Metering success

Boasting a lineage that dates back over 160 years, Elster-Instromet specialises in the design and production of innovative gas measuring and regulating devices for the gas transmission and distribution market.

The main staples of the company’s product portfolio include turnkey integrated metering solutions, energy measuring systems, ultrasonic, turbine, rotary and diaphragm meters as well as gas regulators for low, medium and high pressure. Besides this are electronic volume correctors, station flow computers and supervisory systems. The company is part of the Business Unit Gas of the Elster Group, which is based in Luxembourg and employs approximately 9000 people worldwide

Elster-Instromet is a result of a merger between Elster and Instromet, which took place in June 2005. Detailing the development, Jacob Freeke, the sales and marketing director, says: “Both of the companies have been active in the gas measurement market for a substantial amount of time. Instromet was established in 1965, focusing on innovative upstream solutions, whilst Elster has been operating since 1848 and focuses more on distribution and downstream solutions, so there is a great deal of experience within the business.” Detailing the combined strengths of each side of the organisation, he continues: “Both sides compliment each other nicely so, as Elster-Instromet, we now cover the entire natural gas value chain.

“One of the main differentiators between our competitors and ourselves is the core focus that we have on gas. There isn’t any other organisation in the world that has such a wide range of gas metering solutions in its product portfolio. What also sets Elster-Instromet apart is the high level of quality and innovation that is apparent in our products. We have built an impressive proven track record in designing and supplying many calibration systems around the world, as well as delivering top quality reference meters for gas calibrations. We have a reputation in the market for the very best solutions that lower the levels of uncertainty for our clients, which is very important when you are selling billions of cubic meters of gas every year,” he says.

Jacob elaborates on the structure of the business: “Elster-Instromet BV, based in Silvolde in the Netherlands, is the centre of excellence for mechanical meters, flow computers and energy meters, whilst Elster-Instromet NV in Essen, Belgium is the centre of excellence for integrated metering solutions and ultrasonic flowmeters. These are mostly connected with the up-stream activities that we carry out, where we design and supply integrated metering solutions that meet the specific needs of the industry. It is vital that our customers get accurate and reliable systems as they are trading huge amounts of gas, worth a great deal. Consequently we address the possible risks through continuous monitoring of performance and validation systems, which provides solid confidence levels.”

The need for Elster’s products is likely to grow in the coming years; with the demand and cost for energy rising, the importance of developing natural gas as an alternative energy source is paramount. With the demand for precise, highly developed metering solutions set to increase, Jacob believes the company has more than proven itself capable of meeting the needs of the market.

With Elster-Instromet working with such major customers as Fluxys, Gaz De France, Gasunie, NAM, Shell and SNAM Retegas, it is no exaggeration to say that the company’s equipment and solutions play a big part in the smooth running of gas infrastructures all over Europe. It is therefore understandable that Jacob is keen to foster close working relationships, as he explains: “We have regular meetings with some of our key clients, which gives both parties the opportunity to bounce ideas around and to give and receive feedback. Our customers appreciate this as it brings them further improvements to better suit their needs, and at the end of the day, they are the final users and they have to operate, live and be happy with the equipment that we are supplying.”

That client portfolio is set to increase further in the near future, with Elster-Instromet having just secured one of the most high profile contracts in the organisation’s history. It comes just as the company has almost completed one of the biggest projects ever for Dolphin Energy Ltd in the Middle East – adding further credibility to Jacob’s claim that Elster-Instromet has a proven track record for quality in the gas industry. “We have been selected as a sole supplier by the Nederlands Meetinstituut (NMi) for all gas reference flow meters and gas chromatographs for the new EuroLoop project in Rotterdam. This is a new world class flow test and calibration facility, which we are very excited about, and it is a fantastic testament to the quality of our turbine meters and ultrasonic meters,” he comments.

One of the products that Jacob is particularly keen to highlight is the range of ultra-sonic flow meters, an area that he has worked within for the last 17 years. “It is certainly one of the emerging areas of the industry,” he says. “The technology is growing at a rate of approximately ten per cent a year, whereas the market shares of the more traditional methods have stayed at a stable rate year-on-year. One of the major factors pushing the popularity of ultra-sonic technology is that because it doesn’t have any moving parts there is no turbine or possibility of a pressure drop. It is just an open piece of pipe that eliminates the chance of a bottleneck when the system is in full flow and reduces maintenance.

“There is a growing demand for increasing capacity in the market; companies want to feed more gas through the same pipelines but they don’t want to increase their infrastructure,” Jacob comments. “Because the ultra-sonic technology increases the flow of gas and doesn’t require much maintenance, it satisfies these needs. We have already supplied 4000 worldwide and it is definitely gaining in popularity. It has the potential to become as popular as turbine meters, of which there are probably about 100,000 installed worldwide. We believe the market is ready for it; there is a great deal of focus on ultra-sonic at conferences and in industry papers that are published.”

With the future in mind, Jacob is confident the company’s growth will continue and his belief is that gas will remain one of the worlds most prominent energy sources, for the foreseeable future at least. “As a company, we would like to expand organically and via acquisitions. The market is certainly capable of supporting such growth, the expectation is that gas will overtake oil by 2030 and there is sufficient gas until at least 2100. The outlook for our market segment is promising and positive.

“We will see Elster-Instromet further strengthen its leading position, in terms of both technology and market share. We will be focusing on the growth regions of Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe as they are the areas that we expect to see the most economic growth and demand for energy,” he concludes.


Services: Gas metering and regulating devices