A multiphase flow meter generally refers to a device used to measure the various forms of matter produced by oil and gas extraction. While operating an oil or gas extractor, measuring the flow of materials coming out of the reservoir is an important step. When a well produces more than one type of material — both oil and water, for example — the individual flow of each of these components must be measured. Single-phase meters might once have been the industry standard, but many oil and gas operations now depend on a multiphase flow meter to provide important information to well operators.
In many wells, production of crude resources might lead to the extraction of materials in various forms, or phases. In essence, a multiphase flow meter can help measure the various phases of materials coming out of a reservoir. For instance, a single natural gas well might produce water, air and the desired natural gas. Single-phase flow meters are built only to measure one of those parts, whether water, air or gas. Rather than relying on a separate single-flow meter for each possible byproduct, a multiphase flow meter can recognize each material, regardless of phase, and provide important measurements.
These measurements, of course, must be specific to the operation. For instance, a crude oil well may need a multiphase flow meter that measures oil, water and gas, but a natural gas well might only need to measure liquid and gas. Each well is, of course, unique and will often require a specific configuration of flow meters. A multiphase flow meter can help meet the individual measurement needs of an operation, improving operations and providing more information than single-phase flow meters.
Installing multiple single-phase flow meters for the same well and maintaining these systems over the well's productive life can be costly and difficult to manage. Single-phase flow meters are often more difficult to monitor, though they still might be necessary, depending on the situation. A multiphase flow meter, on the other hand, might work in situations in which conventional meters cannot. For instance, if an operation must combine the crude resources drawn from multiple wells, a multiphase flow meter might be able to help sort the constituent parts. Another important example and application for this type of flow meter would be subsea wells, which often produce a mixture of the crude resource and water as a result of the wells' location.