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Oil Flow Measurement

Flowmeters in the Oil and Gas Industry

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Published in April 2021



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Articles about Oil Flow

Flowmeter Applications in the oil industry

The applications described here mainly occur in oil production, transportation, and distribution.  These would also be described as upstream applications.

Custody Transfer:  Custody transfer applications occur when possession of the oil is transferred from one party to another.  What distinguishes custody transfer applications is the high degree of accuracy required, and the fact that the type of flowmeters used are subject to approval by an organization such as the American Petroleum Institute (API).  Custody transfer operations occur at a number of points along the way.  These include from an oil production platform to a ship, barge, railcar, or truck.  Custody transfer also occurs when oil is transferred from a ship, barge, railcar, or truck to a destination point, such as a refinery.

Allocation Metering: One difference between custody transfer and allocation metering is that in allocation metering, accuracy requirements are typically not as high.  Examples of allocation metering include measuring oil movements between production units, measuring separator flows, and metering the movements of oil at jetty offtake and at loading points for tankers.  Allocation also refers to the distribution of production from a number of wells in a particular field.

Check Metering: Check metering is typically used to verify or monitor the performance of another flowmeter.  Clamp-on ultrasonic flowmeters are sometimes used for his purpose, since they can easily be mounted inline with the meter whose performance is being verified, and then easily removed when the verification is complete.

Well Injection: Used to measure the inflow of chemicals that are injected into the well, sometimes for measurement purposes.

Leak Detection: Used to determine whether leaks are occurring in a line.  This is often done by measuring the flow at the beginning of a line and at the end of the line.  Ultrasonic flowmeters are used for this purpose.

Multiphase Flow Measurement: Multiphase flow measurement is becoming increasingly important, and is sometimes replacing the use of separators at the wellhead. Multiphase flow measurement typically measures the percent of water, gas, and oil that the fluid coming out of the well contains.  This measurement is typically done at the wellhead.

Fuel Measurement: Fuel is typically measured when it is used, e.g., at a power plant or power station.  Fuel is also measured within a refinery, and downstream from a refinery.  Fuels that are the output of the refining process are metered as they are transferred to trucks, railcars, and ships, and also as they are delivered.

Process Measurement: Process measurement occurs within refineries and other process plants as part of the refining and manufacturing process.  There are many occasions within a refinery or process plant when liquids need to be measured so that the right products will be produced.  These applications can be grouped under the title of process measurement.

Downstream Applications:  Downstream applications include fuel measurement, custody transfer, and check metering.  Once the refining process is complete, the difference liquids need to be measured as they are loaded into trucks, railcars, and ships.  They are then measured at their destination points, as they are offloaded either to end-users or to distributors.  Coriolis, turbine, and positive displacement flowmeters are used for this purpose.  Coriolis flowmeters are increasing market share due to their high accuracy and their ability to measure mass flow.

Types of Flowmeters: The types of flowmeters used in oil flow measurement include differential pressure (DP), turbine, positive displacement, Coriolis, and ultrasonic.  Of these types, Coriolis and ultrasonic are gaining ground on the other types, but the DP, positive displacement, and turbine flowmeters have the largest installed base. 

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Flow Research, Inc. | 27 Water Street | Wakefield, MA 01880 | (781) 245-3200 | (781) 224-7552 (fax) | (800) 245-1799 (from the USA) | info@flowresearch.com

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