Issue 08 2011
The measure of the market
Whilst the Elster-Instromet name was only introduced in 2005 following the merger of Elster and Instromet, these two former businesses have been associated with high-quality and innovative gas measuring and regulating devices for more than 170 years.
Today, Elster-Instromet operates as part of the Germany-based Elster Group, which is a world leader in Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and integrated metering and utilisation solutions. In contribution to these activities Elster-Instromet manufactures a wide scope of energy measuring systems including ultrasonic, turbine, rotary, and diaphragm meters, as well as gas regulators for low, medium, and high pressure.
Since 2009, Elster-Instromet has continued to achieve a steady growth of between three and five per cent each year. In particular the business has concentrated on further integrating its water, gas, and electricity metering product lines into one complete approach, targeted at the smart grid and AMI areas of the residential market. “As well as the low pressure distribution end of the market, we have also paid close attention to the high pressure upstream and midstream aspect of the gas value chain. Therefore we have looked to capitalise on the global growth in gasification and pipeline transmission. Given our background as a company we feel we have a strong base to further apply our strengths to the growing regions of Brazil, Russia, China, and India,” comments Jacob Freeke, marketing director of Elster-Instromet.
He continues: “Already the business is seeing good figures in China, and Russia is also showing significant signs of activity and growth, as is Brazil and other areas of South America in general. Many of these fast emerging companies are traditionally focused on conventional natural gas, which is easy to produce. However we are also seeing increased activity, particularly in the US, in non-conventional gases such as tight gas or shale gas. Therefore this is another key area on our growth radar and we are looking at the specific product needs that fit in with the typical shale gas applications.
“In keeping with its innovative history, Elster-Instromet has recently launched a number of key new developments. The first of these is a next generation ultrasonic flow meter named ‘Q.Sonic Plus’, which is an electronic meter with no moving parts offering a much greater measurement range compared to a traditional turbine meter product. We’re excited about our new generation electronics with an enhanced path configuration and new transducer technology.” As a pioneer in the field of ultrasonic flow meters and a manufacturer for over 20 years the company knows what it takes to develop a product that can be relied upon when metering really matters.
To date, Elster-Instromet has supplied more than 4000 ultrasonic flow meters worldwide. “We’ve built on the strengths of our previous generations of Q-Sonic, and incorporated a number of major new developments based on new thinking and customer feedback to develop the Q.Sonic Plus,” Jacob explains. The second heralds a much more significant breakthrough from a technology perspective, which Jacob is keen to elaborate upon: “Known as TurbinScope, this is a unique in-situ diagnostic tool, which examines turbine meter performance under real operating conditions. The TurbinScope simply monitors the pulses generated by the turbine meters, and this data is then analysed to determine the equipment condition.
“Given the high volumes, and costs, involved in bulk gas transfer, it is vital that the amount of risk and uncertainty associated with measurements is kept as low as possible. As such, turbine meters and ultrasonic meters are initially calibrated at a third party high-pressure calibration facility, and this process has to be regularly carried out to ensure optimum accuracy. This involves a lengthy process of depressurising and removing the meter from the pipeline, shipping it for calibration, and then reinstalling and pressuring it after. Whilst the TurbinScope is not a replacement for a full high-pressure calibration, it is able to identify whether the meter actually needs to be recalibrated at that time. Therefore we have already seen a positive reaction to this product in the market.”
These underlying issues are also the driving force behind Elster-Instromet’s recent completion of its next generation mobile calibration test rig. As the third unit of its type built by the company, Elster-Instromet has made full use of its past experience in delivering this project. The facility is mounted on a truck and is aimed at the Chinese market, where gas transportation covers a large distance. Equipped with a calibration data acquisition system, three turbine master meter lines, and an ultrasonic reference meter, the unit can be used to check, validate and calibrate meters along the pipeline, without the need to ship them to a third party facility.
Elster-Instromet has also been significantly involved in one of China’s major West East Pipeline projects, carrying over 30 billion cubic metres of gas each year and incorporating over 65 measurement metering stations. Within this context Elster-Instromet supplied approximately 150 ultrasonic flow meters, as well as supporting equipment and peripherals. With this success to its name, Jacob highlights how Elster-Instromet has achieved such a reputation across the globe: “One of our primary strengths is our heritage and proven track record in the industry. We also benefit from not being constricted to one type of product or technology; we are able to combine the innovative with the more traditional ways of metering.
“The turbine meter is still the primary and reference standard used by the calibration facilities, so it has a lot of credibility in the market. However, we are also able to meet the current trend for ultrasonic flow meters, and combine these two independent measurement principles into one integrated metering solution. As such, we can have both an ultrasonic meter and turbine meter measuring the gas flow at the same time, with the ability to compare them if something deviates. At present we are the only manufacturer in the market who has this capability within our own product portfolio.”
This position is clearly demonstrated by the fact that Elster-Instromet is involved in over 80 per cent of all international calibration facilities, in terms of the equipment supplied or construction of the site itself. When you consider that in turn energy resources are vital to every country and economy, there is no question of the importance in efficiently maintaining these supplies. With this in mind, Jacob concludes with his strategy for aligning Elster-Instromet even more effectively to this market: “Our plan is to play further to our strengths by investing more in our sales and marketing efforts. As part of this we are creating a very focused team of people to work on the major international gas pipeline projects in a targeted fashion. The continued improvement and refining of our whole product portfolio by bringing in new technologies is also important, and this has already been boosted by our recent acquisition of a specialised gas analysis technology firm in Germany. We are also committed to further capitalising on the opportunities of ultrasonic flow metering.”
Products: Gas metering devices