Flow Measurement

What is orifice meter and what is the use of orifice meter

  • An orifice meter is a widely used device for measuring the flow rate of fluids in a pipeline. 
  • It operates based on Bernoulli’s principle, which describes the inverse relationship between the pressure and velocity of a fluid. 
  • When fluid flows through the orifice plate, a pressure drop occurs, and by measuring this pressure drop, the flow rate can be accurately determined. 
  • Orifice meters are valued for their simplicity, cost-effectiveness, and minimal maintenance requirements, making them popular in various industrial applications.
What is orifice meter and what is the use of orifice meter 1

An orifice meter consists of several key components, each playing a crucial role in its operation:

What is orifice meter and what is the use of orifice meter 2
  • A thin metal plate with a precise hole in the center. This plate is inserted between two flanges in the pipeline.
  • The hole creates a restriction, causing a drop in pressure and an increase in velocity as the fluid passes through it.
What is orifice meter and what is the use of orifice meter 3
  • The section where the fluid enters the orifice meter. The inlet is designed to ensure smooth and stable fluid flow into the orifice plate.
  • Prevents fluid overflow, ensuring that the meter operates within its design limits.
  • This component, which houses the orifice plate, helps in stabilizing the fluid flow and contains taps for measuring pressure changes.
  • The section where the fluid exits the orifice meter after passing through the orifice plate.
  • Used to measure the fluid’s pressure drop across the orifice plate. It is an essential component for accurate flow rate measurement.
  • Attached to the pitot tube, it displays the pressure readings, allowing for the calculation of the flow rate.
What is orifice meter and what is the use of orifice meter 4

The operation of an orifice meter is straightforward and relies on the following steps:

Fluid Entry

  • Fluid enters the orifice meter through the inlet section, moving towards the orifice plate.
  • As the fluid passes through the small hole in the orifice plate, its velocity increases, and its pressure decreases. 
  • This is due to the constriction created by the orifice plate, which accelerates the fluid.
  • Just downstream of the orifice plate, the fluid streamlines converge to form the vena contracta, where the fluid velocity is at its peak and pressure at its minimum.
  • Beyond the vena contracta, the fluid begins to decelerate, causing a partial recovery of pressure, though it does not return to the initial pressure level upstream of the orifice plate.
  • The pressure difference between the upstream section (before the orifice plate) and the downstream section (after the vena contracta) is measured using differential pressure measuring instruments. 
  • This pressure drop is directly related to the flow rate of the fluid.

Orifice meters come in various designs, each suited to different types of fluids and applications:

Types of Orifice Plates / Meters 1
  • Used for clean liquids, gasses, and low-velocity vapors.
  • Features a sharp, square-edged hole bored in a flat thin plate.
  • Provides high accuracy when installed correctly.
  • Commonly used in applications where precise flow measurement is required.
Types of Orifice Plates / Meters 2
  • Ideal for fluids with substantial entrained water or air, and suspensions.
  • Prevents build-up in front of the orifice plate.
  • Suitable for measuring slurries and extremely dirty gasses.
  • Often used in wastewater treatment and similar applications.
Types of Orifice Plates / Meters 3
  • Has an off-center flow opening.
  • Suitable for fluids containing small amounts of non-abrasive solids.
  • Commonly used in chemical industries for measuring flows with slight contamination.
  • Helps in preventing sedimentation and clogging.
Types of Orifice Plates / Meters 5
  • Designed for high-viscosity fluids.
  • Features an inlet with a quarter-circle edge and a plate thickness equal to the radius of the inlet.
  • Often used in industries dealing with thick, viscous liquids like oils and syrups.

Click here for Orifice Plate Flow and Pressure Drop Calculation Excel Tool

  • Low Cost: Simple design and construction make them cost-effective compared to other flow measurement devices.
  • Easy Installation: Can be easily installed in existing pipeline systems without requiring extensive modifications.
  • Minimal Maintenance: Require little to no regular maintenance, reducing operational costs.
  • Easy Replacement: Components, particularly the orifice plate, can be easily replaced if damaged or worn out.
  • No Moving Parts: Reduces the risk of mechanical failure and increases reliability.
  • High Accuracy: Capable of providing accurate flow measurements for a wide range of gasses and liquids.
  • Versatile Sizes: Available in various sizes to fit different pipeline diameters.
  • Compact Design: Occupies minimal space, making it suitable for installations where space is limited.
  • Wide Range of Applications: Can measure both high and low flow rates, making it versatile.

