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Liquid flow meter proving and LACT units

Meter proving is the physical testing of the performance of a liquid meter in a liquid
service. The main purpose of the test is to assure accuracy. The basic principles of
proving a liquid meter are the same whether it is a Coriolis meter, turbine meter, or a
positive displacement meter. Each type of meter has its own characteristics when being
proved, but the basic principles are the same:
Meter proving
Meter factor prover known volume/meter reading.
When proving a meter, the process-fluid conditions must be as stable as possible
throughout the proving process. This includes:



Flow rate


Before starting a meter proving, let the liquid flow through the meter and prover long
enough so that the conditions stabilize. Check for leaks or fluid bypassing around the
prover or meter. The only way to obtain a reliable meter factor is to have all the liquid
that is measured by the meter also measured by the prover.
When in the field, a meters performance may change because of:

Installation effects from piping

Mechanical wear of the meter

Changes in the physical properties of the metered fluid

Therefore, the meter is proved to adjust for these changes, and the meter factor is
applied when calculating the total net volume.
Meters are proved on a periodic basis determined contractually by the buyer and seller
or by company policy. Some meters are proved for every batch transaction, which could
be several times a day, while other meters may be proved as little as once a quarter.

Regular proving ensures that the metering system is providing accurate flow data and
confirms the integrity of the metering system.
Lease automated custody transfer (LACT) units
LACT units are designed for unattended custody transfer of crude oil from a seller to a
buyer. The LACT design is determined by:

Flow rate

Operating pressure


Temperature of the oil

Minimum pressure drop through the piping and components is desirable.

LACT units have traditionally been fitted with positive-displacement meters, but a
turbine meter can be used with certain types of fluid. New units being built today utilize
Coriolis meters because they have no moving parts and can offer a lower cost. See Fig.

Fig. 1Components of a Coriolis meter (Courtesy of the Emerson Process

Positive displacement meters require certain accessories to read throughput. Large
numeral counters equipped with a switch to operate a sample solenoid or provide a
meter-failure circuit are common. Right-angle drives and photoelectric transmitters
provide a pulse output for proving the meter. Positive-displacement meters must be
equipped with some type of mechanical temperature-compensating device or an
electronic temperature averager.

Coriolis and turbine meters are available with electronic transmitters that provide a local
display, temperature averaging, a sample solenoid switch, and a high-frequency pulse
for proving. Coriolis meters also provide an online measurement of observed gravity
and calculate corrected gravity.
LACT design considerations
Centrifugal pumps are commonly used as charge pumps for LACT units, which typically
operate at low enough pressures to allow the use of 150 series American Natl.
Standards Inst. (ANSI) flanges. This type of pump provides a smooth flow without
pulsation and does not require pressure relief protection. LACT units need a strainer
before the pump to trap sediments. Failure to remove these sediments can cause
damage to the pump and/or internal parts of the meter. The LACT unit should also have
an air eliminator on a rise between the pump and meter to eliminate air or vapors from
pumped liquids. Often, the strainer and air eliminator are contained in a single unit.
(See Fig. 2.)

Fig. 2Typical LACT unit design (Courtesy of the Emerson Process

LACT units are equipped with sediment and water (S&W) monitors that test the oil for
the presence of water. The S&W probes are typically internally coated capacitance type
for continuous monitoring. The monitor is used to detect unmerchantable oil, generally
0.5% water or more. The monitor sends a signal to an alarm panel that actuates a
three-way divert valve that diverts the flow back to the tank to be treated again before it
passes through the meter.
The sampling system is very important to the operation of an LACT. Sampler and S&W
monitor locations are critical. They are normally installed in a vertical run of pipe
downstream of an ell, where the flow is thoroughly mixed so that the probe and sampler
"see" a representative sample. The sample probe can be placed downstream of a static
mixer. Samplers should be paced by the meter and inject a common sample of 1.5
cm3 per stroke into the sample container. The size of a sample container is determined
by the throughput of the LACT. The sample line from sampler to the sample container
must be sloped downward toward the sample container with no high or low points in the

Downstream of the meter is a proving manifold. This manifold consists of three valves.
The block and bleed is the inline valve and must be a double block and bleed type so it
can be checked for leakage. Proving requires no leakage through this valve. The two
bypass valves divert the flow through the prover and back into the line for full flow.
A backpressure valve should be installed downstream of the proving manifold to
maintain a constant backpressure on the centrifugal charge pump, meter, and prover
and assure constant flow rate through the LACT. A check valve is also needed
downstream of the backpressure valve on an LACT unit so fluid cannot flow back from
the pipeline and be metered twice.
Pressure gauges are needed on the pump discharge, at the air eliminator/strainer, and
at the meter to check for normal operation. These gauges indicate if the strainer needs
cleaning or if meter problems exist.
An electrical panel on the LACT controls the function of the unit. The control panel can
be mounted on the skid in an explosion-proof enclosure or placed off skid. Newer units
are being built with programmable controllers, thus eliminating relays and allowing
better control of flow rate, pressure, and sampling.
LACT operation and maintenance considerations

The meter and valve drains and all flanges must be checked for leaks.

The strainer must be cleaned periodically to maintain normal flow rate.

The S&W monitor should be recalibrated monthly or when a delivery is


PD meters require periodic maintenance of the gear train, packing gland, the
counter, or right-angle drive.

The block-and-bleed valve should be inspected at each proving for leakage. If a

leak is detected, a proving should not be performed until the valve is repaired.

The charge pump must be checked for excessive vibration or leaking seals. A
drop in flow rate may occur if the impeller is partially plugged.