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Glen Wilson Regional Sales Manager Faure Herman Meter, Inc 6961 Brookhollow West Drive Houston, Texas 77040


The oil industry has used conventional turbine meters and positive displacement (PD) meters in the custody transfer measurement (CTM) of crude oil and refined products for more than 6 decades. The choice of which meter to use depends on the product being measured, technical parameters of the application, total cost of meter ownership, and the accuracy required.

Conventional turbine meters have typically been used in low viscosity refined products, with limited use in moderate to high viscosity crude oil due to performance limitations. The capillary seal positive displacement meter has been the choice for custody transfer measurement of moderate to high viscosity crude oil, providing good measurement but at a high total cost of ownership.

Today, a new iteration of the turbine flowmeter is available to meet the necessity for accurate CTM in either a single product or a multiple products application, performing within the API guidelines for CTM at the measurement site. The Dual Bladed Helical Turbine Meter is designed for the measurement applications which have typically been divided between conventional turbine meters and positive displacement meters. This uniquely designed turbine flow meter provides highly accurate custody transfer measurement in applications ranging from very low viscosity products such as LPG's, to heavy crude oil (standard applications to 500 cSt., special applications to 1000 cSt)


The helical bladed turbine was developed in the 1950's for use in jet aircraft. The original patent for this type of flowmeter was issued in 1956. In 1966 the helical turbine was first used by the oil industry on two platforms in the North Sea. The operators were having a difficult time maintaining measurement accuracy due to the paraffin that was constantly gumming up their meters. The Helical Bladed Turbine performed even better then anticipated .and since that time, the helical bladed turbine technology has proven itself all around the world in some of the most difficult applications.

The dual bladed helical turbine meter was introduced in the United States in the early 90’s and meets all of the requirements of the American Petroleum Institute for custody transfer measurement of liquid products, covered in part by the Manual of Petroleum Measurement Standards " Measurement of Liquid Hydrocarbons by Turbine Meters ( Chapter 5, Section 3).

Meter construction

In many respects the construction of the helical turbine meter is similar to that of a conventional turbine meter. It

uses stators to hold a rotor in the center of the measurement chamber with journal bearings. The meter body comes in several configurations such as flanged or threaded ends, with magnetic pickup coil(s) mounted to it. The primary difference you will notice is that the internals, including the rotor, are placed within a cartridge, and the helical shape of the rotor blades.

A helical bladed rotor typically has dual blades but can have additional blades depending on the application and

the flow range required. The blades on the rotor are machined with different angles on each radius beginning at the hub and continuing to the outer tip of the blade: these angles are machined through the length of the blade. The final shape of the blade after machining is completed is a helical shape, thus giving the bladed rotor and the meter its name.

The rotors are almost always made from aluminum or titanium. Both of these materials are used due to their chemical resistance properties and weight &durability. Due to their light weight the meter responds to flow quickly. Aluminum is the choice for refined products such as gasoline, jet fuel, and kerosene. Titanium can be used for


the products just mentioned, but titanium is used for crude applications, ranging from light to sour to heavy and even for brine water when leaching out salt caverns.

The cartridge design utilizes a cylinder typically constructed of 316SS to mount and hold the internals (rotor, stators, and bearings). This design allows for a calibrated set of internals, which can be kept as a spare part with

a certified calibration report. Regardless of meter size, a cartridge can be changed in less then one hour. This is

a major savings to the user of this meter over the costly and time consuming methods needed to repair positive displacement meters.

Theory of operation

In today's applications of more exotic refined product and the transportation of multiple types of crude oils with varying viscosity the dual bladed helical turbine meter can maintain accurate measurement through wide viscosity ranges and changing flow conditions.

