Quantitative multi-species hydrocarbon metrology in gas pipelines

Lead Research Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering and Physical Science


Accurately monitoring the flow of natural gas from a petroleum reservoir is a critical capability that enables petroleum companies to quantify the productivity of their oil and gas fields. Conventional flow meters operate on "dry gas" (in which no oil or water is present) and offer no compositional information about the gas, simply providing an average mass-flow rate. A product delivering the flow rates of individual hydrocarbons would add significant value by allowing the energy transported to be calculated, opening up new markets such as "custody transfer", in which oil and gas are transferred from one operator to another. A further generalisation would be a meter providing compositional information of "wet gas", in which oil and water are also present, as is common from gas fields that are nearing the end of their productive lifetime. Enhancing conventional flow meters with compositional information would increase the addressable market from £2.4B to £6.7B. This market is both large and timely, with customers who are able to invest in development once a working prototype has been demonstrated. It is therefore well suited to IPS funding, offering a potentially high return on investment on a timescale of 3 to 6 years.

This proposal is a partnership between Heriot-Watt University and two companies -- GM Flow, a leader in dry-gas metering, and Chromacity, which spun out from Heriot-Watt in 2013 and has commercialized our mid-infrared laser technology. STFC investment of £353K will be leveraged by direct and in-kind contributions > £400K from the industrial partners and £88K (20% FEC) from Heriot-Watt. Post-project investment of a further £400K is committed by the industrial partners to complete commercialization of the technology.

The project will lead to the commercialization of an innovative gas metering product providing laser-based multi-species gas concentration measurement, and drawing on our recent STFC-funded (ST/P00699X/1) research in this area. The vision is that by the end of the project the partners will be ready to bring to market a complete system, comprising an integrated laser and spectrometer, with fibre delivery of mid-IR light to a remote flow-meter head. Chromacity will lead the system integration, GM Flow the flow-meter design and Heriot-Watt the optical design and data processing aspects. A collaboration with the ORC in Southampton will give the project access to innovative low-loss "hollow core" mid-IR fibres, as an alternative to commercially available but higher loss fluoride glass fibres.

STFC IPS funding will be used strategically to resolve the technical or commercial "known unknowns" that currently stand as roadblocks to the technical realization of the concept or its commercialization. Technical questions which will be addressed include: understanding the range and limitations of fibre-delivered broadband light for mid-IR spectroscopy; assessing the capability and limitations of algorithms for extracting concentrations of multiple hydrocarbons; and identifying the best practical embodiments for fibre-fed spectroscopy within a flow-meter. Similarly, the project will answer commercially important questions, such as whether the measurement uncertainty provided by the technique is compatible with customer requirements. Field trials with potential early adopters will also provide vital feedback needed to define the minimum viable product acceptable by the market.

The project will leverage resources (notably a £90K Chromacity mid-IR laser) from an earlier STFC funded CLASP project project, with the main STFC funding being used for consumables and PDRA resource. As a practical knowledge exchange mechanism, the PDRA will transition in Year 3 to spending 50% of his time in Chromacity, with the associated cost met by the company.


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Description Chromacity 
Organisation Chromacity Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Co-development of fibre delivered gas spectroscopy
Collaborator Contribution Co-development of fibre delivered gas spectroscopy
Impact Joint publication
Start Year 2019
Description GM Flow 
Organisation GM Flow Measurement Services Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Gas flow cell co-development for high pressure gas spectroscopy.
Collaborator Contribution Gas flow cell co-development for high pressure gas spectroscopy.
Impact No specific outcomes yet due to COVID delays
Start Year 2019