Despite their advantages, orifice meters have some limitations:

  • Not Suitable for Dirty Fluids: Ineffective for measuring dirty fluids, slurries, and wet steam as they can clog the orifice.
  • Impulse Line Issues: Susceptible to freezing and plugging, affecting accuracy and reliability.
  • Sensitivity to Conditions: Accuracy can be affected by changes in fluid temperature, viscosity, and density.
  • Pressure Loss: Causes a significant drop in pressure, which may not be fully recovered downstream.
  • Risk of Corrosion: Orifice plates can corrode, leading to measurement inaccuracies.
  • Limited Measuring Range: The measuring range is constrained by fluid viscosity, making it less suitable for very thick or very thin fluids.

Orifice meters are used in a wide range of industrial applications due to their versatility and reliability:

  • Fluid Flow Measurement: Used in pipelines to measure the flow rates of various fluids.
  • Natural Gas Plants: Widely used to measure the flow of natural gas.
  • Water Treatment Plants: Measures flow rates of water and treatment chemicals.
  • Petrochemical Plants and Refineries: Used in processes involving the measurement of crude oil, refined products, and other chemicals.
  • Oil Filtration Plants: Measures flow rates during the filtration process.
  • HVAC Systems: Used in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems to measure airflow.
  • Power Plants: Used to measure steam and cooling water flow rates.
  • Food and Beverage Industry: Measures the flow of various liquids used in the production process.

Click here for Orifice Sizing Guidelines & Rules Associated With Selection

  • Orifice plates are typically made from materials such as stainless steel, carbon steel, and various alloys. 
  • The choice of material depends on the fluid being measured, the operating conditions, and the need for corrosion resistance.
  • The diameter of the orifice hole is selected based on the desired flow rate, the characteristics of the fluid, and the pipeline dimensions. 
  • Engineers use standardized calculations and flow equations, such as those provided by the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers), to determine the appropriate size.
  • Yes, orifice meters can be used to measure the flow of steam, but care must be taken to ensure the steam is dry. 
  • Wet steam can lead to inaccuracies and potential damage to the orifice plate.
  • Common methods for calibrating an orifice meter include using a known reference flow standard, employing a secondary measurement device for comparison, and adjusting the meter’s readings based on empirical data obtained under controlled conditions.
  • The beta ratio, which is the ratio of the orifice diameter to the pipe diameter, plays a crucial role in determining the differential pressure created by the orifice plate. 
  • It affects the accuracy and range of the flow measurement. Typical beta ratios range from 0.2 to 0.8, with each application requiring careful selection based on the desired flow characteristics.
  • Fluid temperature can affect the density and viscosity of the fluid, which in turn influences the flow rate and pressure drop across the orifice plate. Temperature fluctuations may require compensation or recalibration to maintain accuracy.
  • Recommended maintenance practices for orifice meters include regular inspection and cleaning of the orifice plate to prevent clogging and corrosion, checking for wear and tear, verifying the integrity of the pressure taps and impulse lines, and periodic recalibration of installed transducer to ensure continued accuracy.

ISO 5167-1

  • General principles and requirements for pressure-differential devices.
  • Installation requirements and flow rate calculation methods.

ISO 5167-2

  • Specific guidelines for orifice plates.
  • Specifications for design, installation, and maintenance.
  • Equations for calculating flow rates using orifice plates.


  • Standards for orifice plates, nozzles, and Venturi tubes.
  • Guidelines for construction, installation, and use.

AGA Report No. 3

EN ISO 5167-1 and EN ISO 5167-2

  • European adoption of the ISO 5167 standards.
  • Provides consistency with international guidelines.

API MPMS Chapter 14.3

  • Orifice metering of natural gas and related hydrocarbon fluids.
  • Methods and practices for accurate measurement in the petroleum industry.


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