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Pressure Measurement

Mark Murphy, PE
Technical Director, Fluor Corp.
Education & Training
Conferences & Exhibits

Pressure Measurement

Pressure is the force exerted per unit area
Pressure is the action of one force against another force. Pressure is force
applied to, or distributed over, a surface. The pressure P of a force F
distributed over an area A is defined as P = F/A

Pressure Measurement Terms

Absolute Pressure
Measured above total vacuum or zero absolute. Zero absolute represents total lack of
Atmospheric Pressure
The pressure exerted by the earth’s atmosphere. Atmospheric pressure at sea level is
14.696 psia. The value of atmospheric pressure decreases with increasing altitude.
Barometric Pressure
Same as atmospheric pressure.
Gauge Pressure
The pressure above atmospheric pressure. Represents positive difference between
measured pressure and existing atmospheric pressure. Can be converted to absolute
by adding actual atmospheric pressure value.
Differential Pressure
The difference in magnitude between some pressure value and some reference
pressure. In a sense, absolute pressure could be considered as a differential
pressure with total vacuum or zero absolute as the reference. Likewise, gauge
pressure (defined above) could be considered as Differential Pressure with
atmospheric pressure as the reference.

Pressure Measurement
Pressure Units






mm of Hg


mm of WC


in of WC










Pressure Instruments
Types of Pressure Instruments

Gauges (Vacuum, Compound, Absolute, Gauge)


Switch (Vacuum, Absolute, Gauge)


Pressure Gauge
Pressure Switch

Transmitter (Vacuum, Absolute, Gauge)


Pressure Transmitter




Pressure Gauge

A Pressure Gauge is used for measuring the
pressure of a gas or liquid.
A Vacuum Gauge is used to measure the
pressure in a vacuum.
A Compound Gauge is used for measuring
both Vacuum and Pressure.
Pressure Gauges are used for Indication only.

Pressure Gauge

Pressure Gauge
Measuring Principle
Bourdon tube measuring element is made of a thin-walled C-shape tube or
spirally wound helical or coiled tube. When pressure is applied to the measuring
system through the pressure port (socket), the pressure causes the Bourdon
tube to straighten itself, thus causing the tip to move. The motion of the tip is
transmitted via the link to the movement which converts the linear motion of the
bourdon tube to a rotational motion that in turn causes the pointer to indicate the
measured pressure.

Helical Bourdon

“C” Type Bourdon

Coiled Bourdon

Differential Pressure Gauge
Measuring Principle:
• Differential pressure gauges have
two inlet ports, each connected to
one of the volumes whose pressure
is to be monitored.
• In cases where either input can be
higher or lower than the other, a bidirectional differential range should
be used.

Differential Pressure Gauge
Unidirectional and Bidirectional DP Gauges

Pressure Gauge - Accessories
Safety Glass Front
Safety Glass is normally used to prevent the glass shattering in the event of the
bourdon tube rupturing.

Liquid Filled Gauge
The liquid filling is used to dampen any vibration/pulsation in the bourdon, either
silicone oil or glycerin is used.

Used for dampening and filtering and reducing the damaging effects of
pulsation on a gauge. The snubber has a metal disc available in standard
grades of porosity.

Pulsation Damper (Adjustable Snubber)
Threads on to a gauge socket and provides a restriction by means of
a pin, which may be placed in either of five different sized holes, and
thus allows the user to vary the amount of dampening to suit
requirements. The pulsating pressure moves the pin up and down,
providing self cleaning action.

Pressure Gauge - Accessories
Pressure Limit Valve
Protects pressure instruments against surges and
pulsations. Provides automatic positive protection and
accurate, repeatable performance. Automatic pressure
shut-off, built in snubber enhances instrument protecting

Siphon Tubes
Used to dissipate heat by trapping condensed liquid to
keep high temperature steam or condensing vapor
from damaging the pressure gauge.



