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CUSTODYTRANSFER:THEVALUEOFGOOD

MEASUREMENTANDTHESEARCHFORTHE
TRUTH
By Daniel J. Rudroff, Chief Operating Officer, Welker Flow Measurement Systems, Sugar
Land, TX | July 2009 Vol. 236 No. 7

Seraphin tanks
BUYER'S GUIDE

Flanges
Flow meters, gas
Flow meters, liquid
Gas measurement
Meter provers
Meters, flow

Custody transfer measurement in the oil and gas business has been described many
ways. It has been called an accuracy in measurement that both the buyer and seller can
agree upon and it has been called the best that can be achieved to meet the contract
conditions.
I like to call it, The Search for the Truth. Ever since petroleum has been bought and
sold, better ways to measure and better accuracies have been sought. A big
advancement was the pipe prover. Today, the American Petroleum Institute (API) requires
an accuracy of 0.02% when compared to a standard such as National Institute of
Standards and Technology (NIST) traceable Seraphin cans. If we want to put 0.02%
accuracy into perspective, that is 6.45 teaspoons, or a little more than two tablespoons,
of oil in one barrel. That is very good measurement and that is worst case.
Converted to dollars on a small 10,000 barrels per day (bpd) Custody Transfer Liquid
Metering Skid, a 0.02% error is about two bpd. At the average price of oil today, say

$50.00/bbl, that is $100 dollars per day. In a years time, that is $36,500. That is why we
all strive to exceed the 0.02% required by API. We know and understand the value that
increased accuracy delivers to our companies.
Accuracy of measurement is important when oil is selling at $100/bbl and profits are
good, but it is even more important when oil is at $50/bbl and the margins are tight. One
lost barrel becomes a much larger percentage of the profit.
Welker Flow Measurement Systems (WFMS) has a patent pending on a new design bidirectional prover called the WFMS SCS Prover. The SCS stands for straight calibrated
section prover. With the SCS Prover, accuracies of 0.002% to 0.007% have been
achieved regularly. The calibrated section is in one straight piece of pipe which eliminates
the elbows and flanges in the calibrated section, the cause of most of the inaccuracies
and problems in other bi-directional provers.
What Is Accuracy?
Accuracy is what we are after when we zero in on a target. Any good meter like any good
rifle is repeatable. If every shot is within a small group, but not at the center of the target,
we make an adjustment to the sights or to the scope to bring the pattern to the center of
the target. Now our rifle is repeatable and accurate. It is the same with meters. The more
repeatable they are, the more accurate we can make them.
A precise meter that is repeatable also needs to be zeroed in for accuracy. For this we
use a pipe prover. This is a device whose volume between two switches has been
checked and verified to a known volume. The length of pipe between the detector
switches is determined by the volume needed to ensure good repeatability. A sphere is
then inflated to a diameter larger than the inside of the pipe and placed in the prover. The
two switches installed in the pipe detect when the ball reaches the beginning and end of
the known volume in the pipe.
Normally, the meter prover volume between the switches is calibrated against a device
called a Seraphin can whose precise volume is traceable to NIST. Before we can put the
meter prover in service, it must be calibrated against a known volume such as these
Seraphin cans. The prover must also conform with the API Manual of Petroleum
Measurement Standards, Chapter 4 - Proving Systems, Section 2. The volume must
match the calibrated Seraphin cans volume three consecutive times at different flow
rates to within 0.02% (0.0002).
Both the volume in the Seraphin cans and the prover are corrected for the effects of
pressure and temperature on the fluid, usually water, and the temperature and pressure
effect on the pipe and metal of the Seraphin tanks. Only when the prover passes this
calibration can the prover - whose volume is now known - be used to prove the volume of
a meter on site. Improving on the 0.02% required repeatability when compared to the
Seraphin cans is always the goal of the pipe prover manufacturer. An error of about two
tablespoons per barrel is then the maximum error API allows per barrel between the

volumes of each of the three Seraphin tank calibration runs on the prover calibrated
section.
Because there are many variables in a metering system, such as the way the meter is
installed and the effect the fluid has on the meter, it is the meter system - including all the
piping and components such as valves, flow conditioners, the location of the pressure
and temperature transmitters and how the calculations are done - that affect the meter
performance. The prover whose volume is known is used to verify the performance of the
entire metering system.
There are several types of provers. They are bi-directional, uni-directional, bi-directional
piston and small volume piston provers. All of these provers do an excellent job of proving
meters. But in todays market, companies are looking for a way to improve the
performance of the prover and therefore the meter and meter system.
To indicate volume, all meters produce pulses in proportion to the amount of fluid that
passes through the meter. Each volume, such as a barrel or a cubic meter, is indicated by
a number of pulses. The number of pulses per unit volume is determined by the meter
manufacturer. The amount of pulses produced by the meter, per barrel or cubic meter, as
fluid passes through the meter is known as the meter factor.
Each type of meter - turbine, positive displacement, coriolis and ultrasonic - has unique
characteristics that must be understood and addressed when proving. The turbine meter because of the inertia of the rotor - does not immediately change its output with a change
in flow. The positive displacement meter gear stack is not a direct couple and the
distance between the pulses can vary as the flow rate changes even slightly. The coriolis
and ultrasonic meters produce manufactured pulses. The method of measurement used
by the coriolis meter or the ultrasonic meter is converted to pulses for proving. Because
the number of pulses needs to be calculated, there is a slight time delay.
In the conventional U or Serpentine shape of the bi-directional or unidirectional prover
there are elbows, welds and flanges within the calibrated section. Because the elbow has
a smaller radius on the inside of the bend and a larger radius on the outside, and because the elbow may not be perfectly round through its bend - the prover ball velocity
will change as it passes through these elbows and some volume of fluid can become lost
in the elbows imperfections. The changes in velocity change the flow rate and the
imperfections in the elbows and flanges affect the volume and, therefore, the provers
accuracy.
To counter the effects of imperfect elbows, the prover sphere is overinflated to assist its
sealing against the pipe wall. However, overinflation of the ball increases the pressure
drop across the ball and causes a greater change in velocity and, therefore, volume as
the ball passes through elbows. Welds and flanges are also a problem. The inside
diameter (ID) of the pipe and the ID of the flange are not always the same. If the flanges
are undersize the ball will slow down and an oversize flange ID will cause the ball to
speed up. The same holds true for welds in the calibrated section. The welds that are

