Can Bidirectional Flow Be Metered for Custody Transfer?

Our Experts Debate and Discuss the Pros and Cons of Two Flowmeters

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Q: I am an instrument engineer with the Port-Harcourt Refining Company Ltd. (a subsidiary of Nigerian National Petroleum Corp.). We are currently doing a feasibility study for the use of a two-way flowmeter for custody transfer of the following products: diesel, low-pour fuel oil (LPFO), premium motor spirit (PMS) and dual-purpose kerosene (DPK). The selected meter must be repeatable in both directions, accurate to ±5% and durable over its useful life. Could you please suggest to us the flowmeter type that could serve our purpose?

Ideh C. Ebuehi

A: The most popular custody-transfer flowmeter is obviously the Coriolis meter, which, if your flow exceeds the capacity of the single-tube design, is also available in two- and four-tube designs (Figure 1). If your flow is greater, you can put these meters in parallel or, if you can live with lower than custody-transfer accuracies, consider less expensive designs.

In addition to the Coriolis, there are a dozen other bi-directional flowmeter types on the market, and to list all vendors and their pros and cons would take too long. So I will mention only one, which will cost less and will provide pipe-size insert design. One of these is the time-of-passage ultrasonic meter. If you do not want to cut the pipe, this design is also available in a clamp-on version.

Time-of-passage meters come in two varieties, one with an engineered metering tube and the other in a clamp-on form. Some users like the clamp-on one because the piping does not have to be cut, and because it is significantly lower in cost. Naturally, I never use them for financial custody transfer, because to my knowledge, to date, no clamp-on meter has met the accuracy and repeatability criteria for fiscal custody transfer.

Figure 3 shows the installation of an in-line, pre-engineered, transit-time-type, four-transducer unit that comes complete with conditioning metering tubes for better accuracy.

Béla Lipták

Also Read: The Holy Grail in Coriolis Flowmeters

A: From my experience in custody-transfer metering, the Coriolis flowmeter has proven to be superior to other forms of flow measurement, even if it is more expensive. Generally, the accuracy of a Coriolis flowmeter returns its higher initial cost. Having no internal moving parts is also a major benefit. For your reference, the following link is to an excellent application article on Coriolis flow measurement. Look for the paragraph describing bidirectional flow. See

Dick Caro

A: Not all vendors do business in Nigeria. I would suggest you contact the flow measurement vendors your company already has a good relationship with and ask their sales departments for their recommendation. They are in business to serve your needs and are there to help you.

Paul Gruhn

A: You could use ultrasonic flowmeters. They require very long straight lengths (typically 20 upstream and 10 downstream). Here’s an example by Emerson Process Management: Others, such as Krohne, Siemens and FMC Technologies, also manufacture them.

Raj Binney

A: For custody transfer, the accuracy requirement must be much higher than you indicated (±5%). Is it allocation metering or custody?

The Coriolis meter will be most suitable for this application. It can provide you repeatability in both directions. However, for liquid, you need to ensure the flowmeter is vertically installed with flow upwards for forward measurement. For reverse measurement, please make sure there is a valve at the downstream for throttling. This will ensure full pipe flow. One supplier is Micromotion.

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