Natural gas flow computer testing and evaluation

By S Stark, Stark & Associates, Inc


Published in:

Electricity+Control, April 2015 (pages 26 – 31)

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Natural gas flow computers came into much wider use for custody transfer (fiscal) measurement beginning in the late 1980s following their less common application in the 1970s and before. In the beginning, flow computers were used almost exclusively to calculate flow and the earliest models simply offered an alternative to chart recorders and a new way to handle and store measurement data. Thanks to improved microprocessors, field-hardened electronics, and better power systems, things improved rapidly. Along the way, multiple communications systems evolved as better pressure and temperature transducers and new meter types and other technologies arrived on the scene.

Measurement improvements have supported the fast-paced marketing structure that helps drive the energy industry economy – an economy that grows and prospers thanks to the innovations brought forth by the men and women of a great industry and despite the efforts of the small-minded ones who would suppress it.

Now in 2015, our simple little solar-powered white (or black or whatever colour you prefer) ‘flow computer’ has grown up and learned how to do almost anything you can dream up – monitor well performance, control pump jacks, direct flow, measure tank levels, listen for leaks, operate valves, monitor weather, secure the site, and even count the cows in the sheep in the pasture (well, we’re almost there on that one).

Many modern flow computers provide a mountain of data – some people say too much data – and perform many tasks essential in a complex and even faster-paced gas energy industry.

Sometimes, the more experienced measurement men and women of our industry ponder the situation and wonder if the initial purpose of flow computers has been lost in the mix of technology and SCADA-systems and other EGM-provided information we rely on. They sometimes worry that calculating flow may have become a secondary use for flow computers in some cases and that measurement precision is sometimes lost.

Take note

  • Gas measurement technology has improved significantly from the mid-1960s.
  • Natural gas flow computers came into wider use for custody transfer (fiscal) measurement in the late 1980s.
  • Greater care must be taken today, more than ever before, to ensure that gas quantities are calculated correctly.