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Orifice plate: M J Rhoades
Understanding the flow dynamics of the system
The orifice plate is used in many fluid systems to detect and measure the amount of flow of a fluid moving through piping in various systems. They are relatively inexpensive, and provide adequate accuracy for most applications. Understanding the flow dynamics involved is an important and sometimes confusing part. (From an engineering stand point.) This paper is for those Engineers or students who wish to get a better unders

Orifice plate: M J Rhoades
Understanding the flow dynamics of the system
The orifice plate is used in many fluid systems to detect and measure the amount of flow of a fluid moving through piping in various systems. They are relatively inexpensive, and provide adequate accuracy for most applications. Understanding the flow dynamics involved is an important and sometimes confusing part. (From an engineering stand point.) This paper is for those Engineers or students who wish to get a better unders

Attribution Non-Commercial (BY-NC)

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The orifice plate is used in many fluid systems to detect and measure the amount of

flow of a fluid moving through piping in various systems. They are relatively

inexpensive, and provide adequate accuracy for most applications. Understanding the

flow dynamics involved is an important and sometimes confusing part. (From an

engineering stand point.) This paper is for those Engineers or students who wish to get a

better understanding of the orifice plate and the calculations that go along with it.

In order to solve for the data to be used in the construction, calibration of sensing

equipment, and passing an engineering exam, an understanding of the system and terms

of the flow formulas must be analyzed. See drawing one below for a typical installation

and features of an orifice plate flow device.

Pressure taps P1 P2

∆P = P1 - P2

Flow Direction

A1 A2

V1, P1 P2, V2

Orifice plate

orifice plate

Orifice plate aperture (opening)

the hole may be changed in shape

or position to prevent build up of

debris or sludge

As can be seen by the drawing, fluid flow inters from the left, and through the hole in

the orifice plate. Because A1 V1 = A2 V2 the velocity must be greater when passing

through the orifice with subsequent drop in pressure. The max pressure drop is near the

aperture due to the flow restriction created by the orifice, a pressure difference can be

measured by a sensor, and then be used to generate an electrical output used for

instrumentation, control, or alarms. To figure out a way to take this information above,

and calculate the flows through this physical set up, we can use the Bernoulli equation

and modify it to accomplish that task. With that done, we will be able to use it to set up

the system and calibrate instrumentation accordingly.

Before we derive the first equation, let's define some terms and talk about some

problems in theory regarding orifice plates. First, the term Cd (Discharge coefficient)

used in equations is related to the flow characteristics through the actual orifice device.

Commonly you will see this term described as the ratio of the orifice aperture diameter to

the diameter of the pipe. This ratio is often referred to as the β (beta) ratio, but we are still

talking about the Cd.

𝑂𝑟𝑖𝑓𝑖𝑐𝑒 𝑑𝑖𝑎

β= = Cd

𝑃𝑖𝑝𝑒 𝑑𝑖𝑎

Having said that however, there are other factors involved in the actual evaluation of

what the exact values are. These are the shape of the orifice aperture, the Reynolds

number, the vena contracta which is related to the shape, density changes, expansion

coefficient, operating temperature, and the actual ∆P of the orifice. We will explore these

later on in the discussion. The vena contracta is essentially the area after the orifice where

the pressure drop is at maximum and the point where you might consider placing the low

pressure tap. There are many different ways to obtain the desired characteristics of the

delta P and there are different equations that are also used to describe the flow rate. The

one I am going to derive is one of the common ones but by all means is not the only one.

The industry is trying to come up with one standard equation to describe the theoretical

flow through an orifice, but to my knowledge, that has not happened yet. Until then, it

will be up to the engineer to decide his own program for determining flow rates and

determining what type of orifice plate configuration to use.

follows:

𝑃1 𝑉12 𝑃2 𝑉22

+ + ℊ Z1 = + + ℊ Z2 Where: P1 = Pressure at inlet to orifice

𝜌 2 𝜌 2

P2 = Pressure at orifice @ Vena contracta, V1 = Velocity before the orifice

V2 = Velocity at vena contracta, 𝜌 = rho, density of what you are pumping, ℊ =

gravitational constant

Since the heights are the same, (orifice plates are installed on straight runs of horizontal

pipe) ℊ and Z can be ignored.

