Success across several recent funding bids and commercial contracts has meant that, as of end of July 2017, NEL had already exceeded last year’s performance in terms of the value of projects underway.
“This is great news,” says Head of Sales & Marketing Andrew Fisher. “There has been significant investment in multiphase research recently and the wider business is going well too.”
As UK experts on flow measurement, NEL has had success securing research funding under the European Metrology Programme for Innovation and Research (EMPIR). The NEL team has also won significant funding from the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).
“Funding success has given us a strong foundation of work for 2017,” says Alison Crawford, NEL’s financial Controller. “Although underlying conditions in the oil and gas sector are still challenging, we have a strong order book and lots of interesting projects in the pipeline.”
Current research projects focus on issues that will bring significant benefits to business, such as the roll out of greener vehicle fuel options. NEL is also involved in the development of measurement harmonisation between multiphase flow metrology testing facilities. The projects dovetail nicely with the £16-million investment NEL is making in new facilities and with its on-going Flow Programme work.
To further drive NEL’s business development, Thomas McCudden has recently joined the organization. “My role will be Global Business Development Manager,” Thomas says. “I will be helping to develop new clients, build new relationships and ultimately win new business for NEL.”
Before joining NEL, Thomas was responsible for developing a successful sales strategy for subsea technology for global deepwater projects within the oil and gas sector.
For more details, contact Thomas McCudden.
The National Measurement System (NMS) annual review has just been published. The NMS constitutes the UK’s core infrastructure of measurement laboratories and includes NEL.
“I would recommend this report to anyone interested in how measurement research can benefit business,” says Brian Millington, NEL’s Managing Director. “It underlines the importance of the work that we, and all of the other members of the NMS, are doing.”
“The use of good measurement practice is proven,” the report notes. “A recent study found clear evidence that companies who use NMS services have higher survival rates and support from the NMS can boost employment by 10% - 15% within two to four years; with an average cost to the state of £18k to £23k per job.”
Some of the worked profiled in the report has involved NEL directly. This includes the development of a national high-pressure flow standard and the work of the Flow Measurement Institute, which has published a comprehensive assessment of research requirements for the next 10 years. NEL has also benefitted from the Analysis for Innovators Scheme, which was launched in partnership with Innovate UK and the Science and Technology Facilities Council.
Overall, the report notes that the NMS laboratories have delivered 437 different measurement services to over 731 different customers. NMS researchers have had 337 papers in peer reviewed journals, and received 43 notable awards and appointments. NMS laboratories have also maintained 445 active academic partnerships to deliver key priorities.
In addition, the NMS has represented UK interests in over 300 standards committees to ensure the UK can successfully compete globally. It also trained 1,189 people in 2016, with the 10,000th student passing through its dimensional measurement training programme.
The report also notes that, in the last year, an independent International Science Review assessed the quality and relevance of the science output of the larger NMS laboratories. The Review Panel concluded that all the NMS science areas perform at an internationally-competitive level.
Potential business partners got the chance to see an innovative new calibration system in action at a technology demonstration event which took place over two days at the end of September. The event was supported by the Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) and attracted 35 participants.
“We gave presentations on the new system and its method of operation was explained,” says Flow Measurement Consultant Craig Marshall, who has developed the system as part of the engineering doctorate he is carrying out with Coventry University. “Participants also had a tour of our facilities and got an opportunity to see the system in action and to observe real-time data being processed.”
The new calibration system has been developed to help support the measurement of heavy oil and will improve the accuracy of differential pressure meters. It is specific for meters in single phase flow conditions that are characterised by low Reynolds numbers. It is capable of measuring flow, density, viscosity and Reynolds number in real-time.
“People were very interested in the system,” says Craig. “As a result, I have meetings arranged to progress partnerships for taking the device to market. There is still development work to be done to get to a commercial end product, but I am confident that with the support of industry we will all meet our goals.”
Participants at the demonstration event included representatives from companies and organisations that could be end users of the new system and from a number of meter manufacturers. Various academic groups also came to the event, including researchers from the universities of Coventry, Strathclyde and the West of Scotland.
