers must find the right flow meters to measure at least one and often all three of these “killer apps” to successfully manage the flow energy in their facility. Determining the best flow meter technology for the flow energy management of gas, liquid, and steam applications depends on specific measurement goals, fluid, flow rate, turndown requirements, temperature, and pressure. To outfit a facility, it’s essential to work with a proven flow measurement company with a team of experts in each flow meter technology.

The best case scenario is to deal with one flow meter company to specify and support instrumentation for all your gas, liquid, and steam flow measurements. This would mean one point-of-contact for product specification and installation, one operating system for easy integration, and one local support team over the lifetime of the product.

Advantages of one complete flow energy solution:

  • One company and point-of-contact for product specification for all gas, liquid, and steam flow meters
  • One commissioning team for all three technologies
  • Specialized, local support team for all three technologies
  • Shared software applications and operating system for easy integration
  • Localized calibration expertise and assets to ensure accuracy over the lifetime of the product

Next week in part 2, we will look at flow energy devices and discuss installation tips & tricks for three common energy flow measurement solutions. Proper flow meter installation is key to ensuring optimum performance of the instrument within the application. Next week’s blog considers tips and tricks to overcome common flow measurement challenges.

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Part 2-Flow Energy Management Applications-Installation Tips & Tricks

In part 1 of our Flow Energy Management series, we identified the 3 Killer Flow Energy Management Applications that will reduce energy costs: compressed air & natural gas measurement, steam production, distribution, and allocation, and water/BTU measurement. And we identified the best flow meters for each of these applications: thermal mass flow meters for gas, vortex flow meters for saturated and super saturated steam, and clamp-on ultrasonic flow meters for liquid/water flows. If you haven’t read part 1 of this article, we recommend these 3 Killer Apps to Lower Energy Costs With Efficient Flow Energy Management.

Now that we have identified the best flow meter for each type of fluid and application, proper installation is key for successful flow readings. Many times if you think your flow meter “doesn’t work”, it could just be that the meter was not installed properly.  In part 2 of our flow energy management series, we take a look at three tips and tricks to consider for successful installation:

  1. Thermal flow meter straight-run requirements
  2. Vortex flow meter installation mistakes to avoid
  3. How to select the right portable ultrasonic flow meter

Installation Tips For 3 Common Energy Flow Measurement Solutions

1. Overcoming Thermal Flow Meter Straight-Run Requirements

You have specified the correct industrial thermal insertion mass flow meter and are ready to install it within your application. Now what? Where do you place the meter for optimal performance? This is where technical expertise comes in, along with a mixture of science and tribal knowledge.

The primary installation question is: How much upstream and downstream straight run is required, and what happens if you use less straight run?

Because valves, elbows, control valves, and other piping components may cause flow disturbances, you want to select an installation site that will minimize possible distortion in the flow profile.  Check your specific piping condition against the examples shown below.

In order to achieve accurate and repeatable performance, install the flow meter using the recommended number of straight-run pipe diameters upstream and downstream of the sensor. The chart below shows basic good plumbing practice for common upstream obstructions and meter locations.

straight run pipe length requirements

What happens if you use less run than recommended?

Remember first that a thermal insertion mass flow meter probe is a “point-velocity” device and is only as good as the installation. It measures a velocity at a single point, and then the electronics multiply by the cross-sectional area to arrive at a flow rate.

The meter takes into consideration an average shape of the moving gas as it goes down the pipe. It assumes a fully-developed, bullet-shaped flow profile that is being measured at the highest velocity point at the leading edge, center.

In the case of an expansion fitting upstream (like Example 5 in the chart above), the danger is a “jet-stream” of gas shooting through the new, larger diameter section, that has not yet spread out uniformly. It is not possible to predict what will happen, nor to place a de-rated accuracy on the results. The results would most likely be noisy from the turbulent, tumbling gas. Again, it can’t be exactly predicted.

The best suggestion is to install it with 4/5 of the straight run ahead, and 1/5 after, and move the probe around, in and out, to come up with a map of the flow pattern. Hopefully, the largest flow will still be in the center, dropping off uniformly in both directions by about 15%.

