New Developments in the Flowmeter Market

By Jesse Yoder, PhD, Flow Research, Inc.

The flowmeter market does not exist in a vacuum; instead it is subject to the same economic pressures and influences as chemical, food & beverage, and other process markets.  In addition, the flowmeter market today is actually made up of more than a dozen submarkets, each corresponding to a different flow technology.

One of the broad trends in the flowmeter market is the transition from traditional technology flowmeters to new-technology meters.  While this transition is continuing, many traditional meters are holding their own, due to their large installed base and the large number of suppliers.  However, the picture is different for each type of meter.

New-technology characteristics

New-technology flowmeters share several characteristics:  1) They were introduced after 1950, 2) they are a main focus of research and new product development, and 3) their performance and reliability is generally at a high level.  New-technology flowmeters include Coriolis, magnetic, ultrasonic, vortex, and thermal.

Would you like to supersize that Coriolis Flowmeter?

Some of the most dramatic developments in the world of flow today are occurring in Coriolis meters.  While the large majority of Coriolis flowmeters still have a line size of two inches and less, some major developments are occurring involving large line size Coriolis meters.  Rheonik (now part of GE) used to be the only company that manufactured Coriolis meters in line sizes above six inches.  Today, several other companies have entered this market, and are producing Coriolis meters that fit in line sizes from six to 16 inches.  Endress+Hauser and Emerson Micro Motion both produce bent-tube Coriolis meters that fit into 16-inch lines, while KROHNE produces a straight tube meter for line sizes from six to greater than 10 inches.

Magnetic meters are designed for measuring liquid flows

Magnetic flowmeters have the disadvantage that they cannot be used to measure gas, steam, or nonconductive liquids such as oil.   On the other hand, they do an excellent job of measuring liquids, whether clean or dirty.  Magnetic flowmeters are especially popular in Europe , where the leading suppliers reside.

The Ultrasonic Flowmeter a Complex Market

The ultrasonic flowmeter market is the fastest growing of any flowmeter type, with the exception of the emerging technology of multiphase meters.  It is actually composed of a number of a number of submarkets that differ by type and application.  This makes the market as a whole somewhat complex.

Ultrasonic flowmeters can also be divided into inline, clamp-on, and insertion.  Inline meters require cutting a pipe so the meter can be fitted “inline” with the pipe, with either wafer or flanged fittings.  Clamp-on meters have the advantage that they can be clamped onto the outside of the pipe, which does not require cutting the pipe.  The signal passes through the pipe wall and through to the other side of the pipe, then typically bounces back to a receiving transducer.  Clamp-on meters have the disadvantage that the pipe wall can interfere with their signal, so they are typically less accurate than inline meters.

Traditional technology flowmeters enjoy longevity and large installed base

Traditional technology meters have the advantages of longevity and large installed base over new-technology meters.  They were introduced before 1950, are less the focus of research and product development than new-technology meters, and their performance in terms of accuracy and reliability is generally not as high as that of new-technology meters.  They are also less likely to adopt smart communication protocols and typically have a lower level of self-diagnostics than do new-technology flowmeters.  Traditional technology meters include differential pressure (DP), positive displacement, turbine, open channel, and variable area.

Excerpt from an upcoming article in Flow Control Magazine. 

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