Many modern homes enjoy the comfort and convenience of natural gas for heating and cooking. This resource may only be thought of once a month when a utility bill comes in the mail. That bill normally shows not only a total amount due but also a measurement of the amount of gas used during the month. How is that measured? A quick glance back at history and science can help explain this mystery. Understanding orifice plates and the measurement of fluid flows is just ahead

Original Science

In 1797, an Italian scientist and historian name Giovanni Venturi published his findings about fluid mechanics. His experimentation included a device that forced water flowing through a pipe to travel through a restriction and he measured the effect on the pressure before the restriction and in it. He observed the differences in these pressures and considered the implications of those differences.

Later, based on Venturi’s work, an engineer named Clemens Herschel invented a device to measure the flow of water through a pipe. By using what Venturi had observed combined with other fluid properties and calculations he built a meter that accurately measured the volume of a fluid flowing through a pipe. This invention has since been applied to many different fluid measurements including those in the petroleum industry.

Modern Applications

The petroleum industry is an area where the accurate measurement of fluids flowing through a pipeline plays a vital role. These measurements include production quantities from the well, transfer, and sale of products from one stakeholder to another and final delivery to customers. Beginning early in the 20th century, orifice meters have been a standard in the petroleum industry for fluid flow measurements.

Aside from the petroleum industry, orifice plate or differential pressure flow meters are used in applications for measuring steam flow and water flow.  These are commonly found in power plants or large municipal utility systems.

The discovery and application of orifice plates to measure fluid flow is an interesting educational adventure. Learning about the history of how things came about sheds a little light on everyday life. Maybe, when next month’s gas bill arrives in the mail, it may take a little more sense.

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