Why Vortex Flow Meters are the Champions of Steam Applications

by | Feb 5, 2021 | Flow, Measurement Instrumentation

Cheng Vue

Senior Product Manager, Rosemount Vortex Flow Products

Steam applications are beneficial for a wide range of tasks across many industries. Affordable, efficient, and non-hazardous, steam is a potent conveyer of heat energy. Its adaptability makes it a key component anywhere heat distribution is necessary. However, whenever a process involves steam, extra care and attention is required. Higher temperatures and pressures make safety a real concern and water droplets from condensation can cause excess wear and tear on equipment. Vortex flow meters are particularly well-suited to measure the flow of both superheated and saturated steam. Their innovative in-situ design increases both the safety and efficiency of these operations. Combining sophisticated Vortex technology with pressure and temperature sensors provides the ultimate solution for steam mass flow measurement.

Steam – the Hottest Asset in Industry

Where do we use steam? Basically, nearly every industry benefits from steam applications in one way or another. Turbines are spun by steam to generate power, equipment is cleaned and sterilized by steam, and steam boilers heat reactors used in manufacturing chemicals. These are just a few of the countless ways steam meets the needs of industry every day.

In simplest terms, steam is created from heating liquid water until it becomes a gas. This gaseous state is particularly good at uniformly distributing heat, especially compared to other methods of heat transfer. It is recyclable and easy to distribute and control. When it boils and expands, steam pressurizes its system.

There are two types of steam applications, saturated and superheated. Saturated steam is obtained by heating water to its boiling point and no further. It is an excellent heat source, and its high heat transfer coefficient makes it perfect for heating, drying, and sterilizing. Superheated steam is produced by heating saturated steam beyond the boiling point till all moisture is gone. It is useful in power generation, turbines, and drying.

The Problems with Measuring Steam

It takes a lot of energy to produce steam, and plants are always looking for ways to limit their energy consumption. Measurement devices can help improve production and enable operators to optimize the use of steam by tracking mass flow rates. Unfortunately, traditional flow technology has run into trouble measuring steam due to the high temperatures and pressures involved. These flow meters can be harder to install because they require long, straight runs. Their impulse lines can clog or freeze, dramatically increasing downtimes and costs for maintenance. Heat tracing can improve the situation but doesn’t necessarily completely limit the risks of condensation (which also affects accuracy), and heat tracing isn’t possible in certain environments.

Technicians take on added safety risks during cleaning and troubleshooting, and shutdowns related to excess maintenance can hamper operations. If you are depending on that system for essential processes like heating a building or rotating a turbine, those elements may be completely out of commission while maintenance activities take place. These issues can have a domino effect down the line, driving up lost production in other areas of your operation.

The Versatility of Vortex Technology

Modern Vortex flow meters work by measuring volumetric flow rates using principles of the Von Kármán effect. A sensor detects the oscillation caused by vortices of steam as it is forced around a shedder bar. The information is sent to the transmitter where it is converted into the flow rate. Added pressure and temperature sensors can use the information to calculate compensated mass flow.

Emerson’s Vortex flow meters are installed in-situ, so they don’t require impulse lines. They do not have moving parts and their all-welded meter body eliminates leak points which is critical for safety in steam applications. The transmitters fitted to the outside of the line can be removed and maintained without interrupting your process.

Though superheated and saturated steam can be tough to tackle, Emerson’s Vortex flow meter technology makes it simple and easy. With less worry about potential leaks, condensation build-up, and high-pressure ruptures due to clogged impulse lines, you can focus more on maximizing your production. Contact an Emerson representative for more information on our Rosemount™ 8800 MultiVariable Vortex Flow Meters. Learn more>

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.