In-Depth Analysis Technology

An overview of flow meters for measuring liquid, gas, and vapor

If you need to determine the volume or mass of gases and liquids in your application, a flow meter might be the solution. In various industrial applications, including compressed air systems, natural gas, pharmaceuticals, and more, flow meters are used to evaluate the flow rate of gases and liquids in a precise and accurate manner.

Continue reading to learn more about flow meters and how they can help you get an accurate measurement of the flow rate of your media.

What is a flow meter?

A flow meter measures the amount of gas, liquid, or vapor that flows through a pipeline. While some flow meters calculate flow rate based on the amount of liquid, gas, or vapor that flows through the device in a specific time frame, others monitor the total amount of fluid that passes through the flow meter. The type of flow meter used is dependent on what needs to be measured for your application.

A flow meter has three main components: the primary device, a transducer, and a transmitter. The transducer senses the fluid, gas, or vapor that passes through the primary device, and the transmitter transforms this unprocessed transducer signal into a flow signal that can be used. Typically, this information is sent to a flow computer, which works alongside the flow meter to account for typical operational process conditions, such as viscosity, temperature, pressure, and composition.

Which applications are suitable for flow meters?

Flow meters are incredibly versatile and can be used in various industrial applications to track the flow of liquids, gases, and vapors. The following are just a few examples of the most common applications that utilize flow meters:

  • Natural gas
  • Management of compressed air
  • Gas blending and mixing applications
  • Burner control systems
  • Measurement of liquids
  • Measurement of steam flow

Where should the flow meter be placed within the pipeline?

To ensure optimum performance and accuracy, it is essential to comply with general installation rules, including ensuring that the flow meter is located in a position that guarantees it is always fully filled with fluid, gas, or vapor.

In addition, a flow control or flow limiter should be positioned downstream of the flow meter to guarantee accurate control of the flow of liquids, gas, or vapor once it has passed through the meter. Another important consideration is the flow meter’s location and how accessible it is. If any maintenance work needs to be done on the flow measurement system, it’s critical to have enough workspace and access.

What are the different types of flow meters?

There are many different flow meters available in today’s market. The most popular selections include:

Inferential flow meters – This type of flow meter infers flow measurements based on a media’s value derived from other parameters.

Mass flow meters – These meters measure fluid mass flow. A well-known example is Coriolis flow meters, which measure real and thermal mass flow based on the media’s physical properties.

Velocity flow meters – These flow meters calculate the speed of a fluid’s flow to determine the volumetric flow. Popular selections include turbine, ultrasonic, magnetic, and vortex flowmeters.

Volumetric flow meters – These flow meters measure the media volume as it passes through the flow meter. Positive Displacement flow meters, also known as PD flow meters, are the only variety of volumetric flow meter that directly measures the volume of the fluid as it passes through the meter.

Leading manufacturers of flow meters

There are numerous flow meter brands available in the marketplace. Malema, the largest of note, supplies a range of flow meters for high purity, chemical, biomedical, and industrial applications. Their patented Malema Coriolis flow meter is relatively insensitive to changes in fluid conditions such as density, viscosity, and entrained gases present in liquids or slurries. The Malema ultrasonic flow meter range, regardless of the flow meter type, provides high levels of accuracy and repeatability in its performance utilizing advanced filtering and digital signaling techniques, including: inline straight tube, U style ultrasonic flow sensors, and Z style ultrasonic flow sensors.

Burkert Fluid Control Systems and Endress+Hauser are two other industry leaders in the manufacturing of flow meters. Burkert has an extensive line of flow meters, including electromagnetic flow meters for gas control, compressed air solutions, and more. Alternatively, Endress+Hauser has a broad flow meter range designed to measure water, natural gas, steam, mineral oil, and chemicals.

When choosing the right flow meter for your application, it’s important to review all of your options and consult with process control professionals. Flow meters can improve your pipeline’s performance by identifying areas of inefficiency, highlighting leaks, enabling more efficient nozzle installation, modifying pressure for more efficient flow control, and more. Contact your fluid control provider for more information about flow meters.

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