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Turbine flowmeter market still growing

Jan. 18, 2023
New study finds that the worldwide turbine meter market totaled $420 million in 2019,

Turbine flowmeters—a mainstay in oil and gas, water and industrial liquids markets—are still growing even though they’re not growing as fast as newer technologies, according to “The World Market for Turbine Flowmeters,” 3rd Edition by Flow Research Inc. Even though turbine flowmeters are losing ground to some new-technology flowmeters—especially Coriolis, ultrasonic and magnetic flowmeters—they remain an excellent choice for clean, steady, medium to high-speed flows of low-viscosity fluids.

The new study found that the worldwide turbine meter market totaled $420 million in 2019, and forecasts a just over 1% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2024. New-technology flowmeters are growing faster, with a CAGR as high as 4.8%. The turbine market is expected to keep growing due to a large installed base, their ability to measure liquid and gas flows, industry approvals for custody transfers, and technology improvements.

Primary applications

Turbine meters are widely used in custody transfer and non-custody transfer applications of natural gas in upstream and downstream production environments, often measuring gas flows on large pipelines that carry natural gas from its source to its destination—in some cases for thousands of miles. Turbine meters are also used as billing meters to measure the amount of gas used at commercial buildings and industrial plants. Turbine meters for liquids measure water use in commercial businesses and industrial plants, as well as in hotels, office buildings and apartment complexes.

Besides water and oil, turbine meters also measure process liquids, including pharmaceutical chemicals, paints and varnishes, industrial chemicals, dairy products, printing ink, cosmetics, and many other liquids. In many cases, turbine meters provide a highly accurate measurement but are less expensive than other meters such as Coriolis or magnetic. Turbine meters are used for higher flowrate measurements of process liquids than positive displacement (PD) meters, which are often used for to measure flow at lower flowrates.

Turbine flowmeters are quite accurate and have a significant cost advantage over ultrasonic and Coriolis flowmeters, especially in larger line sizes. Unlike new-technology meters, however, turbine meters have moving parts and require periodic maintenance. Turbine meters also have difficulty tolerating viscous fluids–a problem often encountered in the measurement of crude oil in the now recovering petroleum energy business. End users are also attracted by the high accuracy of new-technology meters.

Axial flowmeters lead the pack

Although research and development (R&D) for turbine meters is less than the significant R&D for new-technology meters, some turbine meter suppliers are actively introducing new features and products. Innovations include new bearing types, different rotor designs, dual rotors, and bi-directional capability. Suppliers are also introducing wireless technology and more communication protocols.

Axial flowmeters, widely used for custody transfer of natural gas, are the fastest growing type of turbine flowmeter. Helical turbine meters, which recently found a niche in the petroleum industry for high-viscosity fluids like oil, are benefitting from an upsurge in the oil industry. In general, insertion turbine meters of various types, often used in large line sizes for custody transfer, have been growing slightly faster than inline turbine meters.

Meanwhile, propeller, paddlewheel and Pelton wheel flowmeters, used in water/wastewater, agriculture and other large-scale applications, are growing more slowly. In some cases, a demand for better system integration through electronics and for devices with no moving parts is prompting agricultural customers to choose magnetic over turbine flowmeters. At the same time, as water becomes a scarcer commodity and people realize the need to measure it more closely, both in agricultural and commercial applications, the water industry could become a potential growth industry for turbine meters.

The market for multi-jet and single jet turbine meters, widely used for water flow measurement in commercial and industrial applications is very stable. Compound meters, which incorporate both positive displacement and turbine flowmeter technology to measure fluctuating low and high flow rates, also enjoy a steady market.

“The turbine flowmeter market has seen a lot of technology improvements in the past 10 years. Suppliers are making turbine flowmeters more reliable by improving their materials of construction, introducing self-diagnostics, and adding more communication protocols,” says Dr. Jesse Yoder, president of Flow Research. “Ceramic and synthetic sapphire ball bearings improve the lifespan of ball bearings. Dual rotor designs improve measurement accuracy, especially at low flowrates. Turbine meters continue to account for a significant portion of the market for custody transfer of natural gas. With a large installed base, the prospects for future growth in the turbine flowmeter market remain bright.”

About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control.