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The Metering Research Facility:
Its Role, Capability and Value to the Natural Gas Industry

by Ed Bowles
Flow Measurement Section Manager Southwest Research Institute

The Metering Research Facility (MRF) is a world-class, high-accuracy, high-technology, natural gas flow measurement facility for meter development, calibration and testing - simulating actual field operational conditions. The MRF is noted for its accuracy, controllability, rangeability and traceability to national measurement standards.

In the mid-1980's, the American Gas Association (AGA) operating section's Transmission Measurement Committee (TMC) identified the need for a facility to research, test and develop metering equipment. TMC envisioned that such a facility was needed to conduct research investigating the following industry priorities:

  • Improving gas meter accuracy
  • Developing new gas metering technologies
  • Advancing metering automation

The industry, through the Gas Research Institute (now known as GRI) funded development and construction of the MRF in 1991. Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) now operates the MRF on GRI's behalf.

The MRF Capability
The MRF provides flow meter design, development, testing and calibration (traceable to the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology) services. In addition, the MRF staff can provide assistance with flow meter station design, layout and optimization; field meter diagnostics and trouble-shooting; natural gas compositional analysis; and measurement personnel training.

Representing the only facility of its type in North America, the MRF has three separate flow test systems:

  • A High Pressure Loop (HPL) for large diameter pipe (2-20 inches, 150-1200 psig), high pressure/volume metering applications
  • A Low Pressure Loop (LPL) for smaller diameter pipe (1 to 8 inches, 20 to 210 psig), lower pressure/volume metering applications
  • A Distribution Test Stand (DTS) for domestic applications (pipe diameters to 2 inches, 0 to psig)

The HPL and LPL are close-loop recirculating flow loops. The DTS is a "blow-down" type system. All three systems are located at the same site and operated from a single control center.

Contributions to the Industry by the MRF
Given the fast-changing nature of today's natural gas industry - requiring greater measurement accuracy; improved system reliability and controllability; and online real-time accounting and reporting - the MRF's services to the industry are continuing to grow in value.

The contributions that have been made to the natural gas industry by the MRF include the following:

  • Ability to identify and eliminate a broad range of gas measurement bias errors
  • Training center for meter station designers
  • Precision flow meter calibrations (e.g. orifice, turbine, Coriolis, positive displacement, and ultrasonic flow meters, among others)
  • Simulated field operating conditions for developmental testing of new gas measurement technology
  • Resource for developing gas flow measurement industry standards
  • Testing and development of metering automation techniques
  • On-site fuel flow measurement audits

To learn more about the MRF, please visit


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