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UNIT-4 LEVEL MEASUREMENT

Level measurement: Float, Displacer type Bubbler system Electrical level gauge: Resistance Capacitance Nuclear radiation and Ultrasonic type Boiler drum level measurement: Differential pressure method Hydra step method

Level Measurement
There are several instances where we need to monitor the liquid level in vessels. In some cases the problem is simple, we need to monitor the water level of a tank; a simple float type mechanism will suffice. But in some cases, the vessel may be sealed and the liquid a combustible one; as a result, the monitoring process becomes more complex. Depending upon the complexity of the situation, there are different methods for measuring the liquid level, as can be summarized as follows: (a) Float type (b) Hydrostatic differential pressure gage type (c) Capacitance type (d) Ultrasonic type (e) Radiation technique. Some of the techniques are elaborated in this section.

Hydrostatic Differential Pressure type


The hydrostatic pressure developed at the bottom of a tank is given by: P= gh where h is the height of the liquid level and is the density of the liquid. So by putting two pressure tapings, one at the bottom and the other at the top of the tank, we can measure the differential pressure, which can be calibrated in terms of the liquid level. Such a schematic arrangement is shown in Fig. 1 . The drum level of a boiler is normally measured using this basic principle. However proper care should be taken in the measurement compensate for variation of density of water with temperature and pressure.

Capacitance type
This type of sensors are widely used for chemical and petrochemical industries; and can be used for a wide range of temperature (-40 to 200 oC) and pressure variation (25 to 60 kg/cm2). It uses a coaxial type cylinder, and the capacitance is measured between the inner rod and the outer cylinder, as shown in Fig. 2. The total capacitance between the two terminals is the sum of (i) capacitance of the insulating bushing, (ii) capacitance due to air and liquid vapour and (iii) capacitance due to the liquid. If the total capacitance measured when the tank is empty is expressed as C1, then the capacitance or the liquid level of h can be expressed as:

where, is the relative permittivity of the liquid and 2 is the relative permittivity of the air and liquid vapour . Hence a linear relationship can be obtained with the liquid level. (1) The advantage of capacitance type sensor is that permittivity of the liquid is less sensitive to variation of temperature and can be easily compensated.

Ultrasonic type
Ultrasonic method can be effectively used for measurement of liquid level in a sealed tank. An ultrasonic transmitter/receiver pair is mounted at the bottom of the tank. Ultrasonic wave can pass through the liquid, but gets reflected at the liquid-air interface, as shown in Fig.3. The time taken to receive the pulse is measured, that can be related with the liquid level. For accurate measurement, variation of speed of sound with the liquid density (and temperature) should be properly compensated.

Radiation technique
Radioactive technique also finds applications in measurement of level in sealed containers. Radioactive ray gets attenuated as it passes through a medium. The intensity of the radiation as it passes a distance x through a medium is given by:

where Io is the incidental intensity and is the absorption co-efficient of the medium. Thus if we measure the intensity of the radiation, knowing , and , x can be determined. There are several techniques which are in use. In one method, a float with a radioactive source inside is allowed to move along a vertical path with the liquid level. A Geiger Muller Counter is placed at the bottom of the tank along the vertical path and the intensity is measured. The basic scheme is shown in Fig. 4. The method used in a batch filling process of bottles, uses a source-detector assembly that can slide along the two sides of the bottle, as shown in Fig. 5 . As soon as the source-detector assembly passes through the liquid-air interface, there would be a large change in the signal received by the detector. Radioactive methods, though simple in principle, find limited applications, because of possible radiation hazards. However radioactive methods are routinely used for level measurement of grains and granular solids.