𝑃1 𝑉12 𝑃2 𝑉22

So then: + = + Rearranging terms gives

𝜌 2 𝜌 2

- + = + = Multiplying both sides by 2

𝜌 𝜌 2 2 𝜌 2 2

2(𝑃1 −𝑃2 )

+ 𝑉12 = 𝑉22 Rearranging

𝜌

2(𝑃1 −𝑃2 )

𝑉22 = 𝑉12 +

𝜌

Since A1 V1 = A2 V2 (Continuity equation) I can rewrite V1 in terms of V2

𝐴2

V1 = 𝑉2 Now, squaring both sides

𝐴1

𝐴2 2

𝑉12 = x 𝑉22 Next, I am going to substitute these terms back in for 𝑉12

𝐴1

𝐴2 2 2(𝑃1− 𝑃2 )

𝑉22 = x 𝑉22 + Dividing both sides by 𝑉22

𝐴1 𝜌

𝐴2 2 1 2(𝑃1− 𝑃2 )

1= + x Subtracting the area term from both sides

𝐴1 𝑉22 𝜌

𝐴2 2 1 2(𝑃1− 𝑃2 )

1- = Multiplying both sides by 𝑉22

𝐴1 𝑉22 𝜌

𝐴2 2 2(𝑃1− 𝑃2

𝑉22 1− = Dividing both sides by the area terms.

𝐴1 𝜌

1 2 (𝑃1 − 𝑃2

𝑉22 = 2 Taking the square of both sides.

1−

𝐴2 𝜌

𝐴1

1 2(𝑃1 − 𝑃2 )

𝑉2 = Converting to flow instead of velocity.

𝐴2 2 𝜌

1−

𝐴1

𝐴2 2( ∆𝑃)

Q= 2

Adding in the discharge coefficient for the orifice plate.

𝐴2 𝜌

1−

𝐴1

𝐶𝑑 𝐴 2 2(∆𝑃)

Q=

𝐴2 2 𝜌

1−

𝐴1

This is one of the equations you will see in text books and on the internet for orifice

plates. Notice that the equation in this form does not have any time consideration on the

right hand side of the equation. This is an expression, and must be modified to calculate

flow. The equation can be modified to get answers in flow by understanding what Q is.

continuity equation with different terms.) Now, rewriting the equation, we get:

𝐶𝑑 𝐴 2 2(∆𝑃)

Q= 2𝑔 because ≈ 2𝑔

𝐴2 2 𝜌

1−

𝐴1

Here is an example: Say you have a 4 inch pipe and an orifice which has a Cd of .6

and a reading of 120 inches head. What is the flow rate in gpm?

𝐶𝑑 𝐴 2

Q= 2𝑔 D1 = 4.026 (Nominal 4"pipe) D2 = .6 x 4.026 = 2.416

𝐴2 2

1−

𝐴1

inch. A1 = 𝜋𝑟 2 = 3.1416 x 4.05 = 12.723 inch2

.6 𝑥 4.5835 𝑖𝑛 2 𝑓𝑡

Q= 2 𝑥 32 𝑠𝑒𝑐 2 𝑥 10𝑓𝑡

.93

.6 𝑥 .03165 𝑓𝑡 2 𝑓𝑡 𝑓𝑡 3 𝑔𝑎𝑙

Q= x 25.3 = .5166 ≈ 231.87

.93 𝑠𝑒𝑐 𝑠𝑒𝑐 𝑚𝑖𝑛

𝑓𝑡 3

Remember, converting to Gpm is accomplished by multiplying that number by

𝑠𝑒𝑐

448.83. Also to convert ∆𝑃 to feet head is done by multiplying by 2.311, or to inches

head by 27.73 at STP. Now, go on the internet and find Daniel orifice flow calculator and

download the free program for calculating flow. Once you have done that select flow,

density of water is 62.4 lb/ft3, and plug in the pipe size and Cd given in the example. You

should come up with 233 gpm. You can use this program to approximate any flow

condition that you like and determine orifice size or whatever.

Here are some other formulas that have been derived or experimentally determined that

lead us to the same set of information only different as to how we get there.

Q = CeE where Q = flow rate

4 𝜌

C = discharge coefficient Cd

e = expansion coefficient

1

E=

𝐷2 4

1−

𝐷1

Note: This equation must also be converted to account for time on the right hand side,

just like we did for the first one. That is if you want to calculate a flow in GPM.

Here is an interesting equation that comes from a manufacturer of orifice plates

𝑔

𝑐𝑜𝑛𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑛𝑡 𝑑 2 𝐶 𝑌 𝐹𝑎 𝑤

𝑔0

Q= where: Q = flow rate

1−𝛽 4 𝜌1

this you dont have worry about the time factor in the equation as the other two

C = discharge coefficient

Y = expansion factor

𝐷2

β = Cd or beta ratio

𝐷1

Remember in all of this, the Idea is to get a good approximation of the flow through

the system, as that is the reason for putting in an orifice, right? So these equations can be

used to suit your needs as an engineer. You can also include the Reynolds number if you

want in the Cd figure or if you want you can include a flow coefficient to account for the

Reynolds number and expansion coefficient. It's really up to you, the engineer. I hope this

helped you out understanding the confusion over orifice plate calculations and how

complicated it can be. But you as the engineer must determine what best suits your needs.

As for students that are just trying to figure things out, use the first equation I gave you to

calculate flow through an orifice, it will be close enough for you to understand what's

happening.

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