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Flow Meters for Natural Gas Delivery

The accuracy of flow meters measuring natural gas has enormous commercial importance. NIST is developing a new technique to calibrate large flows at high pressures, like natural gas flowing inside interstate pipelines, replacing today’s expensive, time-consuming and labor-intensive approach.

Photo of NIST scientist with the big blue ball covered in thermal insulation.
Credit: NIST
NIST scientist Keith Gillis with a large high-pressure spherical vessel covered in thermal insulation for experiments.

NIST is working with the Colorado Engineering Experiment Station, Inc. (CEESI), an independent laboratory that calibrates flow meters, to develop a new technique to calibrate flow meters for high pressures. NIST has a long-standing research program to improve flow meter calibrations, connecting basic research in physics and measurement science directly to industry needs.

In 2015, NIST scientists demonstrated a proof-of- principle of a new method to overcome one of the major hurdles in calibrating large flow meters—accurately knowing the average temperature of gas collected in a tank. Now, they are partnering with industry to scale-up this technique using a large high-pressure spherical vessel as the collection volume. NIST scientists have already identified and overcome one potential issue with scale-up, reducing the time industry needs to spend improving the technique prior to implementation.

NIST does not have the infrastructure required to test really large flow meters of the sort used in interstate pipelines. However, NIST’s industry partner, CEESI, has a calibration facility located next to a pipeline, and they have collection vessels with volumes of 20 cubic meters. Thus, the lessons learned from NIST’s research will reach industry.

Questions? Contact inquiries [at] nist.gov (subject: Industry%20Impacts%3A%20Natural%20Gas%20Delivery) (NIST Inquiries).