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Ken A. Steward
Linco-Electromatic, Inc.
P.O. Box 4096
Midland, Texas 79704


LPG’s are classified as any hydrocarbon The thorough review and understanding of
liquid having a vapor pressure greater than Design Codes and Safety Standards are
atmospheric. Under minimal pressures, the first steps in planning a successful
LPG’s can be held in the liquid state, which installation. Design Codes may vary
simplifies storage, transporting and slightly from country to country and state to
measuring. When pressure is released, state. Most states and South American
LPG’s readily vaporize making them an Countries adopt United States National
ideal energy source for fuel when the vapor Codes and guidelines such as the
is ignited. Department of Transportation (DOT)
covering transportation regulations, the
The safest and most accurate method of American National Standards Institute
transferring LPG from a bulk storage facility (ANSI) covering pipeline and refinery
to a pipeline is through a reliable metering locations, the American Petroleum Institute
system. The basic concept in designing an (API) covering custody transfer metering
LPG Metering System is to provide and proving and the National Fire
dependable components, which can safely Protection Agency (NFPA) covering safety
be operated by trained personnel. design considerations.

In the case of a pipeline installation, the DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS

system must be designed to provide
unattended operation with a minimum LPG’s are much more sensitive to pressure
amount of maintenance. A transport and temperature than crude oils due to their
loading system must provide a means to high vapor pressure, their high
limit the filling of the transport and provide a compressibility and their low density.
hard-copy of the total volume and the Temperature and pressure can impose a
amount of odorant injected for each loading high degree of error on the high vapor
transaction. pressure products such as the LPG’s. In
the case of propane, a 10% error in
Basic equipment selection and design temperature could effect measurement by
considerations should include the following: 1.4%, while a10% error in pressure could
effect measurement by 0.3%. Due to these
characteristics, precise measurement of not required.
temperature, pressure and density are an
absolute requirement for accurate PIPELINE DESIGN CONDITIONS
The following parameters should be
Measurement can be determined using considered in the design of an efficient and
either volumetric or mass calculation reliable pipeline metering system;
methods. Volumetric measurement uses a
meter (turbine or positive displacement) to 1. Flow Rate - Design flow rate is based on
count the “gross” number of volume units pipeline sizing and the energy source
through the meter. The gross volume is available to transfer liquid.
corrected for pressure and temperature to
obtain a corrected “net” volume based on a 2. Working Pressure - Working pressure is
standard of 60 degrees F and 14.7 PSIA. a function of the vapor pressure of the
Mass measurement uses a meter (coriolis) product at the highest operating
to measure the volume and density passing temperature and the total pressure drop
through the meter to determine total mass. between pump stations or storage.
Because the mass of a liquid is the quantity Once design working pressure is
of matter it contains, it is not affected by determined, the LPG transfer pump rate
temperature, pressure, buoyancy or and the piping ANSI rating can be
acceleration. Mass is mass, no matter what established.
the operating conditions may be.
3. Operating Temperature - Product
In instances where an LPG contains a high temperature, as well as ambient
ethane content, a measurement error could temperature, must be considered in
occur using volumetric measurement. This order to prevent the possibility of
is due to solution mixing, which allows measuring vapors instead of liquids.
smaller molecules in a product stream to
hide within the voids between larger 4. Metering Location – Selecting a
molecules. Mass measurement would metering location is based on the
eliminate this error. location of the pipeline and the
availability of utilities such as power, air,
Accurate metering alone will not assure communication links and road access.
accurate measurement. Sampling and After a location is selected, line sizes
analysis is equally important. Two and the available space for metering
acceptable methods of analysis include and proving equipment should be
composite sampling or on-stream considered. Whether the product lines
analyzing. Composite sampling requires are to be buried, exposed or insulated
that a representative sample of the flowing should be evaluated.
stream be taken and stored at operating
conditions until the contents can be 5. Odorant Requirement – Dependent on
transported to a laboratory for analysis. applications and market contracts it
On-stream analysis is obtained by using a may be necessary to provide an
direct mounted instrument (densitometer) automatic odorant injection system.
that is capable of measuring the flowing
density of the stream that is proportional to
flow. The density of the flowing stream is
transmitted to a flow computer that
accumulates the density and develops a
Typical components to consider in
time-weighted average and applies that
designing an LPG Pipeline Metering
average to total throughput. The on-stream
System are illustrated in Figure 1 and
analysis in the preferred methods since the
would include the following;
handling and transportation of samples is

