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Digital Transformation Strategies for Mechanical Flow Instrumentation

Back in the olden days, local water utilities would have to send the “meter man” into the basement of houses and apartment buildings. He would read the mechanical turbine flow meter that totalized water consumption for each customer. Since it was a purely mechanical device, this was the only way to capture the data.

There are lots of sites within the oil and gas industry that haven’t moved much past this point. Mechanical turbine flow meters are still deployed at countless sites equipped with no electronics, or only the most primitive sorts, which cause data to be isolated and left to be read manually. Tom Bass says it doesn’t have to be this way in his article in the May 2019 issue of Processing, Digital Transformation Strategies for Mechanical Flow Instrumentation.

Tom makes the point that these types of flow meters are well suited to the application, mechanically at least, but they leave one major gap in functionality.

But this doesn’t solve the more complex connectivity issue, requiring technicians to perform the time-consuming and repetitive task of manually gathering data from the field, providing no added value to companies wanting to digitize their operations. Fortunately, instrumentation suppliers have created approaches to overcome this deficiency and provided effective mechanisms to realize digital transformation in brownfield applications.

He reminds us that all turbine flow meters are not so unsophisticated. There are units constructed with advanced materials and outfitted with state-of-the-art transmitters, such as Emerson’s Daniel Series 1500 Liquid Turbine Meters, but there are many more in the field falling into the old fashioned category. So what’s the best way to deal with those oldies?

Many existing turbine flowmeters provide no electronic output, or have rudimentary electronics capable of delivering only the most basic totalizing functions. Older electronic units can be retrofitted with a transmitter that can read pulses from the turbine blades using the existing proximity sensor. With advanced signal processing options, it is possible to capture totalized flow data, average flow rate over a specified period of time, and a current real-time flow rate. Using the HART protocol, these transmitters can send any of the multiple variables to a host system and show them visually on a local display. If device networking infrastructure at a remote site is minimal, these transmitters can be outfitted with WirelessHART communication for connecting to a wireless network.

Tom is talking about the Rosemount 705 Wireless Totalizing Transmitter, which adds WirelessHART technology to consistently deliver average flow rate and totalized volume measurements, even in remote and challenging environments. That’s an important step in itself, but how does it fit into the larger picture for a production site?

Along with process instrumentation, many devices are able to monitor the condition and performance of a wide range of production assets, including centrifugal pumps, heat exchangers and pressure relief valves. These new monitoring devices can work in conjunction with pre-configured applications — much like smartphone apps — which can perform sophisticated analysis and display results on dashboards, all without any custom code writing. These digital transformation efforts can increase production, reduce costs and increase overall profitability, helping support a company’s top-quartile performance goals and programs. As companies face pressures to improve financial performance while working in tight labor markets, automation can become a critical enabler of success.

Naturally, Tom is talking about Plantweb Insight which provides the means to process production and condition data through digital transformation.

You can find more information like this and meet with other people looking at the same kinds of situations in the Emerson Exchange365 community. It’s a place where you can communicate and exchange information with experts and peers in all sorts of industries around the world. Look for the Oil & Gas and Digital Transformation Groups and other specialty areas for suggestions and answers.

1 Reply

  • Automating manual data collection is a great way to improve productivity. You also become more predictive as you get data more frequently, so you can respond much sooner if something needs attention. Since it is not practical to run additional 4-20 mA wiring in a plant, wireless is the way to go. There is technology available that help people digitally transform their work processes to improve quality/yield, productivity, throughput, and flexibility/agility. Applications include:
    -Operator rounds
    -Local Control Panel (LCP)
    -Offsite tank farm storage tank
    -Wellhead Control Panel (WCP)
    -Offsite standby pump
    -Consumables inventory
    -Temperature profile
    -Valve and damper position
    -Rotating kiln and reactor
    -Process troubleshooting

    Learn how other plants deploy fieldbus and wireless sensors from this essay: