How to detect oil density

A reader asks our panel of experts what the best method to detect oil density would be. Here is what our experts had to say


Best method to detect oil density: Which technology does the oil industry use for inline, oil density measurements?

Francoise Lee


There are a number of methods. The newest and probably one of the most frequently used nowadays is Coriolis, but you can also use the old-fashioned method of having a slug catcher or other vessel fill to a certain level measured via level switches, then use a DP cell to measure the liquid pressure, which due to the fixed height is equivalent to the density. This is the old-fashioned knock system.

There also are ultrasonic and level sensor applications, so the big issue is to decide where the measurement will be taken, the complexity of the equipment and/or accuracy required.

Alex (Alexandro) Varga

I'm sure there are several analyzers that are specifically designed to provide very detailed oil component analysis. However, if all you need to measure is density, then I suggest a Coriolis meter, which gives you density, temperature and flow in one meter. It is reliable and can be very accurate if the proper manufacturer/model is selected. If the line is large, you can save money by placing a much smaller-sized meter on a small recycle stream.

Hunter Vegas

Download our beginner's guide to differential pressure level transmitters


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  • You can use Net Oil Computer from Micromotion which is connected to coriolis sensor and provides density measurement in different units as well as oil/water concentration. I have personally used this in glycerine density as well as net glycerine in sweet water application. Accuracy for density measurement is 0.005 g/cc. Another one from Micromotion is fork density meter which works on tuning fork principle. Ametek also has one which operates on vibration principle. I'll suggest to take side stream from main flow line for density measurement which can be isolated at anytime as well as it won't require large meter in main line.


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