Figure 1

1. Inlet isolating or “ESD” Valve - Emergency Guidelines. Turbine meters use an

shut-down valves (ESD), are self- electronic pick-up coil and preamplifier
contained, normally-closed valves which to transmit meter pulses to an
can be actuated on loss of a control electronic counting totalizer. The
signal to automatically shut-down turbine meter can be an accurate LPG
product flow any time there is an metering device provided flow
emergency condition. These valves parameters are controlled and suitable
should be installed at all critical locations electronics are used. The advantage
required to protect the pipeline system. of the turbine meter over the positive
displacement meter is that it does not
2. Strainer - A strainer is a device which use an external packing gland and is
houses a removable perforated basket less expensive to install and repair. In
designed to collect solid materials most cases a turbine meter will be one
present in the flowing stream. A strainer pipe size smaller than an equivalent
is not designed to filter the product, but positive displacement meter.
to collect large contaminants, which may Disadvantage of turbine meters is the
cause damage to the meter. requirement for specialized upstream
flow conditioning and these meters
3. Meter - The meter is the most critical develop a higher pressure drop
component of an LPG Pipeline Metering compared to the positive displacement
System and care should be given in meter.
selecting only the most accurate meter.
The three most common types of meters * The positive displacement meter
in use today are the turbine meter, the determines flow through the use of an
positive displacement meter and the internal rotating device by dividing the
coriolis meter. flowing stream into discrete volumetric
segments using a small amount of
* The turbine meter is an inference type energy from the flowing stream.
meter that derives flow based on Metered volume is transmitted using a
properties of the flowing stream, such mechanical gear train through a
as angular velocity, which is packing gland. Any number of meter
proportional to flow. Since the turbine accessories may be attached to the
meter depends upon properties of the meter to provide electrical pulse
flowing stream, it is necessary to outputs and mechanical totalization.
condition flow into the meter using The advantage of the positive
doweled upstream and downstream displacement meter over a turbine
piping sections in accordance with API meter is that it is more accurate, does

not require flow conditioning pipe
spools and is a low pressure drop Major pipeline metering systems should
device. A disadvantage is the consider the installation of a stationary
requirement to reduce maximum flow type prover that is manifolded into the
rates through the meter, main piping system, which would allow
approximately 25%, due to a lack of meter proving on a regular basis. The
internal lubricity of LPG. most common provers used for LPG
meter calibration are the bi-directional
* The coriolis meter incorporates bent or prover and the small volume prover.
curved vibrating tubes that provides a
direct measurement of the mass flow Regardless of the meter selected for
rate of a fluid in a closed piping custody transfer, provisions must be
system. Measurement is theoretically made to allow for meter calibration. A
unaffected by changes in fluid simple solution is to provide a three-
conditions such as temperature and valve prover manifold using two piping
pressure. Coriolis meters have a very tees with two valves side-mounted
high flow turn-down ratio, which allows between an inline valve. The inline valve
the meters to operate over a much must be a quality block and bleed type
wider range than turbine or positive with provisions to determine seal leakage
displacement meters. Another during a meter calibration, since every
advantage is there are no flow drop of liquid going through the sales
restrictions or mechanical components meter must go thorough the prover
to wear which results in minimal system. The prover manifold allows the
maintenance. Since components do sales meter to be placed in series with a
not wear, minimal field calibration is proving device of a traceable and known
required. Disadvantages include volume. The prover manifold should be
much higher pressure drops than furnished with a temperature indicator,
turbine meters and availability in the an accurate temperature transmitter, a
larger meter sizes. These meters are pressure gauge and an accurate
more expensive than turbine meters pressure transmitter. The temperature
but comparable in price to positive and pressure transmitters are used to
displacement meters. communicate to the electronic flow
computer and to the proving system
4. Densitometer – A precise inline instrument during a meter proving.
that uses a slip-stream that continually
measures density, proportional to flow. 6. Control Valve - Installation of a control
The density of the flowing stream is valve that is capable of providing back
transmitted to a flow computer that pressure and flow control is the key to
accumulates the density and develops a accurate metering. Back pressure
time-weighted average and applies that control is accomplished by continually
average to total throughput monitoring temperature and pressure
during metering to insure that product is
5. Meter Prover Manifold – All types of always metered above vapor pressure,
meters are subject to conditions, which regardless of the product flowing
can effect and change the accuracy of temperature. Typical valve control is
these devices such as the changes in from a self-contained back pressure
fluid characterizes, variations in controller mounted directly to the valve or
temperature and pressure, fluid from an electronic signal from a flow
contaminants, and normal wear on computer. It is important to consider a
internal meter parts. Since the dynamically stable, pneumatically
performance of meters is affected by operated diaphragm valve rather than a
these factors it is necessary to provide a self contained valve dependent upon
means of proving the accuracy of the LPG energy and differential pressure
meter on a regular basis. across the valve to provide control.

