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Vortex Flow Meter - Meaning, Principle, Usage & More
by Team Kritsnam

According to study forecasts, the market for a vortex flow meter is projected to grow at a CAGR of 4.5-5% between 2021-2031. This is majorly because of the focus on expanding end-use industries like food & beverages, chemicals, and petrochemicals, where vortex flow meters are widely used.

Let us dive into the details of what a vortex flow meter is, the vortex flow meter working principle, applications across industries, and additional relevant details.

What is a Vortex Flow Meter?

The vortex flow meter is a type of volumetric flow sensor that functions based on vortex shedding principles. When liquid flows around a bluff object placed in its path, alternating vortices form downstream. 

Vortex flow meters detect and count these vortices to determine flow rates accurately. They are versatile instruments suitable for measuring flow in various industrial processes. Unlike insertion meters, a vortex flow meter replaces a portion of the pipeline rather than being inserted through it.

Vortex shedding occurs due to the interaction between the fluid flow and a bluff body placed in the flow stream. As the fluid flows past the bluff body, alternating low and high-pressure vortices are shed alternately from the upper and lower sides. These vortices travel downstream in the fluid flow in a regular pattern. 

A sensing device located downstream from the bluff body detects these vortices as they pass by and produces an electronic pulse. The number of pulses produced in a given time period is directly proportional to the flow velocity. A modern vortex flow meter uses advanced sensor technologies like piezoelectric sensors or ultrasonic sensors to detect and count the vortices.

Vortex Flow Meter Working Principle

Vortex Flow Meter

The vortex flow meter working principle is based on the phenomenon of vortex shedding. When fluid flows past an object, such as a shedder bar placed within the pipeline, alternating vortices are formed downstream in the fluid flow. The functional process of vortex flow meters can be broken down into a few key steps:

Fluid Flow:

When a fluid passes through a pipeline, it encounters the shedder bar of the vortex flow meter. As the fluid flows around the bar, alternating vortices are created as the fluid separates from the bar's surface.

Vortex Shedding:

As the fluid moves past the shedder bar, vortices form in a consistent, alternating pattern on each side of the bar. The frequency of these vortices depends on factors like the fluid's density, viscosity, and the size and shape of the shedder bar.

Pressure Fluctuations:

The vortices cause pressure fluctuations in the fluid as they are shed from the bar. A sensor mounted near the shedder bar detects these variations in pressure.

Signal Processing:

The sensor converts the pressure changes into an electrical signal. This signal is then analyzed by the flow meter's electronics.

Flow Rate Calculation:

By correlating the detected vortex shedding frequency with the fluid properties and meter design specifications, the electronics can accurately determine the flow rate.

Advantages and Disvantages of Vortex Flow Meter:

When talking about the vortex flow meter advantages and disadvantages, there are a couple on both sides.

Advantages:

One of the advantages is that they have no moving parts, resulting in a simple, robust design with a long service life. 

The vortex flow meter also features a wide measuring range, with turndown ratios typically reaching 1:10. Measurement is unaffected by fluid properties like temperature, pressure, density, and viscosity. Vortex flow meters can accurately measure the flow of liquids, gasses, and vapors. They cause minimal pressure loss and offer high accuracy along with low maintenance needs.

Disadvantages:

However, vortex flow meters also present some disadvantages. They exhibit poor anti-vibration performance, as external vibrations can induce errors or even cause the vortex meter to malfunction. High fluid velocities may lead to vibrations within the vortex body and reduced precision.

Vortex meters are unsuitable for measuring dirty or contaminated media. Strict requirements for straight piping runs before and after installation complicate the process of mounting the meter. Low Reynolds number fluids and pulsating flows cannot be properly handled by vortex flow technology as well.

Vortex Flow Meter Applications

Vortex flow meters offer highly accurate flow measurement capabilities across various industrial processes due to their ability to handle a wide range of fluid types and operating conditions.  Their non-intrusive design also makes vortex meters well-suited for many applications. 

Commonly encountered uses of vortex flow technology include measuring liquid suspensions, higher viscosity fluids, steam flow, and various water-based applications like chilled water, hot water, water-glycol mixtures, condensate, portable water, and purified varieties such as ultrapure, deionized water.

