On the level: A guide to level measurement

By Les Slocombe, Marketing Services Manager, ABB

With ever-changing developments in technology, there have been a number of key developments in the ways in which level measurement is performed.

Being able to transmit level data via 4-20 mA, HART, Foundation Fieldbus and the other commonly used communication methods is a significant advance in level measurement. The K-TEK magnetostrictive level transmitters for instance, come ready to support communication protocols, allowing the transport of level measurement information.

So what benefits have these developments brought? As well as being far more convenient, it can also be prove much safer, as personnel are away from potentially hazardous materials.

Previous generations of level technology often required a fair amount of technical knowledge to install and configure properly, today’s software rich level measurement systems allow just about anybody to commission the device.

There has also been a significant increase in the precision of interface measurement. The latest magnetostrictive technology is capable of accuracies 0.010 per cent to 0.25 per cent in comparison to older methods like hydrostatic tank gauging, which could only offer accuracies ranging from 1 per cent to 25 per cent.

Selecting the right level measurement solution can prove a rather daunting prospect. My advice would be to avoid the temptation to go for level measurement systems that can do everything. Concentrate on the core goals of your application and keep in mind that the product itself is less important than the solution you’re trying to achieve.

To guide your selection, keep some essential questions in mind:

• What kind of accuracy does the application require?
• What is the temperature, pressure, media type?
• What is the temperature range of the application?
• What is the budget?

Look for a supplier with a broad range of level measurement solutions, as they will be able to identify the appropriate solution for your application. If you’re lucky, they may also provide online tools to make commissioning, installing and troubleshooting the level measurement system much easier and convenient. Talk to the manufacturer and give them as much application information as possible.

So what exactly does the future hold for level measurement? Well, there will be more support for protocols in level measurement systems, including 4-20 mA, HART and Foundation Fieldbus, together with more emphasis on functional safety with products certified to standards such as SIL2.

The future is sure to see level instruments incorporating more digital features, as well as using wireless in creative ways to provide application visibility and flexibility for level measurements.

For more detailed information on ABB’s level measurement offering please phone 0870 600 6122 re: ‘level measurement’ or email moreinstrumentation@gb.abb.com.

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