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IBP1058 09


Raymond J. Kalivoda1

Copyright 2009, Brazilian Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels Institute - IBP

This Technical Paper was prepared for presentation at the Rio Pipeline Conference and Exposition 2009, held between September,
22-24, 2009, in Rio de Janeiro. This Technical Paper was selected for presentation by the Technical Committee of the event
according to the information contained in the abstract submitted by the author(s). The contents of the Technical Paper, as presented,
were not reviewed by IBP. The organizers are not supposed to translate or correct the submitted papers. The material as it is
presented, does not necessarily represent Brazilian Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels Institute" opinion, or that of its Members or
Representatives. Authors consent to the publication of this Technical Paper in the Rio Pipeline Conference Proceedings.


Petroleum products bought and sold on the world wide market may be transported over thousands of miles and change
ownership many times from the well head to the end user. Each time the product changes ownership, a “custody
transfer” is completed and both buyer and seller expect their asset share to be accurately measured. The dynamic
measurement provided by meters is a convenient and accurate means to measure valuable petroleum products.
Selecting the right meter for the job with a high level of confidence is imperative to ensure accurate measurement at the
lowest cost of ownership.

The fluid properties of petroleum products varies widely from low viscosity refined products like LPG, gasoline, diesel
and jet fuel to high crude oils with a high concentration of contaminants such as sediment & water (S&W) and
entrained gas. Understanding the fluid properties of both refined produces and crude oils and how they affect the
different metering technologies is important in selecting the right meter for a specific application.

This paper will define the fluid properties of both refined products and crude oils, explain their effect on the different
custody transfer metering technologies and evaluate these technologies for the accurate measurement of petroleum

1. Introduction

Refined products are normally well defined and not highly viscous. Crude oils can vary widely in viscosity and quality.
They can have a viscosity similar to refined products or be highly viscous. The demand of heavy or high viscous crude
oil is increasing due to the price and availability. This trend is expected to accelerate with increasing demand for
petroleum products due to the expansion of the world economies and the reduction in light low viscosity crude oil
reserves. As a result of this trend crude oil transporters, pipeline and marine, are gearing up to handle a wider range of
heavy crude oils.

The accurate measurement of high viscosity crude presents new challenges, though. Each of these applications is
different and no one type of meter is best for all applications. Fortunately we have a wide range of metering
technologies to address low, medium and high viscosity applications:

• Positive Displacement Meters, known for their highly accurate measurement of high viscosity products.

• Convention Turbine Meters are suitable for most refined products and light to medium viscosity crude oils.

• Helical Turbine Meters can handle light to higher viscosity crude oils and with special viscosity
compensation software; the viscosity range can be increased to handle high viscosity crude oils.

• Coriolis Mass Meters are especially suited for low flow applications over a wide variety of viscosities.

1 Petroleum Measurement Manager - EMC MEASUREMENT SOLUTIONS

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• Liquid Ultrasonic Meters can handle low and medium viscosity products and are gaining wider application
experience and acceptance on more viscous products.

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each of these technologies is important in making the best decision for a
given application.

2. Viscosity Characteristics of Petroleum Products

Viscosity can be expressed in many different units but for our purposes kinematic viscosity is the most suitable. The
most commonly used viscosity units in the petroleum industry are:
• Kinematic Viscosity - centistokes (cSt) - The base unit is a Stoke but as the value of Kinematic Viscosity is
normally small, the unit is often converted by multiplying by 100, centistokes (cSt). In the metric system the
kinematic viscosity unit is cm2/s (centimeter2/second).
• Saybolt Universal Viscosity (SSU) - SSU can be converted to cSt using a conversion table.
• Dynamic Viscosity centipoise (cP) - The base unit is Poise but like kinematic viscosity, the Poise is often
multiplied by 100, centipoise (cP). Centipoise can be converted to centistokes by dividing by the
specific gravity, (cSt = cP / SG). In the metric system, the dynamic viscosity unit is Pa^s (Pascal^second).
Crude oils are normally defined by their API gravity, which is sometimes confused with the product’s viscosity. API
gravity is defined as the density of crude oil at a specific temperature compared to the density of water at a standard
temperature, 60°F. The relationship between specific gravity (SG) and API gravity is:

SG (60°F/60°F) = 141.5 / (131.5 + API).

Tables 1 and 2 show refined products and crude oil characteristics, respectively. The API gravity and specific gravity
are stated at reference temperature. The viscosity is also related to temperature and decreases as temperature increases.
As seen in these tables the effect temperature has on viscosity is notably more significant on heavy refined and crude
oils then on lighter products and crude oils. This is an import factor in the proper selection of a particular metering
technology for many heavy and medium oil applications.

Table 1. Refined Products Characteristics

Gravity @ 60°F (15°C) Viscosity (cSt)


Specific API 30 (-1) 60 (15) 150 (66)

Propane - LPG 0.51 146 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.2

Gasoline 0.77 52 1.0 0.8 0.7 0.5
Jet Fuel 0.81 43 3.5 2.6 2.0 1.1
Kerosene 0.84 37 3.7 2.7 2.1 1.2
Fuel Oil 3 (max) 0.92 22 - 11 5.7 3.5
Fuel Oil 6 (min) 1.00 10 - 828 155 46

Table 2. Crude Oil Characteristics

Gravity @ 60°F (15°C) Viscosity (cSt)

Crude Type
Specific API 60°F (15°C) 100°F (38°C) 150°F (66°C)

0.79 48 3 2 1
0.86 32.6 21 9 5
Medium 0.90 25.3 1442 243 93
0.95 17.8 2040* 340 130*
Heavy 0.96 16.2 3440* 574 230*
1.00 10 5100* 1294 520*
* estimated

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3. Meter Selection
Selecting the correct meter for a specific measurement task is dependant on the following operating conditions:
System Characteristics - Pressure and temperature are typically specified but other characteristics such as pulsating
flow from a PD pump or valve operation / location should also be considered as they may cause measurement errors for
some types of meters.
Product Characteristics - The basic product characteristics of viscosity, specific or API gravity, chemical
characteristics and lubricating quality must be specified. Also, any contaminates such as particulates, air or water
contained in the product must be identified and noted in an application analysis.
Flow Range - This is the minimum and maximum flow rate over which the meter will operate. The flow range can
also be expressed as the “turndown range”, which is the ratio of the maximum to the minimum flow rate (e.g., a flow
range of 10 bph to 100 bph is a 10:1 turndown range).
Viscosity Range - Just as the flow range can be expressed as a turndown range, so can the maximum to the minimum
viscosity be expressed as a turndown range.
Accuracy - The Accuracy of a liquid flow meter depends predominantly on the flow range and the viscosity range of
the products over which the meter operates. The following formula relates Flow Turndown Range to Viscosity
Turndown Range to yield a Measurement Turndown Range (MTR). Comparing the MTR of various meter types for
specific operating conditions provides a guide to selecting the meter with the best potential accuracy for the application.

Measurement Turndown Range = Flow Turndown Range x Viscosity Turndown Range


4. Types of Dynamic Flow Meters

Dynamic fluid flow meters can be classified as either direct volumetric meters or inference type meters. A Positive
Displacement (PD) meter (Figure 1) directly measures volumetric flow by continuously separating (isolating) the flow
stream into discrete volumetric segments. Inference meters determine volumetric flow rate by measuring some dynamic
property of the flow stream. Turbine meters, both conventional and helical types, fall in the latter category along with
Coriolis mass meters and ultrasonic meters.

PD Meters
PD meters are highly versatile and have been used for custody transfer petroleum applications since their introduction
in the 1930’s. Because of their high accuracy, stability, reliability, mechanical output and ease of proving, they are still
widely used in the petroleum industry. Other meter technologies have displaced PD meters for high volume, low
viscosity applications like refined product or light crude oil pipelines. PD meters still have measuring advantages for
medium to high viscosity products. PD meters are one of the few meters that have highly stable meter factors on
medium to high viscosity products.

Figure 1. PD Meter Cutaway

PD Meter Operating Principle
PD meters measure flow by momentarily isolating segments of known volume and counting them. For example in a
rotating vane PD meter, as the rotor turns, isolated chambers are formed between blades, rotor, base, cover and
housing. Like a revolving door, known segments of fluid pass through the measurement chamber and are counted.
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All PD meters have moving and stationary parts which require clearances between them. In most PD meter designs,
there is no contact between parts but the tolerances are very tight and the liquid forms a capillary seal. Flow through the
meter is caused by differential pressure across the measuring chamber. Flow through the meter not accounted for in the
measurement chamber but which flows though these clearances are commonly known as slippage. In practice, slippage
is accounted for by calibrating the meter on a specific fluid which generates the meter factor.
In addition to meter design and manufactured quality, a key determinate to slippage is viscosity. As the viscosity of the
fluid increases, flow though the measuring element clearances decreases. At a certain viscosity, about 10 to 20 cSt
depending on the type and size of meter, the amount of slippage is nil and the meter factor is constant. This allows PD
meters to measure high viscosity crude oils over a wide flow and viscosity range as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. PD Meter Performance over a Range of Crude Oils