The event was a development of work that Craig has been undertaking during 2017 to research the commercialisation of the new calibration system. This work received an ICURe (Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research) innovation grant of £35k.
For more details, contact Craig Marshall.
The recent SPE Offshore Europe conference provided an effective opportunity to raise NEL’s profile and to spread the news about progress on our new Centre of Excellence (CoE) for Subsea Development.
“The Conference was full of people keen to put the recent downturn behind them and there was a great deal of discussion about cost-efficiencies, new technology and new ways of working and collaborating,” says Head of Sales & Marketing Andrew Fisher. “For us, one of the key moments at the conference was when Paul Wheelhouse, MSP and Scottish Government Minister for Business and Innovation, visited our stand. We briefed the Minister on how construction is going with our CoE project.”
The CoE is designed to provide a new, best-in-class, high-pressure multiphase flow test facility, with a test range beyond anything currently available anywhere else in the world. It is focussed predominantly on the £50-billion-per-annum global subsea sector and will facilitate company-led industrial projects and product development, hands-on industry training and academic research. Construction of the CoE began in September, following a ground-breaking ceremony, and the base building is anticipated to be completed by April of next year.
The Minister’s visit was hosted by Michael Valente, CEO of TUV SUD UK’s overall business, and John Batchelor, Head of TUV SUD Industry Service Operations UK.
“The conference was a great chance for us to meet our partners and to make new contacts and discuss new opportunities,” Andrew adds. “For example, we had 88 new contacts and received almost two dozen leads which we are now in the process of following-up.”
NEL’s marketing team managed to secure inclusion within the daily exhibition update magazine to further promote the new CoE and provide an update on the build. The team also participated in Scottish Development International briefings and meetings with Global Scots, a worldwide network of business contacts that works to help Scottish companies develop, expand and thrive.
The Conference took place in Aberdeen between the 5th and 8th of September. NEL exhibited as part of the Scottish Pavilion. The central theme of the 2017 event was ‘Embracing New Realities: Reinventing our Industry’. Presentations and panel sessions addressed the multiple challenges currently facing the oil and gas industry.
For more details, contact Andrew Fisher
From left to right: Michael Valente, CEO of TUV SUD UK’s overall business, and John Batchelor, Head of TUV SUD Industry Service Operations UK, Paul Wheelhouse, MSP and Scottish Government Minister for Business and Innovation
Post updated from 11 October 2017
The ground-breaking ceremony for NEL’s new Centre of Excellence (CoE) for subsea development took place in September. The spade-wielding honours were carried out by Michael Valente, CEO of TUV SUD UK’s overall business, Oliver Jacob, CEO Western Europe at TÜV SÜD, and Stephen Lewis, Managing Director of HFD Property Group, which is undertaking the work.
“Starting the building work of the CoE brings to life our mission to help industry optimise all aspects of production through accurate measurement,” says NEL Managing Director, Brian Millington. “It also supports Scotland’s international standing within the global oil and gas sector.”
Construction began in September and the base building is anticipated to be completed by April of next year. The extensive fit-out needed to complete the facility will then commence.
The cutting-edge performance of the equipment that will be installed in the building, means that the structure must have impressive performance capabilities. It will feature 100kN/m² high-load floors, 12m-high eaves, overhead cranes and a dedicated service yard.
At the heart of the new CoE will be a £1.45million, full production scale separator. This specialist pressure vessel is 33m long and 2.5m diameter with an operating weight of 270 tonnes. It will provide a range of test and research facilities with capabilities beyond anything available globally.
The start of the work on the new CoE has generated significant press coverage in both the Industry Press and on-line. Progress on the facility was also discussed at September’s Offshore Europe Exhibition, when Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish Government Minister for Business and Innovation, visited NEL’s stand(see associated article).
TÜV SÜD AG is investing £11.1 million in the project, which is the largest capital investment to date in the company’s UK business. This money is being provided alongside £4.9 million of research and development funding from Scottish Enterprise.
“This is a fantastic milestone in the Centre’s development,” says Linda Hanna, Managing Director of Strategy and Sectors at Scottish Enterprise. “It will enable Scotland to maximise its competitiveness in multiphase flow measurement and support the sector to take further advantage of opportunities in the £50 billion global subsea market.”