Bubbler system:
Bubbler tubes provide a simple and inexpensive but less accurate (1-2%)level measurement system for corrosiveor slurry-type applications.Bubblers use compressed air or aninert gas (usually nitrogen) introducedthrough a dip pipe (Figure 6 A).Gas flow is regulated at a constant rate (usually at about 500 cc/min). Differential pressure regulator across rotameter maintains

constant flow, while the tank level determines the back-pressure. As the level drops, the backpressure is proportionally reduced and is read on a pressure gage calibrated in percent level or on a manometer or transmitter. The dip pipe should have a relatively large diameter (about 2 in.) so that the pressure drop is negligible. The bottomed of the dip pipe should be located far enough above the tank bottom so that sediment or sludge will not plug it. Also, its tip should be notched with a slot or V to ensure the formation of a uniform and continuous flow of small bubbles. An alternative to locating the dip pipe in the tank into place it in an external chamber connected to the tank. In pressurized tanks, two sets of dip pipes are needed to measure the level (Figure 6 B). The two back-pressures on the two dip pipes can be connected to the two pressure gage or a d/cell/transmitter. The pneumatic piping or tubing in a bubbler system should be sloped toward the tank so that condensed process vapors will drain back into the tank if purge pressures lost. The purge gas supply should be clean, dry, and available ate pressure at least 10 psi greater than the expected maximum total pressure required (when the tank is full and the vapor pressure is at its maximum). An alternative to a continuous bubbler is to use a hand pump (similar to a bicycle tire pump) providing purge air only when the level is being read. Bubblers do consume inert gases, which can later accumulate and blanket processing equipment. They also require maintenance to ensure that the purge supply is always available and that the system is properly adjusted and calibrated. When all factors are considered, d/p cells back-pressure is proportionally reduced and is read on a pressure gage calibrated in percent level or on a manometer or transmitter. The dip pipe should have a relatively large diameter (about 2 in.) so that the pressure drop is negligible. The bottomed of the dip pipe should be located far enough above the tank bottom so that sediment or sludge will not plug it. Also, its tip should be notched with a slot or V to ensure the formation of a uniform and continuous flow of small bubbles. An alternative to locating the dip pipe in the tank into place it in an external chamber connected to the tank. In pressurized tanks, two sets of dip pipes are needed to measure the level (Figure 74B). The two back-pressures on the two dip pipes can be connected to the two sides of a u-tube manometer, a differential pressure gage or a d/cell/transmitter. The pneumatic piping or tubing in a bubbler system should be sloped toward the tank so that condensed process vapors will drain back into the tank if purge pressures lost. The purge gas supply should be clean, dry, and available ate pressure at least 10 psi greater than the expected maximum total pressure required (when the tank is full and the vapor pressure is at its maximum). An alternative to a continuous bubbler is to use a hand pump (similar to a bicycle tire pump) providing purge air only when the level is being read. Bubblers do consume inert gases, which can later accumulate and blanket processing equipment. They also require maintenance to ensure that the purge supply is always available and that the system is properly adjusted and calibrated. When all factors are considered, d/p cells typically are preferred to bubblers in the majority of applications.

Fig 6 Bubbler tube measurement

Floats & Displacers


It was more than 2,200 years ago that Archimedes first discovered that the apparent weight of a floating object is reduced by the weight of the liquid displaced. Some 2,000 years later, in the late 1700s, the first industrial application of the level float appeared, when James Bindley and Sutton Thomas Wood in England and I.Polzunov in Russia introduced the first float-type level regulators in boilers. Floats are motion balance devices that move up and down with liquid level. Displacers are force balance devices (restrained floats), whose apparent weight varies in accordance with Archimedes principle: the buoyant force acting on an object equals the weight of the fluid displaced. As the level changes around the stationary (and constant diameter) displacer float, the buoyant force varies in proportion and can be detected as an indication of level. Regular and displacer floats are available as both continuous level transmitters endpointsensing level switches. In industrial applications, displacer floats are often favored because they do not require motion. Furthermore, force can often be detected more accurately than position. However, regular floats are also used, mostly for utilities and in other secondary applications. Float level switches The buoyant force available to operate a float level switch (that is, its net buoyancy) is the difference between the weight of the displaced fluid (gross buoyancy) and the weight of the float. Floats are available in spherical (Figure7-A), cylindrical (Figure 7-B), and a variety of other shapes (Figure 7-C).They can be made out of stainless steel, Teflon, Hastelloy, Monel, and various plastic materials. Typical temperature and pressure ratings are -40 to 80C (-40 to 180 F) and up to 150 psig for rubber or plastic floats, and -40 to 260C (-40 to 500F) and up to750 psig for stainless steel floats .Standard float sizes are available from1 to 5 inches in diameter.