Flow conditioning is the optimal solution

Another solution for insertion flow meters is to install flow conditioning plates in the flanges somewhere in the straight section, requiring three diameters of pipe run (two before, one after). This installation will totally disrupt the flow, creating a “flat” profile. The center point is now representative of the entire flow, and the meter will do a straight multiplication without accounting for a drop-off at the edges.

The best solution for constrained piping environments is to specify an inline thermal mass flow meter with integral flow conditioning elements inside the flange body. Watch this video to see how it works.

2. Vortex Flow Meter Installation Mistakes to Avoid

There are also common mistakes to avoid made when installing vortex flow meters that can affect flow accuracy and therefore affect your bottom line:

  • Not having the proper upstream and downstream diameter. Over the thousands of installations of vortex meters we have seen,  this is the number one installation problem. Unlike thermal flow meters, vortex meters do not work with flow condition plates, so they must have a straight run of pipe to function at optimal levels. In most installations, you need a straight run of at least 10 diameters upstream and 5 diameters downstream.
  • Installing the vortex meter backwards. When installing a vortex flow meter, make sure the orientation of your meter is in the direction the flow, so your meter’s flow sensor can measure your fluid accurately. Most vortex flow meters have some type of flow direction indicator to help you point downstream. Our InnovaMass iSeries, for example, has a directional pointer and arrows on the flange to help point you downstream.
  • Measuring the incorrect fluid type in the pipe. It seems like a no-brainer, but this is a more common mistake than you would think. In some situations, an end user might be measuring steam flow and think they are producing saturated steam, but in fact, they have a 50% over heat and are measuring superheated steam. With saturated steam, the pressure and temperature are linked together and move in concert together as conditions change. Whereas superheated steam has a tremendous amount of additional energy put in the steam in the form of heat. The two different flowing fluids need to be measured differently to assure accuracy.
  • Don’t shutdown your steam flow to install a vortex flow meter Many insertion vortex flow meters have a retractor to make hot tap installation much easier. This means you can install the insertion vortex flow meter in large steam pipes with no process shutdown. Watch the video to get additional hot tap installation tips for the InnovaMass 241i  insertion vortex flow meter.

3. Tips for ultrasonic flow meter installation

  •  Use Clamp-On Sensors for Field  flexibility Fieldwork calls for flexibility in your equipment. Look for a liquid flow meter clamp-on sensors with a high-powered ultrasonic pulse and digital signal processing that requires just one set of transducers for a wide range of pipe sizes and materials like metal, plastic, and concrete. These baseline features allow you to use your portable ultrasonic flow meter for many different applications, pipe sizes, and materials in your process. As a result, there is only one instrument to master for many different flow measurement need.ultrasonic.207i.content.1
  • Portable ultrasonic flow meters offer for easy set up With a portable ultrasonic flow meter, you can use one liquid flow meter in several locations throughout your flow process. Because of the portable nature of the flow meter, your equipment should all fit in one carrying case. This makes transport from one location to the next painless. Hand-held devices allow users to easily and quickly program the menu, including instantaneous flow rate, positive total, negative total, net total, velocity, date and time, and daily flow results. Wireless Bluetooth-enabled android tablet PC devices make it even easier to control data acquisition and processing.

Look for portable flow meter with a complete measuring kit including:portable ultrasonic flow meter ease of set up

  • Carrying case
  • Non-invasive clamp-on transducers with hand-held device
  • Compact mounting racks (magnetic and cable mount) and coupling compound
  • Fast set-up — 5 minutes or less! With easy set-up CD.
  • Long battery life

You’ve reached your destination and you have your equipment set up to begin taking measurements — but your flow meter is unresponsive. There’s nothing worse than dealing with equipment that doesn’t function as it should when you really need it to. To solve this common problem, look for a portable ultrasonic flow meter that includes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that supports continuous operation for a minimum of 16 hours. You need a flow meter that can last for those long days in the field.

 

Have questions about Liquid Flow Meters or Switches?