Designed to provide a new, best-in-class, high-pressure multiphase flow test facility, with a test range beyond anything currently available anywhere else in the world, the CoE is focussed predominantly on the £50-billion-per-annum global subsea sector. It will facilitate company-led industrial projects and product development, hands-on industry training and academic research. Creating at least 17 new jobs and safeguarding a further 82, the centre will futureproof the delivery of innovative technical services to the oil and gas production market for the next 25 years.
For more details, contact Marietta Hughes
From left to right: Stephen Lewis, Managing Director of HFD Property Group, Michael Valente, CEO of TUV SUD UK’s overall business, Oliver Jacob, CEO Western Europe at TÜV SÜD
Work has begun on an important piece of new research funded under the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). The research aims to develop traceable methodology and standards for the in-situ verification of multiphase flow meters.
“The project has been launched and we have started on the first major step of the research,” says Project Manager, David Crawford. “We are developing a new in-situ technique for establishing relevant fluid properties like density, mass absorption coefficients and viscosity without the need for physical samples. This is vital, as multiphase flow meter performance is highly dependent upon knowledge of fluid properties.”
The ISCF-funded research addresses a major challenge affecting many industries. This is the fact that real-world conditions can affect the performance of flow sensors, causing significant errors. This problem is particularly challenging for oil and gas companies that have to measure complex multiphase fluid mixtures in remote and inaccessible environments.
“The challenge for flow measurement is to take the process of calibration and verification from the laboratory and move it to the ‘in-situ’ location,” says David. “, we are aiming to develop an approach to the verification of flow meter performance that accounts for real-world influences and allows users to have ongoing confidence in the measurements they receive. The applications of this research will be many and varied, from upstream oil and gas production and reactor control in nuclear power, to food and beverage production control.”
The research will include the development of methods and protocols to translate performance under laboratory conditions to industry operating conditions. It will also involve developing, testing and validating new state-of-the-art sensor technologies to determine the quality of measurements both in-situ and in real time.
NEL is in discussions with Heriot-Watt and Strathclyde Universities, CENSIS and Schlumberger Cambridge about this research.
The in-situ flow measurement research project is one of two ISCF-funded projects currently running at NEL. The other is focusing on the measurement of hydrogen gas when it is used as a vehicle fuel. The ISCF is a strategic element of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. The fund is being delivered by Innovate UK and the Research Councils.
For more details, contact us.
A high-value programme of meter testing for a leading oil exploration and production company from the Middle East is underway at NEL shortly. The project highlights NEL’s growing profile in the region and the flexibility of its test facilities.
“When we were initially discussing the project with the client, they advised that they would require specific reference fluids to be used. We were happy to meet their needs,” says David Millington, who is leading the project. “We usually use magnesium sulphate salts, but we will be replacing them with sodium chloride salts for this project.”
“This is quite an unusual request,” David explains, adding that sodium chloride salts are not usually used because they can be corrosive. “In fact,” he says. “I think that the main reason the customer selected NEL was because we could offer the flexibility and technological capability to comply with this requirement.”
The project involves the testing of five meters in the multiphase test facility at NEL’s East Kilbride laboratory. Three of these units are water cut meters, the other two are multiphase meters. The tests, which are scheduled to last for between three and four weeks, will quantify the base-line performance of the meters to a high degree of accuracy. There is an extensive test matrix for this project and a wide range of test fluid salinities are being used.
“This is our first testing project for this client and we are now delighted to be on their approved suppliers list,” David says. “We hope to build on this relationship in the future and establish ourselves even more firmly in the Middle East market.”
“In recent years our presence and profile in the region has grown,” David adds. “It is a competitive market in which to operate, but we are well-known for our expertise in multiphase meter testing and research.”
For more details, contact David Millington.
The benefits of using controlled reference fluids rather than live hydrocarbon fluids for calibration was highlighted at a recent webinar which attracted participants from around the world.
