We conduct research through the Flow Programme to develop innovative solutions that benefit the UK’s economy and enhance its commercial infrastructure. Our research topics are aligned with two broad areas:
- Continuing to support the oil and gas sector by offering solutions that increase the accuracy, but lower the cost of measurement, with a view to lowering the operating cost base for extraction of hydrocarbon resources. This supports the North Sea sector by improving the economic feasibility of extraction from depleted and/or stranded reservoirs.
- The UK’s Industrial Strategy and the transition to a clean fuels economy.
Structure of multiphase flows at high pressure
In recent years, industry has been gradually moving towards the use of multiphase flow meters at ever increasing pipeline pressures. This trend has been driven by the greater use of subsea multiphase flow meters, and this need is now even more in focus in the UK as life extension of hydrocarbon production from UKCS is sought.
This will be the world’s first research into the structure of multiphase flows at pipeline pressures experienced in real-life installations. It will be essential for interpretation of future multiphase flow research and the development of cost-effective measurement systems for subsea pipelines.
The research will use a new 2D X-ray tomography system to look in depth at the flow structures across a range of multiphase flow compositions.
There will be external benefits to the multiphase flow research community worldwide through the production of the first definitive comparison of low- and high-pressure flow pattern maps. It will enable software developers and instrumentation manufacturers to improve the accuracy of their multiphase flow models which are critical aspects of current multiphase flow meters.
In a broader-sense the impact will be to improve uncertainty of measurement achievable with multiphase flow meters and support the drive to establish in-situ verification techniques for multiphase flow meters.
Determination of the pressure effect on Coriolis flow meters
The aim of the project is to provide credible, independent research data that allows end-users of Coriolis flow meters to make informed choices about calibration and operation.
Coriolis flow meters are now the 1st choice in many liquid flow measurement applications from distilling, to food processing, to pharmaceutical manufacture, to oil production and petrochemical distribution. A full and proper understanding of the uncertainty of these instruments is therefore of direct benefit across the whole of industry. It will lead to correct application with lower potential for mis-measurement which in turn provides benefits around more equitable trading.
The impacts will be highly variable. For high value products like oil, bias errors of approximately 0.15 per cent, can easily lead to £1m per annum exposures for a single installation.
Effective use of flow meter diagnostics into standards and steps towards condition-based calibration
Flow measurement, especially in complex networks and systems, is a data-rich environment. Modern flow measurement sensors produce enormous volumes of data, often at high frequency. It is therefore an area of science and engineering were AI could flourish. Instrument manufacturers have started the AI journey through development of ‘diagnostic’ parameters based on the wealth of measurements taken. The diagnostics are designed to inform the end-user of instrument health or flow upsets. However, the uptake within industry has so far not been as great as anticipated.
This project will review the available diagnostic parameters in modern flow meters and undertake research aimed at developing diagnostic measures and thresholds that can be used without human intervention to flag measurement ‘health’ relative to the last calibration.
Improving the coverage of the standard for wet-gas measurement
Wet-gas flow metering is essential to enable the cost-effective production of gas fields. One of the most common meters used to measure gas flow is the Venturi tube, and it is also the main component in commercial wet-gas and multiphase meters. When used in wet-gas flows the meter over-reads due to the presence of the liquid and correction factors must be applied to determine the gas flow.
The project will collect the underpinning 3-phase wet-gas data on the performance of Venturi tubes installed in both vertical and horizontal orientations. A successful outcome from this project will see a 3-fold improvement in the uncertainty of wet-gas flow measurement. This will support the drive to maximise economic recovery from the gas fields of the UKCS.
Review of future requirements for density measurement
Traceable liquid density measurement is required in many industrial sectors. Density is often used as a process control parameter and a product quality indicator and, in some situations, it is used directly to determine fluid volumes to be traded or reported. In the latter, it is the conversion from mass to volume, or volume to mass that requires accurate density measurement.
Some applications, such as very deep-water subsea multiphase flow metering or diesel fuel injection, require density data at elevated pressure.
These are some of the known challenging applications. The purpose of this project is to conduct a more thorough forward-looking assessment of the future requirements for density measurement across a wide range of industry sectors and then to conduct a gap analysis relative to current capabilities.
This work will provide a roadmap of density measurement requirements over the next 10 years. There are presently some known requirements. For example, high-pressure fuel injection for automotive engines with the specific aim of improving engine efficiency and reducing harmful emissions, a goal which aligns to the Industrial Strategy.
Research into the low Reynolds number performance of ultrasonic and Coriolis meters
The majority of flow meters have been developed to work most effectively in turbulent flow, which in fluid dynamic terms is for Reynolds numbers greater than 10,000. Below Reynolds numbers of 10,000, turbulent flows move into a transition zone and the flow regime becomes laminar at Reynolds numbers below 1,000. Flow measurement of high value products is most common in the turbulent regime and documentary standards have focussed predominantly on these higher Reynolds number regimes. However, metering at low Reynolds number in the laminar and transitional zones is now becoming increasingly important.
This purpose of this project is to provide a Technical Guidance Document for industry which explains the present performance issues with Coriolis and ultrasonic meters at low Reynolds number, quantifying the explanation with an extensive database of flow meter performances at Reynolds numbers less than 10,000.
Extending Flow Programme research via the Engineering Doctorate Programme at NEL
In 2015 Coventry University and NEL created an Engineering Doctorate (EngD) programme tailored to support and develop the scientists in both institutions. The focus for the EngD Programme is flow measurement and fluid mechanics and, as such, it is a superb way to increase the research content of the Flow Programme.
The longer-term vision for the Programme is to build a track record of credible research, working with other academic partners, leading to the formation of a Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT).
The Flow Programme has traditionally had a very strong focus on industry-facing research, characterised by mid-to-high TRL levels. The Engineering Doctorate programme is blending the industry-facing element of research with lower TRL level academic research, creating a more balanced research portfolio addressing both short- and long-term priorities.
The aim of this project is to provide a contribution to the ongoing costs of research performed by the EngD students. NEL and Coventry University co-fund the overall EngD Programme, and the support is to help with engineering costs when using the National Standard facilities. Students are expected to contribute a significant proportion of their own time recognising the opportunity for professional and career development.