Diaphragm Seals
 Diaphragm seals, also known as chemical seals, isolate pressure measuring
instruments from the process media. The system pressure is transmitted to a
fill fluid in the upper housing of the diaphragm seal, and from there to the
pressure-measuring instrument itself. The use of diaphragm seals should be
discussed with and approved by the Client.
Diaphragm sealed gauges should be considered for:
• Process fluids that would clog the pressure elements.
• Process fluids that are toxic, corrosive, slurried and viscous.
• Process fluids that could crystallize or polymerize.
• Materials capable of withstanding the process fluids that are not available
as a pressure element, such as high temperature.
• Process fluid that might freeze due to change in ambient temperature and
damage the element.
• Hydrocarbon services having a Reid vapor pressure (RVP) of 18 psig and
over. (RVP is the absolute vapor pressure exerted by a liquid at 100°F. The
higher this value, the more volatile the sample and the more readily it will
• Auto-ignitable hydrocarbon services.

Diaphragm Seals

Pressure Gauge Selection Guideline
When selecting a Pressure Gauge, care should be
given to a number of parameters which have an effect
on the gauge’s accuracy, safety, and cost.
• Accuracy required
• Dial size
• Operating pressure range
• Chemical compatibility with gauge construction
• Operating temperature range
• Vibration, pulsation, and shock
• Pressure fluid composition
• Mounting requirement

Pressure Gauge Ranges

Since the accuracy of most pressure gauges is better
in the middle portion of a gauge, you should always
select a gauge with a range that is about double your
normal anticipated pressure.
The maximum operating pressure should not exceed
80% of the full pressure range of the gauge.
Standard pressure ranges are measured in PSI, Bar,
Pa or kPa and most of the gauges have dual
PSI/metric scales.
Very low pressure gauges have scales that measure in
Inches of H2O, mm H2O, and Inches of Hg.
Vacuum gauges have scales in inches of mercury,
while compound gauges have scales that measure in
both vacuum and pressure.

Pressure Gauge Installation
• Top connection preferred for gas installations & side connection preferred
for liquid installations.
• The pressure gauge can be connected to the pipe by individual block and
bleed valves or a two way manifold.

Liquid Service

Gas Service

Pressure Switch
Measuring Principle:
• The device contains a micro switch,
connected to a mechanical lever and set
pressure spring. The contacts get actuated
when process pressure reaches the set
pressure of the spring.
• It can be used for alarming or interlocking
purposes, on actuation.
• It can be used for high / high-high or low /
low-low actuation of pressure in the process
. The set range can be adjusted within the
switch range.
• The sensing element may be a Diaphragm or
a piston

Pressure Switch

Pressure/Vacuum Switch - A device that senses a change in
pressure/vacuum and opens or closes an electrical circuit when the
set point is reached.
Pressure switches serve to energize or de-energize electrical
circuits as a function of whether the process pressure is normal or
The electric contacts can be configured as single pole double throw
(SPDT), in which case the switch is provided with one normally
closed (NC) and one normally open (NO) contact.
Alternately, the switch can be configured as double pole double
throw (DPDT), in which case two SPDT switches are furnished,
each of which can operate a separate electric circuit.

Pressure Switch

The switch housings can meet any of the NEMA standards from
Type 1 (General Purpose) to Type 7 (Explosion Proof), or Type 12
(Dust Proof) or Type 4 (Water Proof).

Pressure switches are also available in hermetically sealed

Gold plated contacts are available for reliability .

Pressure Switches are not as commonly used today, since they
contain mechanical moving parts and moving parts are
significantly more likely to fail than transmitters and the failures
can go undetected.

Pressure Transmitter

Pressure Transmitter
• A Pressure Transmitter is used where indication and/or
record of pressure is required at a location not adjacent
to the primary element.
• A Pressure Transmitter is used for both indication and
control of a process.
• A Pressure Transmitter is used where overall high
performance is mandatory.
• Both Electronic and Pneumatic Transmitters are used.
• These can be either Gauge, Absolute or Differential
Pressure Transmitters.