overly ground or not ground down sufficiently cause a velocity change in the calibrated
section.
Crude oil meter proving systems in the U.S. are controlled by The API Manual of
Petroleum Measurement Standards, Chapter 4 - Proving Systems, Section 2. It is
recommended in this standard that a minimum of 10,000 pulses be accumulated between
the detector switches. If 10,000 pulses cannot be accumulated between the switches, a
method called pulse interpolation can be used. The reason 10,000 pulses were chosen is
because of the error that occurs between when the provers detector switches activate
and the meter produces a pulse. The prover ball detector switches - when they activate fall somewhere between the pulses produced by the meter, and volume between the
pulse and when the detector switch activates is the error.
Pulse interpolation is a computer-based method that reduces this error by averaging the
time between the pulses produced by the meter or by adding a high-frequency pulse
between the meter pulses. If the time between the pulses from the meter is known, the
volume between the pulses can be determined, and the volume from when the prover
detector switch activates to the first pulse can be determined. Likewise, the volume from
the last pulse to when the second detector is activated can be determined. By using pulse
interpolation. the meter-indicated volume between the ball detector switches can be
determined very accurately
The SCS prover design developed by WFMS eliminates the problems created by elbows
and flanges. There are no elbows or flanges in the calibrated section of the prover. It is a
bi-directional spherical prover that uses a straight run of calibrated pipe between the two
detection switches. Unlike the prior provers, there are no flanges, welds or elbows
between the detection switches. The new prover has numerous advantages over
conventional bi-directional spherical provers which use a U-shaped calibrated section of
pipe or a serpentine-calibrated section of pipe which includes several elbows and
flanges. These elbows, which need to be of the best quality, and the machined flanges
that are required, are expensive.
Many experiments were conducted by WFMS on the prover. The velocity of the ball in the
launching chamber was determined. Different size balls were used to demonstrate
different ball-to-launcher relationships. The end of the 36-inch prover was removed and
the ball was moved through the calibrated section at one foot per minute using water
pressure. The contact of the ball with the wall was calculated at 10 inches at 3%
overinflation of the prover sphere. There was zero leakage around the ball as it passed
the entire distance between the detectors. Some advantages of the SCS prover are:
1.

There are no alignment flanges in the calibrated Section. Alignment flanges are
expensive and machining on the flange or installing pins reduce the integrity of the
alignment flange and therefore the piping system. Flanges in the pre-run are aligned
using shoulder bolts that are approximately the same diameter as the flange bolt holes.
2.
There are no elbows in the calibrated Section. Elbows cause a pressure and flow
change as the ball moves through the elbow and there can be loss of fluid if the elbow is
not perfectly formed in the inside diameter. Because the ball does not have to go through

3.

4.

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6.

7.
8.
9.

10.

elbows as it passes from switch to switch less inflation of the ball is required, making for
better water draws and better proves with less pressure drop.
The calibrated section can be rolled out and inspected without another water
draw because no flanges are broken in the calibrated section. This is a cost savings both
in time and water draw cost.
Installing bells at the launchers which increases the pipe size into and out of the
launchers from the four-way reduces the velocity at that point and lowers pressure drop
and damage to the ball as it is pulled in front of the grating on conventional provers.
It is ideal for coriolis and ultrasonic liquid meters with manufactured pulses
because the flow before and in the calibrated section is not disrupted by the ball passing
through elbows, welds or flange sets. Because the ball can be inflated less, it passes
smoothly between the detectors, not disturbing the flow.
Since the flow through the calibrated section is smooth, the pulses from
conventional PD and turbines will be more evenly spaced, giving better proves especially
when pulse interpolation is used.
The cost is lower because special alignment flanges are not required.
The ball does not have to be overinflated to compensate for irregularities in
elbows and flanges
API requires the repeatability of the prover volume when compared to the NISTcalibrated Seraphin tanks to be within 0.02%. Water draws on the SCS prover have come
in from 0.002% to 0.007%, an order of magnitude better than that required by API.

There are several SCS provers in operation from 16 to 36 inches and all are performing
better than anticipated. Some are on multiviscosity meters and some are on coriolis
meters. Both meters produce manufactured pulses.
A new sphere removal tool arrangement has been built to allow a constant vacuum to be
held on the ball as it is being removed from the launcher chambers.
Author
Daniel J. Rudroff can be reached at 281-491-2445, EMail: drudroff@welkerflow.com, www.welkerflow.com.