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Evaluation and Recommendation of a Flow Computer For Replacing Chart Recorders. ETM 5121 Project Proposal Submitted By Toby O’Brien. Introduction.

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evaluation and recommendation of a flow computer for replacing chart recorders

Evaluation and Recommendation of a Flow ComputerFor Replacing Chart Recorders

ETM 5121 Project Proposal

Submitted By

Toby O’Brien


This proposal is for the evaluation of electronic flow computers (EFM’s) for use as a replacement of chart recorders. Enogex, as a natural gas pipeline company uses a recorder attached to the gas meter (such as an orifice) to convert the physical properties of the gas pressure and gas temperature to a volumetric flow rate.

The chart recorder has the following disadvantages:

  • The chart recorder uses a bellows to record pressure, by mechanically moving a pen and marking a circular chart.
  • The paper charts have to be replaced periodically (7, 16, or 31 days)
  • The paper charts are sent to a lab for integration to determine the gas volume that flowed
  • Errors in gas flow measurement using a chart recorder typically range from 5-20% depending on the flowing gas characteristics and pen markings.


The gas measurement department has been given verbal approval to replace all the remaining chart recorders with EFM’s. There are approximately 300 chart recorders throughout the Enogex pipeline system. Formal approval requires an Authorization for Expenditure (AFE) be submitted containing an economic justification, costs, and project description. The value if this project is approximately $1.68 million dollars.

problem statement
Problem Statement

This proposal will address an opportunity to identify possible cost savings by evaluating EFM model alternatives to determine if the current standard model is the best choice as replacement of a chart recorder.

measures of the problem
Measures of the Problem
  • The EFM portion of this project will cost $960,000. The use of a competitive model may result in a savings of $390,000.
  • This proposal will determine the features needed for a typical chart meter and attempt to match those features to the EFM’s currently on the market.
  • Accessories may be cheaper with fewer features. Example: The price difference between a 20 Watt solar panel and a 10 watt solar panel is approximately $80 which could result in a savings of $24,000.
  • All EFM’s perform the same function. There has not been a study of equipment differences such as the transmitter, electronic components, and software.
measures of the problem cont
Measures of the Problem (cont)
  • A secondary long term economic impact of this project is on the ‘Lost and Unaccounted For’ gas (L&U). A pipeline segment may be used to document improvement of L&U.
project objectives
Project Objectives

The main objective is to choose the best EFM for the chart recorder replacement project based on a complete evaluation of the alternatives.

  • Identify possible cost savings by better matching the project needs to the EFM features.
  • Determine the specific technical features of a chart replacement EFM. Weigh the need for each feature based on cost or importance or similar criteria using the Kepner Tregoe decision making process.
  • Develop a method of equipment evaluation that can be used on other similar projects.
  • Present the results to management as a recommendation. Include the results of this project in the AFE and submit to management for approval.
specific deliverables
Specific Deliverables

The specific deliverables as a result of the evaluation of the EFM alternatives are:

  • The logical evaluation and decision on the best EFM for chart replacement.
  • Identification of any cost savings that may be realized as a result of the alternative choice.
  • Completion and submittal of an Authorization for Expenditure (AFE) for the replacement of approximately 300 chart recorders with electronic flow computers (EFM’s). The results of this project will be included in the AFE support documentation.
  • A documented standard that can be referenced by others at Enogex that clearly states the purpose of the project, the methods used in the evaluation, and the results. The standard may be used as a template for the evaluation of other standard equipment.
alternatives to be considered
Alternatives to be Considered

The following alternatives will be evaluated to determine the EFM best suited to replace chart recorders.

  • The AutoPilot EFM. The standard EFM is the Autopilot model as manufactured by Thermo Electron. This model is in widespread use throughout the Enogex gas pipeline system.
  • The Totalflow EFM model Microflo A company called Totalflow has developed a model called the Microflo. It targets the chart replacement market.
  • The development of a new EFM There may be the option for a new model EFM built to Enogex specifications to fill the need for a chart recorder replacement. A manufacturer can either build a new unit from scratch or downsize an existing unit to only those features that are needed.
  • The NuFlo Scanner model 1131 Another EFM manufacturer is NuFlo. They build the Scanner model 1131 EFM. There is not much known of this model as there are currently not any of these models in use by Enogex.
project approach and criteria for evaluating alternatives
Project Approach and Criteria for Evaluating Alternatives

The following is a preliminary list of the specific tasks to be accomplished and their approximate order:

  • Evaluate the typical chart recorder installation to determine the existing conditions relative to replacement of the chart recorder with an EFM.
  • Gather the technical data and specifications of each EFM alternative from the manufacturer. Include any options, their cost, and the impact on EFM performance.
  • Request a unit from each manufacturer suitable for a field evaluation.
  • Evaluate the technical data and specifications.
project approach and criteria for evaluating alternatives cont
Project Approach and Criteria for Evaluating Alternatives (cont)

The performance criteria will include such items as:

  • Physical size, weight, and durability
  • Configurable for non-AGA compliant applications
  • Cost of the base unit and any required features
  • Cost of accessories such as solar panel, battery, manifold, etc.
  • Transmitter accuracy (Static, Differential Pressure, and Temperature)
  • Compliance of the flow calculation to AGA 3
  • Operating temperature range
  • Software configuration options and user friendliness
  • Upgradeability of the electronics (EPROM vs. flash memory)
  • Upgradeability of the EFM features such as add-on cards
  • Compatibility with the existing microwave radio system
  • Method of communicating data
  • Availability and proximity of technical support
planned use of etm materials
Planned Use of ETM Materials

Based on the plan for evaluation of EFM’s the use of material, concepts, and techniques learned in the following classes will be used.

  • Problem Solving and Decision Making. The Kepner Tregoe method of decision analysis will be used to clarify the purpose of the decision, evaluate the alternatives available, assess the risks, and make a decision.
  • Benchmarking. This project may use some concepts learned in benchmarking. If the chart recorder site criteria are used as the standard then a method of comparing each alternative to this standard may be helpful in completing the project.
  • Strategic Project Management. The development and use of a Gantt chart is part of this project. The skills learned in the project management course will be used to identify the tasks necessary to complete this project, assign time and relationships to the tasks, and create a Gantt chart.
  • Engineering Teaming. This project will involve other members of the Measurement department. The creation of a team consisting of engineers and technicians will provide input and expertise to the decision making process.