Flow measurement is the quantification of bulk fluid movement. Flow can be measured in a variety of ways. Positive-displacement flow meters accumulate a fixed volume of fluid and then count the number of times the volume is filled to measure flow. Other flow measurement methods rely on forces produced by the flowing stream as it overcomes a known constriction, to indirectly calculate flow. Flow may be measured by measuring the velocity of fluid over a known area.
Units of Measurement
Both gas and liquid flow can be measured in volumetric or mass flow rates, such as liters per second or kilograms per second. These measurements can be converted between one another if the material’s density is known. The density for a liquid is almost independent of the liquid conditions; however, this is not the case for gas, the density of which depends greatly upon pressure, temperature and to a lesser extent, the gas composition.
When gases or liquids are transferred for their energy content, such as the sale of natural gas, the flow rate may also be expressed in terms of energy flow, such as GJ/hour or BTU/day. The energy flow rate is the volume flow rate multiplied by the energy content per unit volume or mass flow rate multiplied by the energy content per unit mass. Where accurate energy comes to the time of the legit flow rate is desired, most flow meters will be used to calculate the volume or mass flow rate which is then adjusted to the energy flow rate by the use of a flow computer.
Gas Mass Flow Rate
Gases are compressible and change volume when placed under pressure, are heated or are cooled. A volume of gas under one set of pressure and temperature conditions is not equivalent to the same gas under different pressure or temperature conditions. References will be made to “actual” flow rate through a meter and “standard” or “base” flow rate through a meter with units such as acm/h (actual cubic meters per hour), kscm/h (kilo standard cubic meters per hour), LFM (linear feet per minute), or MSCFD (million standard cubic feet per day).
Gas mass flow rate can be directly measured, independent of pressure and temperature effects, with thermal mass flow meters, Coriolis mass flow meters, or mass flow controllers.
Liquid Mass Flow Rate
For liquids, various units are used depending upon the application and industry, but might include gallons (U.S. liquid or imperial) per minute, liters per second, bushels per minute or, when describing river flows, cumecs (cubic metres per second) or acre-feet per day. In oceanography a common unit to measure volume transport (volume of water transported by a current for example) is a sverdrup (Sv) equivalent to 106 m3 / s.