ABB's AquaMaster GSM flowmeter - the most technically advanced flowmeter in the world
With tens of thousands of units installed in the water industry, the AquaMaster flow meter has come a long way since the idea of applying electromagnetic technology to a market dominated by mechanical flow meters was first proposed within ABB. At that time, in the late 1990s, water companies only used electromagnetic devices on large pipe diameter applications such as district mains, and the idea of applying this approach to DMA Leakage and revenue applications was a new one.
ABB realised that a battery-powered electromagnetic meter could exceed the current needs of the market for accuracy. With mechanical meters, water companies were settling for an accuracy of ±2 per cent, but the metering experts at ABB knew that electromagnetic technology could beat this and save the water companies a lot of money in the process.
When compared with a conventional mechanical meter installation, the installation benefits of the AquaMaster are clear. In a conventional mechanical meter installation, a considerable amount of ancillary equipment, including strainers, isolation valves and a bypass, is required in addition to the meter itself. The whole installation also has to be situated in a specially constructed chamber. Taken together, the requirement for the ancillary equipment and the chamber can add significantly to the cost of the installation.
In a typical AquaMaster installation, on the other hand, all that is required is the flow meter primary. A small chamber may also sometimes be required for the transmitter, although it can also be located above ground in a pillar or kiosk housing.
Consequently, the cost of an AquaMaster installation can often be 60% less than a traditional mechanical meter installation.
In addition to the headline improvement in accuracy, there are a number of other well-known advantages to electromagnetic water metering when compared with mechanical devices. First, the fact that electromagnetic systems contain no moving parts eliminates the need for routine maintenance. This in turn means that the overall installation costs are lower, because the end user does not need valves to isolate the meter during maintenance and replacement.
The lack of moving parts also means that the accuracy of electromagnetic flow readings will not deteriorate through wear, whereas a mechanical meter’s accuracy will deteriorate with age resulting in under reading. And with so many wearing parts, a typical mechanical meter will have a useful life of just five years or possibly shorter if particulates are present in the water, while a correctly-installed AquaMaster should offer fit-and-forget service for 10 years or more.
Enhanced revenue management
Consider a mechanical DN150 flow meter that is accurate to within ±2%. This flow meter is installed in a line with an average flow rate of 10 litres per second, which equates to an annual usage of 315,360m3. Assuming a cost just for water at £0.50 per m3, over the course of one year the potential inaccuracy of the meter could be losing the operator around £2,500 of revenue.
If this meter is replaced with an ABB AquaMaster electromagnetic meter, which has an accuracy of ±0.5%, then the meter could pay for itself within just 23 days and continue to save money in the future. Further savings and increased revenue come from the far wider flow turn down or operating range of an electromagnetic meter compared with a mechanical meter, which gains additional revenue with night flows, where the flow rate normally drops and mechanical meters will stall and stop registering. This typically amounts to a similar sum, doubling the additional revenue to around £4,600 per annum.
Since the AquaMaster was originally launched in London in 2001, it has been upgraded with new features including an improved safer battery avoiding Lithium and the recent addition of GSM/SMS technology, which enables users to remotely access up-to-date information from anywhere around the world. Using the same technology as a mobile telephone, ABB’s AquaMaster flowmeters can now be contacted using a PC or laptop or through a mobile telephone via SMS messaging.
Via a GSM link to their PC or laptop, users can access the AquaMaster’s three integral data loggers, two of which collect data on flow and pressure, with the third providing daily flow totalisation. Data can be downloaded from the flow and pressure loggers, based on both a 15 minute and a world leading high resolution one minute sample rate, to provide a range of information which can be used to pinpoint supply fluctuations and identify potential problems.
Operators can also remotely reconfigure and maintain their AquaMaster units online, including adjusting the configuration, reading flow meter totals or performing diagnostic tests without the time and cost of despatching an engineer or meter reader to carry out the work on site.
Using SMS text messaging, operators can request updates on current flowmeter status simply by sending a text message to the AquaMaster’s ‘telephone’ number. Via this medium, operators can request and receive data on any of the meter parameters including flow rate, pressure, total water consumption, alarms and tariff totals.