Positive Displacement flow meters, or PD flow meters, provide an excellent solution for applications involving viscous liquids. This flow measurement technology provides excellent accuracy, delivers readings that are unaffected by high viscosities and changing viscosities, and does not have any requirement for upstream / downstream straight pipe runs. This combination of features makes the PD flowmeter an ideal for situations with tight space constraints and high accuracy requirements. PD meters also provide excellent range-abilty / turndown ratio, making them an excellent choice for low flow measurement applications.
Positive displacement flowmeters, or PD meters, feature two precisely machined intermeshing gears which rotate within a measuring chamber to determine the volumetric liquid flow rate by counting the number of the gears’ rotations. Positive displacement flow meters function in much the same manner as a positive displacement pump with the exception being that in the Positive Displacement pump the gears drive the fluid media, whereas in the PD flowmeter the fluid media drives the gears. The positive displacement meter technique is one of the oldest flow measurement technologies in existence and has been in use for over one hundred years. During that time, many different varieties of the PD meter have been developed including versions that feature round gears, oval gears, lobe gears, helical gears and nutating disc rotating elements. These meters are all characterized by high accuracy (up to ±0.1% of reading), good repeatability (up to 0.05% of reading), wide turndown ratios of up to 100:1, and the ability to maintain this level of performance for both high viscosity and changing-viscosity fluid media.
Positive displacement flow meters flow meters from SmartMeasurement have been successfully installed in a wide variety of industries and applications including:
One common reason for using the positive displacement flow meter is that it can function without power. By outfitting the meter with a mechanical register, totalized flows may be accurately monitored in virtually any engineering unit desired by the end-user without the need to run power to the meter. This is ideal for applications where the meter must be installed in a remote location where power is not available. Positive displacement flow meters are available in sizes from ⅛” to 12 inches or more. Operation turndowns can be as high as 100:1, although ranges of 15:1 or lower are much more common. Slippage between the flowmeter components is reduced and metering accuracy is therefore increased as the viscosity of the process fluid flow increases. Therefore, positive displacement flow meters are excellent for highly viscous fluids such as oils and fats.
Most flowmeters are sensitive to turbulence, which means that a certain amount of straight, rigid pipe must be installed both upstream and downstream of the meter in order to reduce turbulence and accurately measure flow (Download PDF). Positive Displacement meters do not have this requirement. If necessary, an elbow or reducer bushing may be placed directly at the meter inlet with no impact on the meter’s accuracy.
Positive displacement flow meters work without power. By outfitting the meter with a mechanical register, totalized flows may be accurately monitored in virtually any engineering unit desired by the end-user without the need to run power to the meter. This is ideal for applications where the meter must be installed in a remote location where power is not available. Positive displacement flow meters are available in sizes from ⅛” up to 12 inches or more. Operatiing turndowns can be as high as 100:1, although ranges of 15:1 or lower are much more common. Slippage between the flowmeter components is reduced and metering accuracy is therefore increased as the viscosity of the process fluid increases. Therefore, Positive displacement flow meters are excellent for highly viscous fluids such as oils and fats.
Positive displacement flow meters operate with small clearances between their precision-machined parts; wear rapidly destroys their accuracy. For this reason, positive displacement flow meters are generally not recommended for measuring slurries or abrasive fluids. However, for service involving clean fluid flows, their precision and wide rangeability make them ideal for custody transfer and batching applications. In industrial and petrochemical settings, flow meters are commonly used for batching and mixing control
Positive Displacement Flow meters being one of the oldest, if not the oldest flow meter technique, come in many different styles. The most popular ones are described on our Positive Displacement Measuring Principle page.
SmartMeasurement offers a range of positive displacement meters including the most popular styles of PD flowmeters in service today which include oval/lobe gear type, bi-rotor or helix gear types, and oval gear pd meters.
Although slippage through the positive displacement flow meters decreases (that is, accuracy increases) as fluid flow viscosity increases, pressure drop through the meter also rises. Consequently, the maximum (and minimum) flow capacity of the flowmeter is decreased as viscosity increases. The higher the viscosity, the less slippage and the lower the measurable flow rate. As the viscosity decreases, the low-flow performance of the meter deteriorates. The maximum allowable pressure drop across the meter constrains the maximum operating flow in high-viscosity services.
The oval gear positive displacement flow meters uses two fine-toothed gears, one mounted horizontally, the other vertically, with gears meshing at the tip of the vertical gear and the center of the horizontal gear, as shown in the illustration below. The two rotors rotate opposite to each other, creating an entrapment in the crescent-shaped gap between the housing and the gear. Oval gear flow meters can be very accurate if slippage between the housing and the gears is kept small. If the process fluid viscosity is greater than 10 cP and the flowrate is above 20% of rated capacity, accuracy of 0.1% of reading can be reached. At lower flows and at lower viscosities, slippage increases and accuracy decreases to 0.5% of reading or less.
As with other styles of positive displacement flowmeter, when an oval gear meter is being used, the lubricating properties of the fluid media can have an impact on the maximum turndown ratio that the meter is able to achieve. If a given liquid does not have good lubricating properties, the maximum rotor speed must be derated to prevent or limit wear. Alternatively, wear can be limited by maintaining pressure drops across the meter body that are less than 15 psi (< 0.1bar). If this method is used, the pressure drop across the meter will also limit the maximum possible flow for high viscosity liquids.
Variations of the oval gear positive displacement flow meters include the rotating lobe and impeller-type pd flow meters. One key distinction between these meters and the oval gear meter is that they do not share the precise gearing of the oval gear PD. A lobe-type PD meter contains two impellers that rotate in opposite directions of one another inside of the meter housing. As the lobes rotate, a known fixed volume of liquid is simultaneously allowed into and forced out of the meter housing. Because the lobe gears remain in a fixed relative position, it is only necessary to measure the rotational velocity of one gear. The lobe is either geared to a register or it is magnetically coupled to a pulse counting electronic device such as a reed switch or a Hall Effect. Lobe meters are available for line sizes ranging from 2″ to 24″. Effective flow measuring rages can be from 8-10 GPM up to 18,000 GPM for larger sized meters. However, bi-rotor or Helix gear positive displacement meters such as SmartMeasurement’ s ALBRPD are far better both in terms of accuracy and flow range.
The lobe gear meter is available in a wide range of materials of construction, from thermoplastics to highly corrosion-resistant metals. Disadvantages of this design include a loss of accuracy at low flows. Also, the maximum flow through this meter is less than that of the same sized oscillatory piston or nutating disc meters.
In these units, the passage of magnets embedded in the lobes of the rotating impellers is sensed by proximity switches (usually Hall-effect type) mounted external to the flow chamber. The sensor transmits a pulse train to a counter or flow controller. These meters are available in ¹⁄₁₀” to 6″ sizes but as mentioned above, they are declining in popularity. Today, oval gear meters are replacing lobe gear and impeller type positive displacement flow meters due to their superior accuracy and range-ability.