“The webinar, titled ‘From the Lab to the Field’, looked at the challenge of how to get the best performance out of a meter,” says Principal Consultant, Dr Norman Glen who ran the knowledge transfer session. “My main message was that, by using reference fluids to calibrate a flow meter you get better control. Although reference fluids are not what the system sees in service, our experience shows that this approach along with in-situ testing gives the best results.”
Norman highlighted the rationale and advantages of using controlled reference fluids, including the fact that they are stable, have well-defined properties and that they are generally safe. Although the alternative, live (hydrocarbon) fluids, are representative of what multiphase flow meters (MPFM) experience in service; they are potentially hazardous and unstable, exhibit component transfer between phases and higher uncertainty in their fluid properties.
To underline his point, Norman highlighted Guidance Notes for Petroleum Measurement, produced by the Oil & Gas Authority. These notes state that the use of ‘model’ calibration fluids is “not only far less hazardous to operate but the PVT characteristics of the fluids are likely to be relatively well understood so that it becomes possible to compare the reference measurements with those of the MPFM with minimal additional uncertainty.”
“We used the webinar to highlight lots of other key issues relating to meter implementation, such as good metrology practice and fluid property issues,” Norman adds. “We also highlighted recent relevant developments at NEL. These included the EMPIR MultiFlowMet II project, designed to achieve measurement harmonisation between multiphase flow metrology testing facilities. The webinar produced a number of questions, mainly on calculation and uncertainty issues associated with fluid properties and on how best to account for changes due to temperature and pressure.”
For more details, contact Norman Glen.
The 2017 International Flow Battery Forum (IFBF) covered a wide range of topics of relevance to the flow battery industry. Alongside the Forum, a related International Electrotechnical Commission technical committee meeting also took place. This discussed the ongoing development of important new standards for flow battery systems.
Patrick Jones, a Senior Engineer who helps manage NEL’s renewable energy test site at Myres Hill, attended the Forum and the meeting of the PEL/21 technical committee, which is responsible for the preparation of product standards for all secondary cells and batteries.
“I described my work on wind turbine metering and answered questions on accuracy and other issues,” says Patrick, whose expertise led to him being invited to attend the standards discussion. “I also took part in a joint standards working group looking at flow battery systems for stationary applications, as I have overseen the installation of such a battery system at our Myers Hill site, near Glasgow, for a South Korean company.”
The PEL/21 technical committee meeting involved people from many countries including China and Japan. Most were developers of the technology under discussion. The committee was specifically addressing the different aspects of the development of IEC 62932-2-1 ED1 - battery systems for stationary systems.
“Battery systems for stationary applications will help ensure the continuity of renewable energy supply,” Patrick explains. “By building energy storage into a system you can increase the penetration and uptake of renewable energy. The new standards that are being developed will underpin this work and will, for example, help project managers determine which battery technology to choose.”
The 2017 IFBF was held in June in Manchester, England. Over 200 delegates from 24 different countries representing more than 130 industrial companies, research and development institutions, universities and colleges attended the conference. Sessions included updates on developments in flow battery technology and materials and improvements in performance, manufacturing and commercialization.
“There were a wide range of speakers, poster presentations, and field visits,” says Patrick. “The international flavour of the conference was of particular interest to me, as was the range of technologies discussed. It will be interesting to see which will come through most successfully.”
For more details, contact Patrick Jones.
New research has demonstrated that the API standard for calculating oil density at elevated pressures is significantly in error. The scope of this NEL research is now being expanded and it is hoped that the work will have significant benefits for industry and academia.
“Using our reference densitometer, we carried out a series of measurements of the density of refined oil at elevated pressure and compared our results with those that would be produced using API correction factors,” says Principal Consultant, Dr Norman Glen. “We concluded that, in situations where you need to know density to a high degree of accuracy and at elevated temperatures and pressures, using the API approach may lead to significant errors.”
“We are looking at how best to publicise our findings and at conducting a more extensive research programme that will encompass crude oils,” says Dr Glen, who adds that the widely-used API standard is generally fit for purpose when correcting over a small range of temperatures and pressures (e.g. a couple of degrees or bars).
