Simulation-based determination of systematic errors of flow meters due to uncertain inflow conditions

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Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) provides well-established tools for the prediction of the velocity profiles in turbulent pipe flows. As far as industrial pipe and district heating systems are concerned, combinations of elbows are the most common pipe assemblies. Among the different pipe combinations, double elbows out-of-plane are of special interest, since they introduce strong disturbances into the flow profile and have a strong influence on many common types of flow meters. In front of a double elbow there is often another flow-disturbing installation. As a result the upstream conditions are unknown and an investigation of the resulting systematic bias on the measurement of the flow rate and the associated contribution to its measurement uncertainty is necessary. We demonstrate here that this can be achieved by a variation of the inlet profile in terms of swirls and asymmetry components. In particular, an ultrasonic and an electromagnetic flow meter are modeled in order to quantify the systematic errors stemming from uncertain inflow conditions. For this purpose, a generalized non-intrusive polynomial chaos method has been used in conjunction with a commercial CFD code. As the most influential parameters on the measured volume flow, the distance between the double elbow and the flow meter as well as the orientation of the flow meter are considered as random variables in the polynomial chaos approach. This approach allowed us to obtain accurate prediction of the systematic error for the ultrasonic and electromagnetic meter as functions of the distance to the double elbow. The resulting bias in the flow rate has been found to be in the range of 1.5–4.5% (0.1–0.5%) with a systematic uncertainty contribution of 2–2.4% (0.6–0.7%) for the ultrasonic (electromagnetic) flow meter if the distance to the double elbow is smaller than 40 pipe diameters. Moreover, it is demonstrated that placing the flow meters in a Venturi constriction leads to substantial decrease of the bias and the contribution to the measurement uncertainty stemming from the uncertain inflow condition.




Weissenbrunner, A., Fiebach, A., Schmelter, S., Bär, M., Thamsen, P. U., & Lederer, T. (2016). Simulation-based determination of systematic errors of flow meters due to uncertain inflow conditions. Flow Measurement and Instrumentation, 52, 25–39.

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