The theory of operation evolves around the shape of the bladed rotor. The blade is designed to have a zero angle of incidence to the flow stream. This means that at every point of radius on the blades of the rotor, the flow is traveling parallel to the blade’s surface. The parallel flow is achieved by machining a different angle at each point of radius on the rotor blades, from the hub to the outer edge of the blade, through the length of the blade. These angles compensate for the different velocities of the blade at each radius. With the flow traveling parallel to the rotor blades any change in fluid density or viscosity does not adversely affect the performance of the helical bladed meter (see drawings below). Because the flow is parallel to the entire blade, debris or particulates tend to “slide” through the meter, and not impinge on the helical blade: think of the helical blade as an auger. In reality the angle of incidence can never be exactly zero because of bearing friction and blade thickness. These factors create a small incidence with the flow stream, but this has only a minor effect compared to the traditional straight bladed rotor design of a conventional turbine meter.

R/R0=1. R/R0=0. R/R0=0.
R/R 0 = 0,2
0 = 0,2
R/R 0 = 0,7 R/R 0 = 1,0
0 =
0 =
R/R 0 = 0,2 R/R 0 = 0,7 R/R 0 = 1,0
0 = 0,2
0 =
0 = 1,0
0,7 R/R 0 = 1,0 R/R 0 = 0,2 R/R 0 = 0,7 R/R 0 =

Another important feature of the helical rotor is that it allows the meter to perform CTM in higher viscosity situations. Because of the helical design, the build up of the boundary layer on the rotor blades in a higher viscosity application is significantly reduced. This reduction in the boundary layer is also responsible for the success of a helical rotor in oils with paraffin content. The paraffin does not coat the blade any more then the normal boundary layer build up of high viscosity oil.

The cartridge design of the helical bladed turbine meter is important for two reasons. The first is that the cartridge, a separate component of the meter, is not affected by line pressure. This means that the flow area through the cartridge (the measuring element), does not change with line pressure. And with no change in flow area, there is no change in accuracy. In a fan bladed turbine, the body will expand with line pressure and change the meter factory and accuracy, which must be compensated for.


Secondly, the cartridge design removes all concern about alignment and meter body irregularities, meaning the

Secondly, the cartridge design removes all concern about alignment and meter body irregularities, meaning the customer can prove the cartridge with out the meter body. This is a big plus in off shore installations or in extreme weather or remote site applications.

Where weight, size and space are critical, the helical meter has an advantage over a PD meter. Instead of using a 10”, 150# ANSI PD meter, an 8”, 150# ANSI Helical Turbine may be very interesting to you. This meter is about 16” long and weighs approximately 180-190 pounds, with a greater flow rate then the PD meter.

Illustrations of the change in the rotor blade angle maintaining parallel flow due to the rotational velocity.


The Helical Meter is designed to be robust and long lived. With only one moving part, these meters are designed to run, with customers getting as much as 7-9 years use before replacing only the bearings. The industry now has an alternative meter to measure medium to high viscosity fluids at substantially less cost for repairs and maintenance.


Calibrating the dual bladed helical requires using the pulse interpolation method described in the API Manual of Petroleum Measurement Standards (Chapter 4 Section 6). It would not be practical to build a prover with sufficient volume to generate 10,000 pulses. The reason for using this method for proving the helical turbine meter is because the meter provides fewer pulses per unit volume than traditional turbine meters.


The Dual Bladed Helical Turbine has proven itself in applications all around the world from light to heavy oils. Providing Custody Transfer Measurement accuracy in single or multiple product fluids, the measurement is also repeatable and reproducible. The meter is not for every measurement site, however it’s proven accuracy, reliability and longevity makes it worth investigating for your measurement needs.


1. J.E. Gallagher, J.R. Coats, H.W. Butts, P.J. LaNasa, "Custody Transfer Metering Performance for Turbine Meters and Positive Displacement Meters on Batched Crude Oil Pipelines", Fluid Flow Measurement 3 rd International Symposium, 1995

2. API Manual Of Petroleum Measurement Standards, Chapter 5 and 6.

3. P.A. Lawrence, "Application of Turbine Meters For Liquid Measurement: Crude Oil" ISHM 1996

4. Didier PABOIS " Flow Measurement with Heliflu™ Turbine Meter" 1996