Virtual flow metering enters reality

OE Staff

March 28, 2013

Dean Arnison, subsea controls business leader at GE Oil & Gas subsea systems group, revealed that GE as a group is working on virtual flow metering with a field specific package developed last year being installed by an operator ready for first gas in mid2013. For its virtual flow measurement capability GE is moving towards commercialisation later this year with a generic version of the field-specific pilot installation.

Virtual flow metering is a method of calculating the flow rates through a system based on the existing instrumentation, knowledge of the facility and the properties of the fluid. This is made possible with the use of correlations that relate the flow rate to the pressure and temperature drop through the system. Although in some instances virtual flow metering can be considered as an alternative to physical metering it is often applied more successfully as a complementary technology – where the different measurement principles of each method can be used to cross-correlate actual and predicted flows to improve the overall accuracy.

Virtual flow measurement has an attraction in that the prediction solution is relatively insensitive to the loss of one or two physical measurements across a multi-well field. In other high integrity industry sectors such high availability systems are described as having ‘graceful degradation’ properties.

“Our strategy is to go-to-market as One GE, building on the strength and expertise of our unique solutions and product portfolio positioning to develop leading subsea electrical and power solutions for the oil and gas industry,” Arnison explained.

GE engineers at Nailsea, UK.

“With that technical frame, at subsea controls business we have the opportunity to develop a batch of Smart applications which add value to the operation of a subsea multi-well field.

“These applications leverage GE’s research capabilities together with our applications experience drawn from other industry sectors as diverse as aerospace and wind energy. Each Smart application requires a model of the dynamics – typically of fluid flow, of a mechanical mechanism, or of electrical flow – through subsea located hardware.”

Experience and detailed knowledge of the equipment design (the domain competence of a subsea systems tier one supplier such as GE Oil & Gas) and the ability to perform multi-variable optimisation calculations allows GE to build such models. GE is at the early stages of piloting these technologies, leading to a tangible demonstration of the ‘value add’ proposition, one example being virtual flow metering.