Deregulation and open access in the natural gas pipeline industry has changed the gas business environment towards greater reliance on local energy flow rate measurement. What was once a large, stable, and well-defined source of natural gas is now a composite from many small suppliers with greatly varying gas compositions. Unfortunately, the traditional approach to energy flow measurement [using a gas chromatograph (GC) for composition assay in conjunction with a flow meter] is only cost effective for large capacity supplies (typically greater than 1 to 30 million scfd). A less costly approach will encourage more widespread use of energy measurement technology. In turn, the US will benefit from tighter gas inventory control, more efficient pipeline and industrial plant operations, and ultimately lower costs to the consumer. An assessment of the state and direction of technology for natural gas energy flow rate measurement is presented. The alternative technologies were ranked according to their potential to dramatically reduce capital and operating and maintenance (O and M) costs, while improving reliability and accuracy. The top-ranked technologies take an unconventional inference approach to the energy measurement problem. Because of that approach, they will not satisfy the fundamental need for composition assay, but have greatmore » potential to reduce industry reliance on the GC. Technological feasibility of the inference approach was demonstrated through the successful development of data correlations that relate energy measurement properties (molecular weight, mass-based heating value, standard density, molar ideal gross heating value, standard volumetric heating value, density, and volume-based heating value) to three inferential properties: standard sound speed, carbon dioxide concentration, and nitrogen concentration (temperature and pressure are also required for the last two). The key advantage of this approach is that inexpensive on-line sensors may be used to measure the inferential variables, which can then be applied (through the data correlations) to convert existing flow meters (ultrasonic, orifice, turbine, rotary, Coriolis, diaphragm, etc.) for on-line energy measurement. The practical issues for field development were evaluated using two transducers extracted from a $100 ultrasonic domestic gas meter, and a $400 infrared sensor.« le
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