The use of the new data from the NEL research has been shown to improve the uncertainty of determinations by a factor of ten. As a direct consequence, the mass flow rate uncertainty associated with NEL’s recently commissioned Elevated Pressure Oil Facility has been substantially reduced and there are expectations that the research will be of major benefit to NEL’s new Multiphase Centre of Excellence, which will operate at high pressures and temperatures, and its existing wet-gas facility.
For more details, contact Dr Norman Glen
The 10 research projects that are being carried out under NEL and Coventry University’s joint EngD programme are moving forward strongly and have already produced a number of interesting outputs.
“The initial group of students in the programme will soon be celebrating two years’ of study on their EngD course,” says Group Manager Lynn Hunter. “They are currently preparing for their yearly review meetings with their supervisor teams this month.
“The second tranche of researchers only started on the MRes programme in May,” Lynn adds, “so they have a long way to go. Come next May they will complete their first Progress Review Panel and transfer to the full EngD course. However, all of the researchers are progressing well with their work and are coming up with some interesting findings.”
The outputs from the research include poster presentations and a journal article. One of the researchers has presented a paper at a conference and is running a technology showcase day to promote the technology he is investigating.
“I’m hoping to finalise and submit my final thesis in the next year,” says Craig Marshall, one of the students in the first tranche of programme participants. Craig’s research aims to combine meter technologies to create a hybrid flow measurement device for high viscosity fluid applications that will maximise accuracy and minimise operational drawbacks.
As Craig’s work illustrates, all of the research being carried out under the EngD programme has a strong industry focus. Topics include the evaluation and improvement of pressure loss estimations, subsea flow assurance in oil and gas production, advancing wet gas flow measurement through the use of ultrasonic flow meters and developing a new approach for the detailed profiling of Coriolis meters.
The EngD programme, which takes a total of four years, is being delivered by in-house experts from Coventry University and NEL.
For more details, contact Lynn Hunter.
Flow Measurement expert Gilbert Tonner has returned from his posting in Southeast Asia to head up NEL’s consultancy team. He started his new position at the beginning of August.
“My role is to work with our team of consultants from all departments, to ensure that they provide the best possible service,” says Gilbert. “This is a great opportunity as they are a group of really committed individuals with a range of unique talents, experience and expertise. We will be building on NEL’s strong reputation as the consultant of choice for oil and gas metering and measurement.”
Gilbert will be working with his team to increase the recognition and prominence of NEL’s consultancy services, both to internal and external clients. His team will also be working to highlight the capabilities of the lab’s new and improved facilities, such as its Elevated Pressure and Temperature (EPAT) test unit.
Gilbert is developing a strategic plan for the development and growth of NEL’s consultancy arm. This will be rolled out over the next few months. Part of this plan will involve putting in place a personal development programme for consultants alongside a ‘toolkit’ which will bring all the software that the team are currently using into one system.
“We will be identifying the personal development and technical training requirements of each of our team to help them become customer-focused consultants who are at the cutting edge of developments in industry and research,” he explains. “To focus our work we will also be carrying out client perception surveys and audits with our internal and external clients.
Gilbert has had a long and successful career in the engineering industry. This included a Managing Directorship in a specialised Engineering Consultancy Company. The majority of his career has been focused on flow measurement, sampling and analysis in the oil and gas industry.
He has spent the last five years working in Southeast Asia, based in Kuala Lumpur, where he launched and developed NEL’s flow measurement consultancy service in the region.
Meter testing work for a leading international manufacturer has resulted in excellent feedback and the commissioning of further work.
“I am proud to say that we received strong feedback this month from one of our key customers, Endress & Hauser,” says Principal Consultant, Dr Norman Glen. “The company has been working with us to test a meter from its Promass Q range in our density facility. Due to the success of this project, we have secured substantial future testing work from the client.”
“The company gave our team excellent satisfaction scores in all areas,” Norman explains. “It also provided the following summary comment: ‘Very professional staff and technical equipment’. Endress & Hauser has also submitted a paper to the North Sea Flow Measurement Workshop which incorporates our work.”
The testing involved characterising the density performance of the Proline Promass Q Coriolois flowmeter across an extended range of temperatures and pressures (the meter was tested across a range of temperatures from 10 – 100oC and at pressures up to 150 bar).