Custom float sizes, shapes, and materials can be ordered from most manufacturers. The float of a side-mounted switch is horizontal; a permanent magnet actuates the reed switch in it (Figure 76B).Floats should always be lighter than the minimum expected specific gravity(SG) of the process fluid.

Figure 7 Float based level switches For clean liquids a 0.1 SG difference might suffice, while for viscous or dirty applications, a difference of at least 0.3 SG is recommended .This provides additional force to overcome the resistance due to friction and material build-up. In dirty applications, floats should also be accessible for cleaning. Floats can be attached to mechanic alarms or levers and can actuate electrical, pneumatic, or mechanical mechanisms. The switch itself can be mercury (Figures 7-A and 7-C), dry contact (snap-action or reed type, shown in Figure 7-B), hermetically sealed, or pneumatic. The switch can be used to actuate a visual display, annunciator, pump, or valve. The electric contacts can be rated light-duty (10-100 volt amps, VA) or heavy-duty (up to15 A @ 120 Vac). If the switch is to operate a circuit with a greater load than the rating of the switch contacts, an interposing relay needs to be inserted. If the switch is to be inserted in a 4-20 mA dc circuit, gold-plated dry contacts should be specified to ensure the required very low contact resistance. Whereas a float usually follows the liquid level, a displacer remains partially or completely submerged. As shown in Figure 8A, the apparent weight of the displacer is reduced as it becomes covered by more liquid. When the weight drops below the spring tension, the switch is actuated. Displacer switches are more reliable than regular floats on turbulent, surging, frothy, or foamy applications. Changing their settings is easy because displacers can be moved anywhere along the suspension cable (up to 50 ft). These switches are interchangeable between tanks because differences in process density can be accommodated by changing the tension of the support spring. Testing the proper functioning of a regular float switch may require filling the tank to the actuation level, while a displacer switch can be tested simply by lifting a suspension (Figure 8 A). Displacer switches are available with heavy-duty cages and flanges for applications up to 5000psig at 150C (300F), suitable for use on hydraulic accumulators, natural gas receivers, high pressure scrubbers, and hydrocarbon flash tanks.

Figure 8 Displacement level switches Continuous Level Displacers Displacers are popular as level transmitters and as local level controllers, particularly in the oil and petrochemical industries. However, they are not suited for slurry or sludge service because coating of the displacer changes its volume and therefore its buoyant force. They are most accurate and reliable for services involving clean liquids of constant intensity. They should be temperature compensated, particularly if variations in process temperature cause significant changes in the density of the process fluid. When used as a level transmitter, the displacer, which is always heavier than the process fluid, is suspended from the torque arm. Its apparent weight causes an angular displacement of the torque tube (a torsion spring, a frictionless pressure seal).This angular displacement is linearly proportional to the displacers weight (Figure 710B).Standard displacer volume is 100cubic inches and the most commonly used lengths are 14, 32, 48, and 60 in.(Lengths up to 60 ft are available in special designs.) In addition to torque tubes, the buoyant force can also be detected by other force sensors, including springs and forcebalance instruments. When the buoyant force is balanced by a spring, there is some movement, while with a force balanced detector, the displacer stays in one position and only the level over the displacer varies. Displacer units are available with both pneumatic and electronic outputs and can also be configured as local, self-contained controllers. When used in water service, a 100cubic inch displacer will generate a buoyant force of 3.6 pounds. Therefore, standard torque tubes are calibrated for a force range of 0-3.6lbf and thin-walled torque tubes for a0-1.8 lbf range.

Figure 9:Boiler Drum level measurement

Figure 9 describes a typical power plant steam drum level application. The differential pressure detected by the level d/p cell is Note that the SG of the saturated steam layer (0.03) and that of the saturated liquid layer (0.76) vary not only with drum pressure but also with steaming rate. This causes the swelling of bubbles when the steaming rate rises (and SG2 drops), as well as their collapse when the steaming rate drops (and SG2 rises).Therefore, to make an accurate determination of both the level and the mass of the water in the steam drum, the calculation must consider not only the d/p cell output, but also the drum pressure and the prevailing steaming rate.

Nuclear Level Sensors


In 1898 Marie Curie discovered radium by observing that certain elements naturally emit energy. She named these emissions gamma rays. Gamma rays exhibited mysterious propertiesthey could pass through a seemingly solid, impenetrable mass of matter. In the passage, however, the gamma rays lost some of their intensity. The rays were predictably affected by the specific gravity and total thickness of the object, and byte distance between the gamma ray source and the detector.