We can help answer your questions about flow energy management and flow energy applications. The experts at Sierra Instruments can answer any questions you may have about ultrasonic flow meters, volumetric vortex meters, and flow switches for liquids.

Follow this link to find a local representative now and get answers to any questions you may have about our products and services.

How a Vortex Flow Meter Works

Vortex flow meters are increasingly becoming the flow technology of choice for gas, liquid, and steam flow measurement. Vortex flow meters are ideal for measuring saturated and supersaturated steam in large facilities to improve steam production efficiency and allocation. Volumetric water flow and high flow gas measurements are also strong applications for vortex flow meters. Let’s take a closer look at how the vortex flow meter works and what makes it the ideal choice for many gas, liquid, and steam industrial flow applications.

What is a Vortex Flow Meter?

A vortex flow meter utilizes the fluid dynamics principle of vortex shedding to calculate the velocity of liquids, gases, and steam, across a wide variety of applications.

Vortex Flow Meter for Steam Measurement

Figure 1. Vortex meter in steam measurement application. 

How Do Vortex Flow Meters Work?

Vortex meters use a dimensioned bluff, sometimes called a shedder bar, to generate the phenomenon known as Kármán vortex street in which vortices begin to form and oscillate. Using a variety of sensor technologies, the natural frequency of these oscillating vortices is converted into a digital signal which is then processed through the meter’s electronics to calculate flow.

 

Vortex Sensor Principle of Operation

Figure 2. Vortex sensor cutaway showing vortex principle of operation.

 

Von Karman Vortex Street

Figure 3. The Von Karman Vortex Street.

 

Types of Vortex Sensor Technologies

Some of the sensor technologies used to measure the natural frequency produced during vortex shedding include:

  • Piezoelectric crystals and ceramics – These materials produce an electrical charge in response to an applied mechanical stress. As vortices pass the sensor, they apply the stress needed for the piezoelectric material to produce a charge. Polarity may be used to distinguish the alternating current and create a digital frequency.
  • Delta P sensors – The formation of vortices creates a dynamic pressure in accordance with Bernoulli’s Principle . The pressure is lowest at the point of the vortex core and increases as that point moves away from the center. By using a Delta P sensor to measure these pressure changes as the vortices pass, a digital frequency can be generated.
  • Ultrasonic sensors – Ultrasonic sensors measure the time it takes a generated signal to travel from one transducer to another. Because the alternating vortices being shed from a bluff rotate in different directions, the signal being sent from an ultrasonic sensor will speed up or slow down based on the direction of rotation relative to the direction the signal is traveling. This shift in speed, when compared to a constant, can be used to create a digital frequency.

    Transit-time ultrasonic principle of operation

    Figure 4. Transit-time ultrasonic principle of operation

Advantages of Vortex Flow Meters

Vortex flow meter technology offers an accurate and natural occurring method for measuring flow. Due to the natural occurrence of vortex shedding when a bluff is introduced, this method of flow measurement can be used with many types of fluids, gasses, and even steam. The lack of moving mechanical components also make for a robust construction that can hold up in some of the toughest application environments.

Is a vortex flow meter right for your application? Learn about Sierra’s vortex volumetric flow and multivariable mass flow meters to find out.

240S Inline

240i Inline

240i Inline

241S Insertion

241S Insertion

241i Insertion

241i Insertion

Bringing Energy Efficiency and Cost Savings to Veteran’s Facilities

va blog image

As the infrastructure of our Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities age and government-driven energy efficiency mandates rise, VA facilities’ engineers are faced with a decision to upgrade existing equipment or replace older equipment in order to improve energy efficiency. Dealing with the upgrade or replace decision is a big one. Replacing older equipment is costly, but in the end, newer technology may integrate better into automation systems and realize even greater cost saving in energy over the long haul. What kind of data do facilities managers need to make these critical energy-saving decisions?

The Best Place To Start-Ask the Right Questions

A great place to start is by getting accurate “flow energy” measurements of the methane/natural gas, water, and steam flow in your major operations, especially in boilers and steam flow systems. Flow energy is defined as “flows that cost money,” like natural gas, compressed air, water, and steam. Since none of these commodities are “free,” VA facilities managers must strive to measure their “energy” usage accurately, determine the processes that use the most energy, and make them more efficient either by upgrading or replacing the equipment.

