The product of a new regime

Water companies have changed the priorities by which they choose flowmeters. According to Endress + Hauser's David Claridge the emphasis is now on securing life cycle management.

Wet calibration should be carried out on a fully accredited flow rig

Wet calibration should be carried out on a fully accredited flow rig

With water coming to be viewed more as a 'product', water companies are increasingly interested in tracking its path from abstraction, through production, to transfer and delivery. The new interest in tracing product transfer was fuelled by summer shortages during the mid-1990s and the associated increase in regulatory and political demands to reduce leakage. The most recent demand for fuller product tracking has been brought about by competition rules governing the sale of water outside the originating supplier's geographical area.

These and other factors have driven utilities to look at their methods of production and transfer, and in addition the monitoring of their systems and infrastructure. Utilities' understanding of the mechanics of leakage control has increased and methods are being put in place to reduce the impact of leakage on the production/delivery ratio. These methods include improving the infrastructure through district zoning, and pressure reduction and control. As a consequence, the focus on the instrumentation necessary to measure and control assets - the pipework infrastructure and the passage of the product through it - has increased.

The understanding of, and the demands on, monitoring equipment has developed to a stage where issues such as whole life costings and life cycle management are becoming increasingly important.

With flowmeters the historic trend has been towards buying the cheapest device available, with little or no thought given to overall capabilities or lifespan. This is changing, with many companies now integrating all areas of the instruments' life cycle from selection, design and calibration, to the manufacturer's traditional order and delivery role, and all aspects of installation, training, commissioning, verification, re-calibration and preventative and predictive maintenance. The result is a need for added tooling to be developed in association with enhancements on flowmeters themselves.

Previously, following installation, the meter was left until it either had a catastrophic failure and was replaced, or gave unreliable or unbelievable information and was ignored as a consequence. Today, however, after installation the final phase of whole life cycle management begins. The following areas are all considerations in the completion of the whole life cycle:

  • data and information from the meter has to be accessible in order to determine performance and continuing integrity. This has to be linked into the self-diagnostics via a service tool from which interrogation of the performance of all aspects of the meter is possible. From this a programme of maintenance, configuration adjustments, reverification or calibration frequencies, or ultimate life span can all be determined,
  • verification or re-verification in-situ should be possible with easily-to-use tools and without the need for operators to have extensive knowledge or specialist equipment. Re-verification should ideally be carried out on a continual basis via the self-diagnostics function within the meter itself. However, in order to satisfy possible regulatory demands, an independent item of equipment will be required, which itself is traceable,
  • at some point it may be necessary to re-calibrate, possibly because components have been changed or due to disputes over readings between a water company and a customer. The same requirements exist for re-calibration as for the initial calibration in terms of accuracy and tracability of the flow rig.
  • throughout the life span of the meter, it should be possible to collect all the data derived from periodical checks, either planned or unplanned, and to feed it into the original meter selection tool within either a customer-specific or application-specific database. The information can be used during the selection process.

    These, briefly, are the concepts behind the latest electromagnetic flowmeters and their associated tooling. The next stages in life cycle management are based on internet access to the electronics. Via the net it is possible that even greater amounts of data will be available, including information on spares requirements. Ordering of such items can be done automatically through the meter's manufacturer.

    These processes and ideas apply to nearly all flow measurement technologies. The tools enable utilities to manage assets more effectively by controlling each segment of the meter's life cycle to its optimum. This will give greater confidence in the unit and enable a suitable maintenance regime to be determined, extending the lifespan of the instrument and ensuring only necessary work is undertaken.

    Demanding changes

    Emphasis on life cycle management has put new demands on flowmeter manufacturers;

  • meter design needs to be application-specific with specialised application knowledge, preferably in electronic form, available to assist in sizing and technology choices,
  • comprehensive self-diagnostics should be built in enabling reporting by exception,
  • wet calibration should be carried out on a fully accredited flow rig capable of 0.05% accuracy. Initial calibration provides the footprint for all future investigations and comparisons. It is also vital for providing customer confidence.
  • delivery time and cost should be kept to a minimum, without jeopardising reinvestment. Ideally, the manufacturer should have a policy for funding new research and development.
  • it is extremely important to the customer or end-user that comprehensive value-added services are available from the manufacturer or supplier. These include installation services, training on the configuration and operation of the unit and commissioning facilities. Other added value offerings can include service functions and availability of maintenance contracts.


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