Electrical Systems

Innovative flow and management technologies help you reach regulated emission levels

High fuel costs, strict emission regulations and environmental and safety concerns are inspiring innovation in flow and emission management technologies.

By Sheila Kennedy

High fuel costs, strict emission regulations and environmental and safety concerns are inspiring innovation in flow and emission management technologies. It’s more important than ever to have accurate measurements and processes that stay in control.

Plant professionals also want greater value from their monitoring system investments. They prefer technologies that are easy to maintain and are calibration-free. They’re seeking versatility, accuracy and energy efficiency. And, they want lower-cost, long-life products for a low total cost of ownership.

Emission detection: Tighter industrial emission regulations require that companies actively and continuously monitor the presence of hazardous gases, toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides. Air quality is a universal concern, and quick and accurate detection of fugitive emissions can, in extreme cases, be a life-or-death matter.

Scottish laser company Cascade Technologies has developed and patented quantum cascade (QC) laser emissions monitoring systems. The “sniffer” lasers, the size of a pinhead, provide real time infrared (IR) detection of fugitive emissions. They detect gases in the air and produce a chemical fingerprint to identify the substance.

The QC laser system is useful in harsh industrial environments for environmental emission analysis, combustion gas analysis, and process monitoring and control. It’s said to be the first real-time technology for detecting emissions and toxic industrial chemicals. High sensitivity, low maintenance, lower power consumption and portability are among its stated features.

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Flow control: Measuring the flow of liquids, steam, gas or air through a pipe improves production, increases resource utilization and indicates leaks or blockages. Investment in new flow control technologies is on the rise, particularly within the energy sector.

With the price of oil more than doubling during the past few years, the oil and gas market is paying closer attention to flow measurement and control. From production and refining to transportation and distribution, the industry is under great pressure to optimize equipment maintenance as well as operating performance.

Among the more recent flowmeter developments are sonar, ultrasonic, Coriolis, and optical technologies. Newer meters tend to have greater accuracy and, because they require less maintenance and have no moving parts, their ownership costs are lower.

CiDRA’s sonar-based process monitoring systems provide volumetric flow measurements through a passive listening approach. The clamp-on system is non-intrusive and can be removed and reinstalled as the pipe is replaced. It doesn’t require recalibration, and it’s unaffected by flow profile variances.

Ultrasonic flowmeters measure flow rate from the outside of the pipe, for example in the transfer of natural gas. “While ultrasonic flow measurement technology has been available for decades, it has largely been limited to niche applications,” says Allen Avery, automation analyst at ARC Advisory Group. “That is starting to change as users have begun to realize the many benefits ultrasonic meters offer, including high accuracy, obstruction-free measurement, and low total cost of ownership (TCO).”

Multipurpose meters also are gaining in popularity. For example, Emerson offers a digital multivariable Coriolis flowmeter that measures two-phase flow. Other companies offer multiparameter mass flow meters that measure multiple process variables such as mass flow rate, volumetric flow rate, temperature, pressure and fluid density. Measuring multiple variables with a single instrument reduces installation and maintenance costs and improves measurement accuracy.

What’s next?: Photon Control is currently developing a line of optical flow meters to measure the flow of gases and clear liquids using only light and optical components. Optical flowmeters generate no electromagnetic interference (as well as reduce the risk of accidental combustion) because no wires or electricity are involved at the measurement point or where the signals are transmitted to the data collection system.

The rules, methods and technologies of emission monitoring are likewise evolving. The Emission Measurement Center (EMC) of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS), is charged with advancing the science of characterizing and measuring air pollutant emissions. The center produces methods for measuring air pollutants emitted from the entire spectrum of industrial processes, and provides technical expertise to regulators and the regulated community. The EMC also maintains a list of Emission Testing Firms located in the U.S. For the latest updates, visit the Recent Additions page at www.epa.gov/ttn/emc/new.html.

E-mail Contributing Editor Sheila Kennedy, managing director of Additive Communications, at Sheila@addcomm.com.

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