Demystifying the Root Cause of Flowmeter Failure

Update:27 Apr 2022

In flow measurement, scale, sludge, rust, sticky matter, mud, air bubbles, non-uniform flow velocity distribution, pulsation and pipeline vibration are nine representative factors that can cause flowmeter failure. Analysis of the impact of the flowmeter, so that everyone can understand the root cause of the flowmeter failure, and it is convenient for everyone to do a good job in the installation, debugging and troubleshooting of the flowmeter.

1. Scale
This refers to an object produced when metal ions contained in groundwater or tap water crystallize and adhere to the inner wall of the pipeline. They are composed of elements such as calcium, manganese, and sodium. If too many layers of scale build up, the flow passages in the lines will narrow and restrict flow. It is also possible for scale to adhere to the inside of the flowmeter, adversely affecting the normal operation of the flowmeter. In addition, for flow meters with mechanical components, there may be debris flakes from the fouling that cause blockages.

When using rotameters and paddle wheel meters, it may happen that the display unit cannot read or the moving mechanism gets stuck. Magnetic flowmeters are rarely problematic, but if there is a thick layer of scale on the inside of the flow channel, the flowmeter may not be able to sense the voltage generated and maintenance will be required.

2. Sludge
This is a general term describing the presence of suspended matter and sediment in a fluid. On a production line, this usually includes chips and abrasive particles from the grinding machine. The sludge continues to circulate with the fluid, causing blockage of the flowmeter or causing noise disturbance. For flow meters with mechanical parts in the line, axial wear and abrasion can occur, reducing flow. While sludge can be controlled using screens or magnetic separators, complete removal is difficult and maintenance is still required.

3. Rust
Unlike scale, this is a problem when oxidation occurs inside the pipe. Adding corrosion inhibitors to the fluid can prevent rust, but unused pipes can still rust when exposed to air. When the water flows through the pipe again, the rust can flake into pieces, cause blockages inside the flowmeter, or stick to the viewing window of the rotameter.
Rust can cause the same basic problems as those listed for Sludge.

4. Sticky substance
This includes living matter in the water, such as algae and microorganisms. It resembles mud and is sticky. Like scale, it can also create blockages and obstructions in paddle wheel meters and can obscure the visible parts of the rotameter.

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