Maintenance problems are greatly common prover system used for LPG
reduced by using the diaphragm type meter calibration is the bi-directional
valve, with the only disadvantage being meter prover. The basic principal of
that instrument air or nitrogen is required operation of the Bi-Directional meter
for operation. prover is to provide an accurate and
repetitive displacement of liquid through
7. Safety Features - Safety features should a pre-calibrated volume between two
include automatic emergency shut down detector switches. Accurate
(ESD) valves, which are designed to shut displacement of the liquid is
down the pipeline when activated locally accomplished by forcing an inflated
or from a remote location. Additional spheroid through a calibrated section of
safety devices that should be considered pipe using fluid energy from the stream
include fire sensors and combustible gas being metered and recording the
detectors. metered volume. Since the entire
stream of fluid being metered flows
8. Flow Computer – The application may through both the meter and the prover,
dictate the installation of a local or a ratio known as "meter factor" can be
remote Flow Computer designed to determined between the known volume
interface with and control the pipeline and the volume registered by the meter.
metering system. Typical Flow This meter factor is used as a multiplier
Computers offer features such as and applied to the volume shown on the
automatic calculation of metered meter register to determine true quantity
volumes, back pressure and flow rate of fluid passing through the meter.
valve control, automatic proving, meter
factor trending, archiving of data, batch The advantages of the Bi-Directional meter
run ticket printing and the ability to export prover system are that proving is done
databases to a remote host computer under actual operating conditions and the
system. meter runs continuously. This procedure
eliminates errors resulting from starting
9. Communication or SCADA Building – and stopping and also reduces proving
Provide a climate controlled building to time. Another advantage is that proving
house the flow computer and any other temperatures are stabilized during
continuous proving.
communication systems that may be
required. A typical system, including major
components is illustrated in Figure 2
10. Meter Prover System – The most

Figure 2

• Four-Way Diverter Valve - used to

divert flow through the prover system • Meter Pulse Generator - an electronic
without interrupting flow. Since there device that is attached to the gear train
is not a closed position on the valve, of the meter to be calibrated that is
flow can only be diverted. designed to transmit high resolution
electrical pulses to the electronic meter
• Launch Chambers - used to retrieve prover counter.
the spheroid after each run. Launch
chambers are also used to help reduce • Electronic Meter Prover Counter - used
the velocity of the spheroid after to receive high resolution electrical
completion of a run. pulses from the meter to be calibrated.
The prover counter is started and
• Calibrated Measuring Section - stopped by the actuation of the prover
referred to as the volume between detector switches based on the
detector switches and is expressed as passage of the spheroid.
a "round trip".
• Water Draw - a procedure used to
• Pre-Run - a section of pipe located calibrate a Bi-Directional meter prover
upstream of the detector switches to by collecting water displaced by the
allow ample spheroid travel time spheroid into containers of known
(based on fluid flow rate) before volume that have been certified by the
contact with the first detector switch. National Institute of Standards And
Pre-run is required to ensure that the Technology (NIST).
four-way valve is fully seated before
the spheroid contacts the first detector ODORANT INJECTION SYSTEM
Some LPG pipeline applications may require
• Detector Switches - used to electrically that product be odorized. Since LPG is
detect the passage of the spheroid and colorless, odorless and heavier than air in
to trigger a gating circuit in the the vapor state, it is necessary to add an
electronic meter prover counter. artificial odor to warn users of its presence.
The most common odorant in use today is
• Spheroid - an inflatable device that is
ethyl mercaptan. Most authorities require a
used to displace fluid through the
minimum of 1.0 pound of odorant be injected
calibrated measuring section.

into 10,000 gallons of LPG. Due to a protect LPG Operating Facilities with an
condition called "odorant fade", which “audit trail”.
occurs in new tanks and piping systems,
and to allow a margin of safety, most A fail-safe automatic odorant injection
installations agree on an odorant rate of 1.5 system should be selected that injects
pounds of odorant per 10,000 gallons of odorant proportional to flow and provides a
LPG loaded. printed record of the odorant injected for
each batch transaction. The system must
The basic design of an Automatic Odorant be designed to alarm any time an odorant
Injection System should be to provide a malfunction develops.
simple, reliable, “leak free” and fail-safe
means of injecting odorant into an LPG A typical odorant system design using a
stream proportional to metered flow. A pressurized nitrogen storage tank and an
basic requirement is to provide a “hard copy” odorant injector is illustrated in Figure 3
of the amount of odorant injected in order to

Figure 3

SUMMARY conformance to prescribed standards. This

attention to detail will yield a trouble free and
Through good engineering design and accurate LPG Pipeline Metering System
planning, a safe and reliable system can be requiring a minimum of supervision and
provided to achieve accuracy, reliability, maintenance.
dependability, ease of operation, safety, and