Sub-metering of natural gas-flexible flow measurement delivers improved accuracy and substantial savings

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Courtesy of Sierra Instruments, Inc.

Introduction

Unlike oil, natural gas exists in abundance in the United States. Of the natural gas consumed in the United States in 2011,95% was produced domestically. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects U.S. natural gas production to increase from 23.0 trillion cubic feet in 2011 to 33.1 trillion cubic feet in 2040, a 44% increase. Almost all of this increase in domestic natural gas production is due to projected growth in shale gas production, which will grow from 7.8 trillion cubic feet in 2011 to 16.7 trillion cubic feet in 2040.

This natural gas boon highlights the importance for utility companies to provide homes, businesses, and mid-to-large size facilities with accurate natural gas billing. Traditionally, utility companies have used diaphragm meters to measure natural gas usage, which is then charged to customers on their monthly energy bill. Although diaphragm meters are a trusted billing mechanism by utility companies, they may not provide customers with the most accurate natural gas bill. Diaphragm meters have limitations in natural gas measurement. If the diaphragm meter does not accurately measure the natural gas, this can result in utility companies overcharging customers.

To avoid this problem, many mid-to-large-size facilities use flow meters to sub-meter their natural gas usage to validate the diaphragm meters' readings and more efficiently allocate energy. Thermal flow meters have traditionally been an accurate device for sub-metering natural gas. But these meters are unable to compensate for the composition and pressure changes inherent in natural gas measurement. Recent advancements in thermal dispersion technology offer facility operators more advanced flow metering options to drive their energy management programs. By taking control of their energy management instead of relying on utility companies, facilities can save thousands of dollars in natural gas usage charges and improve energy allocation.

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