Transmitter Measuring Principle

The diagram shows an electronic differential
pressure sensor. This particular type utilizes a
two-wire capacitance technique.
Another common measuring technique is a
strain gauge.
Process pressure is transmitted through
isolating diaphragms and silicone oil fill fluid to
a sensing diaphragm.
The sensing diaphragm is a stretched spring
element that deflects in response to the
differential pressure across it.
The displacement of the sensing diaphragm is
proportional to the differential pressure.
The position of the sensing diaphragm is
detected by capacitor plates on both sides of
the sensing diaphragm.
The differential capacitance between the
sensing diaphragm and the capacitor plates is
converted electronically to a 4–20 mA or 1-5
VDC signal.
For a gauge pressure transmitter, the low
pressure side is referenced to atmospheric

Pressure Transmitter
• Typical Outputs
–4 to 20 milliamp (mA). analog signal
–Smart HART digital signal (superimposed on analog
–Fieldbus digital signal
–3 to15 psi pneumatic signal

Diaphragm Seal System

A diaphragm seal system consists of a pressure transmitter, diaphragm seals, a fill
fluid, and either a direct mount or capillary style connection.
During operation, the thin, flexible diaphragm and fill fluid separate the pressure
sensitive element of the transmitter from the process medium. The capillary tubing or
direct mount flange connects the diaphragm to the transmitter.
When process pressure is applied, the diaphragm transfers the measured pressure
through the filled system and capillary tubing to the transmitter element.
This transferred pressure displaces the sensing diaphragm in the pressure-sensitive
element of the transmitter.
The displacement is proportional to the process pressure and is electronically
converted to an appropriate current, voltage, or digital HART output signal.

Diaphragm Seal System

Diaphragm Seal systems provide a reliable process pressure measurement and
prevent the process medium from contacting the transmitter diaphragm.

Transmitter/ Diaphragm Seal systems shall be used for:

For process fluid that would clog the pressure elements.
For process fluids that are toxic, corrosive, slurry and viscous.
For process fluids that could freeze or solidify.
For process temperatures outside the normal operating range and cannot
be brought to those limits by impulse piping.
• For process that needs frequent cleaning.
• For processes that need replacement of wet legs, to reduce

Pressure Transmitter Selection Guideline
When selecting a pressure transmitter care should be
given to a number of parameters which have an effect
on transmitter accuracy, safety, and utility.
• Accuracy required
• Power supply
• Operating pressure range
• Operating temperature range
• Body Material
• Pressure fluid composition and Internal parts
• Mounting requirement
• Process connection size

Pressure Transmitter installation
• Mounting above tap is typical for gas service and mounting below
tap typical for liquid and steam services.
• Direct mount is possible for low temperature services.

Diaphragm Seal installation

Pressure Instruments
Selection of Pressure Instruments: Rules of Thumb:
• Application: Understand your application. Examine the
particulars of your application. Is it necessary to know if
the pressure is negative or positive? Do you need to
know the difference in pressure between two points?
Answering these questions about your application will go
a long way in helping select the right pressure
• Wetted Parts: Selecting the transmitter with wetted parts
that are compatible with the medium to be measured
helps to ensure a long-lasting measurement solution.

Pressure Instruments
• Accuracy: From an accuracy point of view, the range of a
transmitter should be low (normal operating pressure at around
the middle of the range), so that error, usually a percentage of
full scale, is minimized. On the other hand, one must always
consider the consequences of overpressure damage due to
operating errors, faulty design, or failure to isolate the
instrument during pressure-testing and start-up. Therefore, it is
important to specify not only the required range, but also the
amount of overpressure protection needed.
• Output Required: Pressure transmitters can send the process
pressure of interest using an analog pneumatic (3-15 psig),
analog electronic (4-20 mA dc), or digital electronic signal.

Pressure Instruments

• Protection: Do you need special protection from the
elements? Many applications require special protection,
such as, corrosive environment, or an outdoor
environment. Pressure transmitters are available in
various NEMA ratings or can be assembled in special
NEMA rated housings that help protect them from harsh


Any Questions???