“Endress & Hauser came to us for a number of reasons,” Norman says. “The company claims that across the temperature range 20-60oC its meter can achieve an exceptional density measurement performance, with an uncertainty of 0.02%. They therefore required a facility with exceptional capabilities to test this.”
“We were also able to carry out a non-standard test that few other facilities can provide,” Norman adds. “This involved deliberately making the air round the meter a different temperature to the fluid passing through the meter. This was done to replicate real-world conditions in situations where significant temperature gradients are experienced, for example in Siberia or in a desert.”
Endress+Hauser is a global leader in measurement instrumentation, services and solutions for industrial process engineering. Its Promass Q Coriolis flowmeters have been developed to provide high accuracy levels in real world conditions, for applications in the oil and gas and food industries.
For more details, contact Norman Glen.
The upgrade of the in-line blower system that is a key part of NEL’s National Standard Gas Flow Test Facility was completed at the end of August. BEIS Flow Programme Funding was used to fund this aspect of the facility revamp, which aims to keep NEL at the cutting edge of flow-metering research and testing.
“The work on the in-line blower system has improved its performance, streamlined its maintenance and increased its long-term operational life,” says Muir Porter, NEL’s Business Manager. “The revamp will extend our operating capability in line with future requirements. It is expected that, due to the improvements that have been made, dry gas volumes may be increased beyond 2,200 m3/hr.”
The dry and wet gas facility’s in-line blower system is a bespoke part of the test facility and provides the driving force that circulates gas through the system. It comprises an encapsulated drive motor and in-line centrifugal fan within a pressure vessel, and is controlled using with variable speed drive.
The operational efficiency of the re-vamped blower has been significantly improved thanks to new hi-efficiency drives and low-maintenance, heavy-duty bearings. These enhancements will increase service reliability and improve test completion times for both research projects and NEL’s customers.
“The blower was an aging item of plant,” explains Muir. “It required downtime every two hundred hours of service to re-grease the bearings. This was a constraint on the operating envelope of the test facility.”
“Rather than replace it with a new bespoke unit,” Muir explains. “It was decided to commission the original manufacturer to replace and improve relevant parts. This was by far the most cost-effective route.
NEL’s Gas flow testing facility is the UK’s only independent commercial test centre that can generate wet gas flows using water and oil simultaneously. As it more accurately replicates the real-world conditions faced by industry, it reduces the uncertainty and financial exposure that operators experience.
For more details, contact Muir Porter.
A LiDAR remote sensing unit supplied by NEL is providing a practical and cost-effective way for the States of Guernsey to obtain reliable recordings of its coastal wind resources.
“Our equipment and support will help policy makers in Guernsey determine the renewable power generation and supply route they will go down in the future,” explains Leon Youngs, Business Leader for Mobile Testing Services. “This link-up was made possible through contacts within Exeter University, which is also involved in the project.”
The LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) unit is being deployed by the States of Guernsey Renewable Energy Team (RET) at Chouet Headland alongside an existing anemometer, which has been monitoring wind speed since 2012. The project is part of RET’s continuing investigation into Guernsey’s local wind resources.
NEL is supplying the LiDAR system to RET through a two-year rental agreement. NEL is also providing technical support to ensure the accuracy of the data that is collected. This is being done alongside the manufacturer, Zephir.
The LiDAR unit, which operates by sending out a beam of light and measuring the frequency shift of the backscattered light, will allow wind speeds to be measured at a number of heights above the ground.
The LiDAR unit will be on site for a period of two years. It was deployed in August by Exeter University, following a student project to design and build a renewable energy and battery storage power unit for the system. This will supply 100% of the power requirements of the LiDAR, allowing the unit to be completely off-grid.
For more details, contact Leon Youngs.
NEL is a world class provider of technical consulting, research, measurement, testing and programme management services to clients across many industries including oil & gas, renewable and sustainable energy, process and government.
NEL also holds the UK National Standards for flow measurement and has an international reputation in key engineering areas such as flow measurement, computational fluid dynamics, environmental and thermal engineering.