Even though PD meters are the oldest custody transfer measurement technology, they are considered the best
technology for many applications where accuracy, stability and reliability are required.
Advantages of Positive Displacement Meters
• High accuracy over a wide range of viscosities and flow rates up to 2000 cSt with proper clearances
• Low pressure drop
• Extremely good repeatability on high viscosity fluids, very low slippage
• Can register near zero flow rate
• Flow conditioning not required
• Measures directly, not an inferential device, for more consistent results

Figure 3. PD Meter Measurement Range

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Turbine Meters
In the mid 1960’s, the petroleum industry recognized the potential of turbine meter technology for highly accurate
measurement and in 1970, API published Standard 2534 - “Measurement of Liquid Hydrocarbons by Turbine Meter
Systems After publication of this standard, conventional turbine meters (Figure 4) gained broad acceptance for
custody transfer of petroleum liquids such as liquified petroleum gases (LPG’s), refined products and light crude oil.
With the introduction of helical turbine meters (Figure 5) in the 1990’s, turbine meter applications were expanded to
higher viscosity crude oils, waxy crude oil and other troublesome turbine meter applications.

Figure 4. Conventional Turbine Meter Figure 5. Helical Turbine Meter

Operating Principle
Turbine meters determine flow rate by measuring the velocity of a bladed rotor suspended in the flow stream. The
volumetric flow rate is the product of the average stream velocity and the flow area at the rotor as related by the basic
equation: Volume Flow Rate = Velocity x Area.
Rotor Velocity
There are a number of factors that can affect the rotor velocity such as: rotor blade angle and stability, bearing friction
and fluid density. But variations in velocity profile or fluid swirl are the most common causes of measurement errors.
Both of these conditions can be minimized by proper installation and use of flow conditioners. Recent tests by API
have further proven the importance of good flow conditioning in turbine meter measurement.
Flow Area
The effective rotor flow area, and thus the meter’s “K” factor (pulses / unit volume), can change for any one or a
combination of the following reasons. The two (2) major factors that effect measurement accuracy of crude oils with
turbine meters are:
• Deposits / Waxing - Small amount of buildup on the rotor blades can have a significant effect on meter
performance. For example, a one mil (0.001") buildup on the surfaces of a 4" rotor will decrease the flow area
through the rotor, and increase the “K” factor, by about 0.5%.
• Boundary Layer Thickness - Boundary layer thickness is relatively constant and insignificant when operating on
products with low viscosity such as refined products or light crude oils. But as the viscosity increases, the
boundary layer increases which reduces the effective flow area.

Helical Turbine Meters

Helical turbine meters are similar to conventional turbine meters in the fact that they have like housings, stators,
bearings and pulse pickup systems and are governed by the same laws of fluid dynamics. They vary in one distinct area
- the rotor has only two helical blades instead of multiple blades (Figure 6). This reduce the surface area exposed to the
fluid which makes them less sustable to deposts / waxing and Foundry layer effects. Therefore they are excelled for
crude oil measurement.

Figure 6. Helical vs. Conventional Turbine Meter Rotors

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Advantages of Turbine Meters
• High accuracy over a wide flow range
• Excellent repeatability
• Helical type can measure high viscosity crude oils over a wide flow turndown range
• Low cost or ownership especially in large sizes for high flow rates