For example, Figure 10 shows that, if radiation from Cesium 137 is passing through an 3-in thick steel object, 92% of the radiation energy will be absorbed and only 8% will be transmitted. Therefore, if the observer can hold all variables except thickness constant, the amount of gamma transmission can be used to measure the thickness of the object. Assuming that the distance between the source and detector does not change, one can make accurate measurements of either thickness (level), or, if thickness is fixed, then of the density of a process material.

Figure 10 Transmission of gamma rays generated by cesium 137

Hydra step method


Hydra step electronic gauging system

Failure to detect low water levels in steam-raising plant can have costly and potentially disastrous consequences. Reliable water level detection is vital to prevent damage to plant and personnel. The Hydra step electronic gauging system is the ideal fit and forget solution to overcome the problems associated with unreliable, maintenance intensive gauge glasses. Designed for totally reliable operation. Hydra step is both fail-safe and fault tolerant. Modern boilers are designed to provide clean dry steam. Detection of incorrect water level in the drum is essential: too high a level can give wet steam, leading to turbine blade erosion and if the level is too low, the boiler tubes can over heat, with the danger of explosion. All national legislatures require indication of water level in steam generating plant, and drum level indication in the control room is absolutely necessary. Conversely, however, false alarms leading to plant shutdown and loss of revenue are also highly undesirable. Hydrastep offers exceptional levels of security. All measurements are interpreted as water, steam or contamination. Both short and open circuit conditions are detected and indicated as faults. An independent report by Factory Mutual Research concluded that the probability of Hydra step missing a trip condition is less than 1 in 300 million and that nuisance trips will be less than 1 in 10 million. Hydra step combines optimum safety indication with virtually no risk of false alarms independent report by Factory Mutual Research concluded that the probability of Hydra step missing a trip condition is less than 1 in 300 million and that nuisance trips will be less than 1 in 10 million. Hydra step combines optimum safety indication with virtually no risk of false alarms. The two interleaved vertical rows of electrodes are installed in a water column attached to the boiler and usually aligned so that half the electrodes are above the normal water level. The water column is

attached to the boiler via steam and water connection, and should be isolated from the boiler by isolation valves. Electrodes from each side of the column are connected to the electronics unit by separate cables. Two separate input boards, each powered by its own power supply, measure the signal from each electrode and feed alternate segments of the display. This arrangement provides redundancy against failure in any part of the system. Up to 16alarm relay outputs (dependant on the number ofrelay boards installed) can be utilized to operate trips or control audible, visual or other alarm indication. Each relay can be set to operate at any water level. For example, alarms could be set-to give outputs on high-high, high , low and low levels, with trips on the high-high and low-low levels. The electronics unit performs a resistance measurement between the insulated tip of each electrode and the wall of the water column. The resistance measured in water is substantially less than that measured in steam. The presence or absence of water is sensed at each point and the level of water is indicated. Fault conditions are also shown on the display. Remote display units are available for control room indication or at other points in the plant. All functions of the main display unit are repeated on the remote displays, including fault indication. Up to 6 remote displays can be used. Operation Two wires are connected to each electrode, one for the signal drive and one for the signal return. A low frequency square wave is used to drive the electrodes through drive resistors. Additional wires are used for the ground connection.

When the electrode is in steam a high resistance to ground (column wall) is presented, and therefore large signal is returned. When the electrode is in water a low resistance to ground is presented and therefore a small signal is returned. If no signal or only a very small amplitude is returned then either short circuit to ground is present or a wire has-been broken or disconnected. Flexible Modular system to match requirements Choice of 8 to 32 electrode resolution Multiple remote displays Up to 16 trips/alarms operable at selected water levels Exceptionally reliable Electrodes continuously monitored for open or short circuit condition Fault indication on all displays

Multi-segment LEDS provides built-in redundancy All signal path wiring continuously monitored Dual independent power supplies provide fail operational condition No junction boxes required - fully tested spliced cable as standard Cost effective Zero maintenance fit and forget No nuisance trips, no lost revenue No missed incidents Approved by insurance companies