Annubar or orifice meter?

This guest post is authored by Greg McMillan.

In the ISA Automation Week Mentor Program, I am providing guidance for extremely talented individuals from Argentina, Brazil, Malaysia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and the USA. We will be sharing a question and the answers each week. If you would like to provide additional answers, please send them to Susan Colwell at ISA. The fifteenth question is from Muhammad Al-Khalifah in Saudi Arabia:

We are planning to install a flow meter in 48-inch line to an oil storage tank. I thought of using an annubar flow meter instead of an orifice for this application. What do you think is the best fit for our application in terms of the following?

  • Permanent pressure loss (minimum pressure loss is required)
  • Maintenance and construction cost noting size of the pipe is 48 inches
  • Rangeability (1:4)
  • Accuracy (not a big concern for our application we can tolerate some)

Answer from Greg McMillan (CDI Process & Industrial):
As you probably expected, the permanent pressure loss is less for an annubar than an orifice. So far as performance, the ISA book Essentials of Modern Measurements and Final Elements in the Process Industry offers some guidance. On page 170, the accuracy of orifice flow meters is stated as 2 to 4% of full-scale flow, whereas the accuracy of annubars is 0.75% to 2.0% of actual flow. Thus at low flows, the accuracy of the annubar is significantly better. The stated rangeability is 5:1 for orifices and 10:1 for annubars assuming the maximum flow meter flow matches exactly the maximum process flow and the upstream and downstream piping requirements are met. For greater accuracy, consider temperature and pressure compensation as described for the multivariable DP transmitter starting on page 177.

Ram Ramachandran has accepted an invitation to be a resource for the ISA Mentor program. Ram has extensive knowledge on measurements and safety standards particularly in the oil and gas industries.

Answer from Ram Ramachandran (Systems Research Int’l Inc.):
You are correct not to select orifice flow for 48-inch line because of cost, accuracy and repeatability concerns. The pitot tube or averaging [Eagle] pitot tube is not the best choice though installed cost is minimal. Due to low d/p generated, accuracy, turn-down ratio and repeatability will suffer. Generally, mechanical integrity of flow sensor will be sacrificed due to size and velocity.

As you well know, error/accuracy of installed d/p measurement whether orifice flow or pitot tube is about 2%. You should consider other techniques readily available for large pipelines with minimum pressure loss while maximum velocity measurement is at the center of the pipe. Some possible alternate applications:

  • Target meter with insertion type sensor-cost similar to pitot tube, slightly higher.
  • Insertion type custom-made vortex shedding meter – accurate and repeatable but costlier to pitot tube but far cheaper to orifice installation. Check with vendors like Emerson and others.
  • Insertion type turbine meter with better accuracy but lesser dependability. Solids in crude and velocity sensitive may make it high maintenance.
  • Doppler flow meter – due to the presence of sand/water in crude oil – accurate and repeatable.
  • Fluidic Component heat-loss characterized probes – similar to pitot tube in cost, but is application-specific.
  • Time of flight sonic flow meter wrapped around the pipe line externally – has all the advantages of the above metering devices at minimum cost – noninvasive installation, no pressure loss, accurate, repeatable, high turn-down ratios.

These will suffice for storage tanks transfers if they are not custody transfers. Ship to shore or reverse. You can also have radar level gauges in storage tanks, which are very accurate for custody transfers. Fill and drain rates in barrels per day can be computed and put on a separate display for operator use, altogether avoiding any flow meter installation (see March Control Talk column “Radar Love” for more details). This is accomplished by configuring the DCS as a secondary read out. You can also install single loop standalone digital display with scaling.


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  • Shafi A Syed

    I beg to differ on the above suggestion. Averaging Pitot Tubes are well suited for large line sizes with moderate accuracy and in service where there are no particles. The other flow measurement technologies listed above have issues like in accuracy like in case of doppler flow meter ( which also requires certain amount of solid particles to reflect the waves ) which in this case ( being oil to storage ) is very remote. Strap on or Clamp on Ultrasonic have issues with the strapping when the pipe thermally expands and target flowmeters are rarely used in process industry.

    • julianngrant

      My answer in the post is supportive of annubars whereas Ram’s is not. I don’t think either one of us says you should not use annubars in large line sizes. I agree target meters are no longer used and the ultraonic meters I know of did not work well but that was in the 1990s. The technology has probably improved in the last decade. – posted on behalf of Greg McMillan