Figure 8. Conventional and Helical Turbine Measurement Range

Coriolis Mass Meters
Coriolis mass meters were introduced to industry in the early 1980’s and have gained acceptance as accurate and
reliable flow measuring devices. A major factor contributing to their popularity is that Coriolis meters measure mass
flow rate directly thus eliminating the need for pressure and temperature compensation. Direct mass flow measurement
led to the rapid adoption of Coriolis meters by the Chemical and Petrochemical industries. High viscosity petroleum
applications with Coriolis meter are limited by pressure drop. Normally a larger meter is required at a significantly
decreased flow to reduce the pressure drop. For example a typical Coriolis may have a 24 psi pressure drop at max flow
but at Vi the flow rate the pressure drop will be !4 of maximum or 6 psi which is similar to other metering technologies
at rated maximum flow rate.
Operating Principle
The flow stream is split into two oscillating tubes. Because the tubes are oscillating the fluid flow will induce a twist to
the tube due to a force acting in opposite directions on either side of the tubes induced by Coriolis acceleration. This
twist results in a phase difference (time lag) between the inlet side and the outlet side tubes which is directly
proportional to the mass flow through the tube.
Petroleum applications most often require a volumetric flow rate output. To provide a volume measurement the
Coriolis meter transmitter calculates volume flow rate (Q) from measured mass flow rate (m) and measured density (p):
Q = m/p.
The Coriolis meter volume measurement accuracy reflects the combined uncertainty of the mass flow rate and density
The most common custody transfer applications for Coriolis Meters in the petroleum industry today are in crude
production / well monitoring, Lease Automatic Custody Transfer (LACT) Systems, LPG measurement and applications
or area in the world where mass measurement is required.
Advantages of Coriolis Mass Meters
• Low maintenance, minimally affected by abrasives and corrosives
• Not susceptible to damage by gas slugging
• Direct mass and density measurements
• Flow conditioning not normally required

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Vi SU* :.fWi

yi -5"

a m

Figure 9. Coriolis Mass Meter Measurement Range

5. Liquid Ultrasonic Flow Meters

Transit Time Ultrasonic Meters have been used in the petroleum industry for many years in non-custody transfer
applications such as leak detection, allocation measurement and check meter measurement. With advancements in
multiprocessors, transducers and electronic technology, ultrasonic flow meters are now available with custody transfer
accuracy. Because of their non-intrusive design features, there is much excitement about the possibilities of ultrasonic
meters for custody transfer measurement but more application experience is needed to verify the meter’s performance
especially for high viscosity applications.
Operating Principle
Ultrasonic meters, like turbine meters, are inferential meters that derive flow rate by measuring stream velocity. The
volumetric flow rate is the product of the average stream velocity and the flow area as related by the basic equation:
Volume Flow Rate = Velocity x Area.
The area is assumed constant and velocity is determined by measuring the difference in transit time of high frequency
sound pulses that are transmitted along and against the flow stream. The pulses are generated by piezoelectric
transducers that are positioned at an angle to the flow stream.
The principle of measurement is simple but determining the true average velocity is difficult, especially to obtain
custody transfer measurement accuracy. Velocity profiles are highly complex and one set of transducers only measures
the velocity along a very thin path. To determine the velocity profile more accurately, custody transfer ultrasonic
meters use multiple sets of transducers (Figure 10). The number of paths, their location and the algorithms that integrate
the path velocities into an average velocity all contribute to the meter’s accuracy.
Besides the stream velocity there is swirl (transverse velocity) caused by elbows and other piping configurations. The
transverse velocity must either be eliminated by flow conditioning or accounted for by the meter. Some ultrasonic
designs such as the Smith Ultra” measure the transverse velocity and account for it in the velocity algorithms.

Figure 10. Multipath Ultrasonic Meter

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Advantages of Ultrasonic Meters
• Non-intrusive measurement (no obstruction to flow)
• No moving parts
• No pressure loss
• Bi-directional
• Possibility of self-diagnostics
• Provide information on other fluid properties
• Potential for remote operation

Figure 11. Ultrasonic Meter Measurement Range

6. Summary
There is a choice in meters for petroleum applications. Proper selection is based on several factors but the primary
criteria for selecting a premium meter should be accuracy. The ramifications of measurement error and uncertainty can
outweigh the purchase and operating cost of the meters.

Figure 12. Combined Measurement Range

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7. References
FMC Measurement Solutions, “Positive Displacement Meters for Liquid Measurement”, International School of
Hydrocarbon Measurement (ISHM), 1987

FMC Measurement Solutions, “Fundamentals of Liquid Turbine Meters”, International School of Hydrocarbon
Measurement (ISHM), 1998

Ed Otto, “Coriolis Meters for Liquid Measurement”, Canadian School of Hydrocarbon Measurement, 2004

American Petroleum Institute, Ballot “Measurement of Liquid Hydrocarbons by Ultrasonic Flowmeters Using Transit
Time Technology”, 2004