Bidirectional Flow Measurement

The Right Flowmeter Is a Balance Between Technical Needs and Cost-Efficiency

By Ruchika Kalyani

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The reliability, negligible maintenance with highest accuracy and long-term cost of ownership are the major benefits of this technology.

Bidirectional Flow Measurement with Coriolis Mass Flowmeters

In the process industries, Coriolis technology has set the standard for flow and density measurements. This technology is used for various applications, such as mass balance, monitoring of fluid density and custody transfer, but also to reduce maintenance, and for bidirectional flow measurements.

In refineries, there are bidirectional applications, such as import and export of product, product transfer to storage and to petrochemical plants, and where the accurate measurement is more important than cost.

Coriolis mass flowmeters can be used for accurate and reliable measurements of all streams in and out of the plant. This is critical for accounting and profitability. End users should take into account that inaccurate measurements sometimes may cause them to give away more product than they are being paid for. This can result in a significant loss of profit.

Conpared to the traditional use of volumetric flow technology for bidirectional measurements, the use of Coriolis mass flowmeters eliminates various well-known drawbacks of volumetric technologies, such as the requirement for significant upstream and downstream straight piping length and the reduction of potential errors that occur in compensation for temperature, pressure, viscosity or specific gravity. The Coriolis mass flowmeter technology does not require that compensation.

Coriolis meters measure mass flow. They do have their own inaccuracies, but these tend to be low relative to other types of flowmeters. The turndown of Coriolis meters is high compared to other types of flowmeters. Another advantage is that no recalibration is required when switching fluids or for changing process conditions.

Purchase Price vs. Cost of Ownership

It's important for control system engineers to evaluate accuracy required for applications before selecting any bidirectional flowmeter technology, as more accurate and precise flow measurement often results in higher cost of the flowmeter.

The control system engineer must understand that price is always the consideration. However, there are some important distinctions to be made in terms of price. A flowmeter can have a low purchase price, but can be very expensive to maintain. Alternatively, a flowmeter can have a high purchase price, but will require very little maintenance. In these cases, the lower purchase price may not be the best bargain. Other components of price include the cost of installation, the cost of associated software, the cost of training people to use the flowmeter, the cost of maintaining the meter, and the cost of maintaining an inventory of any needed replacement parts. All these costs should be taken into account when deciding what flowmeter to buy. This should be the one reason for many users to look beyond purchase price when considering flowmeter costs. 

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