  1. Is your boiler running at optimal levels?
    To assess the efficiency of your boiler’s combustion, it’s critical to get accurate inlet methane measurements. Once you have accurate methane measurements, you can answer the key question: Is my boiler running too rich or too lean? If your boiler is running “rich”, which means it is using more methane than is needed for optimal combustion, you not only waste money on natural gas costs but also emit more hazardous air pollutants into our environment-every molecule of methane that is not burned increases emissions. If you’re running too “lean”, your boiler is not at optimal combustion, so you are not producing steam at capacity. Once you have determined the health of your boiler, you can either make the decision to replace your aging boiler or use measurements from thermal mass flow meters to better tune your current boiler. Learn More about Boiler Efficiency.
  2. How much steam are your boilers producing? How much steam are you allocating?
    Efficient steam production is critical for optimizing energy at Veteran Affairs facilities. The steam produced by a boiler must be measured in order to determine boiler efficiency. Accurate steam flow measurements at the production point and key allocation points will give you a true assessment of how efficient steam is running through the facility and helps identify leaks in the system. Now the question becomes what technology provides the most accurate steam flow measurement? Traditionally, steam flow has been measured with a differential pressure device. This is typically an orifice plate. However, such devices are inherently volumetric flow measurements. Changes in pressure and temperature will change the mass flow rate of steam. Even a “small” change of 10 percent in steam pressure will result in a 10 percent error in non-compensated mass flow. This means that, in a typical differential pressure measurement installation, the volumetric flow rate measured by the device must be compensated by measuring temperature and pressure, and then these three measurements (ΔP, T and P) integrated with a flow computer to calculate mass flow.
    Insertion multivariable vortex flow meters allow one instrument and one process connection to simultaneously measure mass flow rate, temperature, pressure, volumetric flow rate, and fluid density. The density of saturated steam varies with either temperature or pressure, while superheated steam varies with temperature and pressure, so multivariable vortex flow meters assure the flow meter’s density calculations are correct, and therefore, mass steam flow measurements are correct maximizing your steam productivity. Multivariable vortex flow meters provide steam accuracy of 1 percent of reading, 30:1 turndown plus pressure and temperature compensation.Again, you may need to upgrade aging steam flow infrastructure or simply tune your system with accurate steam flow measurement to save on cost and fulfill efficiency mandates.
  3. How much water are you using for key processes?
    In boiler tuning, the feedwater flow to the boiler is an important measurement, since you need to measure the efficiency at which the boiler turns this feed water into steam.  You may also need to measure the thermal/BTU energy.  A clamp-on ultrasonic flow meter is ideal for this type of water measurement due to high accuracy at low and high flows, installation with no pipe cutting or process shutdown, and immunity to external noise. Coupled with temperature sensors on the “hot” and “cold” legs, the thermal energy gained or lost can be measured. This thermal/BTU measurement is critical for optimizing central heating and cooling systems that provide HVAC to the entire facility.

Big-3 Eases the Burden of Recommissioning  

To address the flow measurement of the methane, steam, and water for such a large scale equipment upgrade, Veteran Affairs facility managers would typically work with up to 5 different companies with varying technologies to get these critical flow energy measurements. Imagine only working with one supplier for all of your gas, liquid and steam flow measurements. Sierra provides flow experts and Big-3 technology for all gas, liquid, and steam flow measurements. The Big-3 includes:

  • QuadraTherm 640i/780i, the most accurate thermal flow meters on the market for methane and air flow measurement
  • Insertion mulitvariable InnovaMass 240i/241i vortex flow meters for steam flow measurements-easy hot tap installation
  • Clamp on InnovaSonic 207i ultrasonic water flow meters with energy/BTU capability
  • Specialized, local support team for all three technologies
  • Shared software applications and operating system for easy integration
  • Designed, built, and calibrated in the USA by Sierra

Learn more about Flow Energy Measurement of All gas, liquid, steam flow.

Watch Flow Energy Management Videos