The worldwide flowmeter market, which totaled $7.06 billion in 2018, is projected to grow by an average of 4.6% per year and reach almost $8.85 billion by 2023, according to a new study, Volume X: the world market for flowmeters, 7th edition by Flow Research.
The study reports the size of the worldwide flowmeter market follows fluctuations in oil prices. When oil prices began dropping five years ago and many oil and gas exploration projects were postponed or cancelled, associated instrumentation industries experienced a ripple effect. This downturn especially impacted the Coriolis, ultrasonic, differential pressure, positive displacement and turbine flowmeter markets. In 2015, for the first time in many years, new-technology flowmeter markets showed a decline, too. The only exception was a small revenue increase for magnetic flowmeters, which can't measure hydrocarbons flows and aren't widely used in the oil and gas industries.
Fortunately, in February 2016, oil prices began recovering, and the worldwide flowmeter market is now back on a healthy upward track. Coriolis and ultrasonic flowmeters, which are industry-approved for custody transfer of both gas and liquids, are projected to experience the fastest growth rates over the next four years.
New vs. traditional battle
While new-technology flowmeters are displacing traditional technology meters in some applications, it's clear traditional meters are still a major force in the flowmeter market. New-technology flowmeters—first introduced after 1950—include Coriolis, magnetic, ultrasonic, vortex and thermal flowmeters. Traditional technology flowmeters include differential pressure (DP), positive displacement, turbine, open channel and variable area flowmeters.
As some new-technology flowmeters become more familiar, gain industry approvals, come down in price and expand the range of line sizes available, their advantages are gaining converts. Some advantages include accuracy, repeatability, reliability, lack of moving parts subject to wear, and low to no pressure drop. A steady stream of new features, options and apps increases their ease of use and integration into processes. Some new-technology flowmeters are also benefiting from expanding and newer applications such as hydraulic fracturing and environmental monitoring.
Traditional technology flowmeters, especially DP flow, positive displacement and turbine meters, have the advantage of a large installed base that's reluctant to switch without cause. In addition, they were among the first types of flowmeters to receive approvals from industry associations for custody transfer applications. In many applications, these are the lower-cost workhorses of the flow measurement world. However, the need for increased accuracy, reliability and managed network capabilities are causing some users to make the switch to new-technology meters.
Improvements propel growth
In addition to growth factors related to the oil and gas industry, product improvements in new and traditional technology flowmeters are contributing to the upward trend in the worldwide market. Some product improvements include modern materials for meter parts or liners, additional line sizes, increased accuracy and broader flow ranges. Suppliers are also making battery-powered units, smaller meter bodies for tight spaces, multivariable meters, and self-monitoring or self-recalibrating meters.
Regulatory reporting requirements and the need for continuous measurement without interruption are increasing the value of redundancy in measurement. Vortex and turbine suppliers have released flowmeters with two sensors, and dual flowmeters calibrated together. New differential pressure flowmeters offer fully integrated orifice plates with multiple transmitters. Dual turbine rotor designs offer greater turndown flow range along with enhanced accuracy. Redundancy is rapidly taking its place along with accuracy and reliability as a key feature to look for when selecting a flowmeter.
“It’s an exciting time for the world flowmeter market," says Dr. Jesse Yoder, president of Flow Research. "Oil prices have stabilized and projects requiring new flowmeters are in full swing, while suppliers are introducing new product features that are revitalizing the market, including enhanced accuracy, reliability and redundancy. Last year was a banner year for the flowmeter market, and this trend is continuing into 2019. There's also a burst of merger and acquisition activity that's almost certain to continue as companies position themselves to compete more effectively in an expanding market.”
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