Gas measurement is another major area where vortex meters are highly useful. Natural gas pipelines extensively use these flow sensors to monitor gas transmission and distribution networks. Airflow applications in HVAC systems and industrial processes also leverage vortex flow meter accuracy. Other gas applications include compressed air systems. When it comes to liquid hydrocarbon measurement, vortex meters are implemented in crude oil custody transfer, refinery pipelines transporting petrochemicals, and related upstream and midstream oil and gas operations.

The self-validating properties and robust design of vortex flow meters have made them a go-to solution for custody transfer of commodities as well. Their ability to provide reliable, repeatable data on flow rates and volumes processed supports legal and commercial transactions of goods between parties. 

Also Read: Different Methods To Validate The Accuracy Of Flow Meter On The Field?

How to Choose the Best Vortex Flow Meter?

Choosing the right vortex flow meter for your process is crucial to ensure accurate measurement results. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting a vortex flow meter:

Fluid Properties: 

Check the fluid's physical and chemical characteristics, like density, viscosity, temperature, etc., to verify compatibility with the meter's operating limits.

Flow Rate Range:

Determine the expected maximum, minimum and average flow rates. Select a meter body size that works for the full range with an adequate turndown ratio.

Pressure and Temperature: 

Consider operating pressure and temperature conditions. Choose a meter rated higher than maximums with a suitable temperature class.

Installation Factors: 

Assess straight pipe requirements before and after installation. Opt for inserted type if space is constrained.

Application Environment: 

Select explosion-proof class and ingress protection rating as needed for hazardous/outdoor applications.

Output and Communication: 

Choose output signals like 4-20mA, pulse, RS-485 or Fieldbus to integrate with control/monitoring systems.

Accuracy Requirements:

Higher accuracy grades may be needed for critical process measurement or fiscal metering.

Maintenance Access:

Consider service/part replacement needs while installing in difficult-to-access locations.

By systematically evaluating these selection criteria based on your unique flow process parameters, you can pick the optimal vortex flow meter model from the manufacturer's specifications. This will ensure reliable, long-term performance monitoring flow in your application.

Also Read: Mechanical Flow Meter: Meaning, Pros & Cons, Selection Process

Maintenance Tips for Vortex Flow Meters

A vortex flow meter require minimal maintenance due to its no-moving-parts design. However, some basic care and inspection are needed to ensure long-term accuracy and reliability. During installation, it is important to carefully follow setup procedures and verify proper wiring, grounding and piping configuration. Initial flow calibration should be conducted to validate the meter is reading within the expected parameters.

Routine maintenance involves periodically cleaning the entire meter body to remove any build-up of process deposits or debris. The sensing module, in particular, may need to be purged if condensation or impurities tend to accumulate. Adding heat tracing to the straight inlet/outlet piping can help alleviate this issue for cold environments. Straight pipe runs should be drained regularly to eliminate any moisture pockets that could introduce measurement errors.

For online meters, the data collection system should be closely managed and monitored. Configuring automatic printouts at set intervals allows operators to analyze meter performance against process conditions over time. Any deviations can provide early signs of potential issues. Calibration against a verified reference device like a master meter or tank prover helps confirm measurement accuracy remains within tolerance.

Process parameters like fluid pulsation, pressure spikes, and vibration should be minimized as much as possible through upstream control valves or dampeners. Excessive fluctuations can potentially reduce measurement precision or even damage sensor components. 

Proper installation, regular cleaning, flow validation against secondary instruments and managing the overall data system are effective maintenance tips for vortex flow meters to maximize their service life.

Leveraging Vortex Flow Meter Technology for Precise Industrial Measurements

Vortex flow meters have emerged as a highly versatile flow measurement solution across various industries due to their accuracy, reliability and low maintenance needs. Technologies like Kritsnam's Dhaara smart water meter leverage the benefits of vortex flow sensing with IoT connectivity and data analytics to drive truly digital water management. This enables organizations to gain real-time visibility and control over their water usage.

Advanced monitoring solutions are empowering businesses and communities to make informed decisions, optimize consumption and achieve their sustainability goals - shaping a secure water future for all.

If you have any other questions or queries, please visit our website at www.kritsnam.com or mail us at info@kritsnam.com. You can also call us at +91 9703640123 between 9:00 am - 6:00 pm, Monday to Saturday. We'll be happy to help solve your queries.

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