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Metering Research Facility

The SwRI Metering Research Facility (MRF) is a high-accuracy natural gas flow laboratory used for meter research, calibration, and testing. The MRF provides assistance with flow meter design, development, and calibration; meter station layout and optimization; field meter diagnostics and trouble-shooting; gas sampling methods; and personnel training.

Using a test medium of either natural gas or nitrogen, the MRF provides a broad range of test conditions similar to those experienced in the field. Gravimetric flow calibration standards at the MRF provide NIST-traceable mass flow rate measurement accuracies on the order of ±0.1 to ±0.25 percent, depending on the specific test conditions. Test gas flow rates up to approximately 7,000,000 standard cubic feet per hour can be provided at pressures ranging from near atmospheric to 1,100 psig. Pipe and flow meter diameters from approximately 1 inch to 20 inches can be accommodated.

To cover the necessary range of test flow conditions, the MRF includes two primary flow systems: a High Pressure Loop (HPL) and a Low Pressure Loop (LPL). See the operational ranges for both of these re-circulating flow systems. Located at a single site, both systems are operated from a single control center. While individual gravimetric calibration systems are used as primary flow standards at the MRF, sonic nozzles that have been calibrated against the primary flow standards are used as the operating standards for normal testing. An on-line, laboratory-grade gas chromatograph (capable of resolving hydrocarbon constituents up to C9) is used for detailed analysis of the test gas composition.

The Metering Research Facility was initially constructed by Gas Technology Institute (GTI) in the late 1980s in direct response to a growing need within the natural gas industry in the United States for improving the state-of-the-art of gas flow measurement. The concept of a natural gas industry metering research and calibration facility was first proposed during the 1980s in the Gas Industry Measurement Plan prepared by the Operating Section of the American Gas Association. The plan recommended the development of an independent, qualified flow test facility that would be operated under the sponsorship of the U.S. natural gas industry. This facility had to be capable of providing performance data on a broad spectrum of meter types and sizes over a wide range of flow conditions. In response, GTI initiated the development of the MRF at SwRI in San Antonio, Texas in 1987. The initial stage of MRF construction was completed in 1991. Operational enhancements to the facility continued through 1994. In 2003, SwRI purchased the MRF from GTI and is now the sole owner/operator of the facility.

The MRF supports a variety of externally-funded research, as well as commercial test and calibration work. The research generally addresses the priority measurement needs of the natural gas industry of the United States by providing a comprehensive flow measurement research and development program aimed at improving meter performance in the field. Research areas include turbine flow meters, ultrasonic flow meters, Coriolis flow meters, orifice flow meters, positive-displacement flow meters, pipeline gas sampling methods, gas quality determination, and direct energy measurement.

To learn more about the Metering Research Facility at SwRI, visit www.mrf.swri.org.

Inquiries concerning use of the MRF should be made to:

Terry Grimley
Southwest Research Institute
6220 Culebra Road
P.O. Drawer 28510
San Antonio, Texas 78228-0510
Phone (210) 522-2353
Fax (210) 681-9661

Division Publications

Fluids and Machinery Engineering Department
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April 15, 2014