Fluid Control Research Institute, popularly known as FCRI, is a state-of-the-art flow lab and fluids engineering facility situated in Palakkad, Kerala. Established in 1989 with techno-commercial inputs from UNDP/UNIDO and transfer of skills from globally reputed facilities in flow measurement and control, FCRI is functioning under the Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises, Govt. of India. Over the years, FCRI has added several new facilities to the existing set-up, making it Asia’s No.1 flow lab and one of the world’s best. FCRI is also acknowledged as a seat of knowledge in the field of flow calibration, measurement & control. Its role in training, skill development and dissemination of domain knowledge is commendable. Mr. P.K. Balasubbramaniian speaks to Dr. Jacob Chandapillai, Director to know more about the world-class facilities added and the expertise nurtured by the Institute where the 5th edition of the Global Conference & Exhibition on ‘Innovative Solutions in Flow Measurement & Control – Oil, Water & Gas’ is going to take place during Aug 28-30, 2017. Excerpts:
Q. FCRI is known for its cognitive contribution to flow technology. What’s your standing today?
Well, by virtue of our knowledge, expertise and facilities, we are in the forefront of flow measurement & control, ensuring immaculate precision and accuracy of flow meters in air, water and oil media. We have full-fledged NABL accredited labs which are also recognized by the Bureau of Indian Standards, Dept. of Legal Metrology, Underwriters Laboratory, Central Pollution Control Board, Chief Controller of Explosives, Institution of Fire Engineers and the Netherland Measurement Institute.
Any measurement made at FCRI is traceable to National / International standards and is known for its reliability, accuracy and international acceptance, be it a calibration, testing or research project.
All FCRI Labs are on par with similar labs elsewhere in the world. International inter-comparisons have established the competence and parity of FCRI labs. The recent inter-comparison with Czech Metrology Institute(CMI) has provided exemplary results and CMI has certified FCRI for the technical capabilities. A joint venture with CMI to certify Indian products with OIML (Organization of International Legal Metrology) certification is on the anvil. We are looked upon as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for solutions to flow measurement problems. Our services include design evaluation, quality improvement, quality evaluation, establishment of appropriate flow measurement & control technology and so on. All these underline our pivotal role as a ‘Resource to Industry’.
Q. What are the different facilities available in your Air Flow Lab?
We have Air Flow Labs which offer flow meter and flow product evaluation and consultancy services to customers from industrial sectors like automotive, aerospace, pharmaceutical & healthcare, gas & process industries, flow meter manufacturers, R & D centers, certification bodies and academic institutions. The Primary Air Flow Lab is equipped with internationally accepted primary flow standards like bell provers and piston provers of various capacities for precise flow measurement and calibration of flow meters at low pressure. The Secondary Air Flow Lab is operating at near atmospheric pressure and has critical flow venturi or sonic nozzles as reference standard capable of calibrating flow meters up to a maximum flow range of 10,000 m3/hr. The 20 Bar Air Flow Lab with Open Loop Air Test Facility is used for testing of different types of small size flow meters, filters, regulators, safety valves, air relief valves, breather valves and venting devices. The Closed Loop Air Test Facility can do highly accurate calibration of different types of flowmeters and testing of control devices up to 150 mm NB. The Primary Standard Gravimetric System in the same lab , one among the very few in the world, can calibrate air & gas flow meters up to 50 NB for a maximum actual volumetric flow rate of 50 m3/hr.
In the wind tunnel facility calibration of different types of Anemometers and pitot tubes, velocity probes, aero-foil, etc. is done. The laboratory also undertakes on-site measurements in large air/flue gas ducts, development of flow measuring devices for air/ flue gas ducts, etc.
Q. What about your Water Flow Labs?
The Water Flow Lab is India’s leading facility for evaluation of flow products with highest accuracy class and is one of the busiest facilities of FCRI. It can handle flow range from 5 litres per hr to 4,500 m3 per hr and sizes up to 900 mm. Testing of Control valves is another major activity here. It caters to the needs of the entire Indian Industry and almost all major companies are our clients.
The unique Large Water Flow Lab is one of the largest flow measure facilities in the world. The facility has a flow range up to 15,000 m3/hr and can accommodate pipe sizes upto 2700 mm diameter. The Centre for Water Management (CWM) is involved in research and consultancy services, simulation and design of water distribution systems and fire-fighting systems, in-situ flow measurement and calibration of large flow meters; field efficiency testing of hydro-electric turbines, and development of Indian and International Standards. It also acts as a watchdog in water metering through testing of water meters during bulk procurement of water meters by various water boards. FCRI has played a vital role in improving the water meter quality in India. CWM also does site measurements using different non-conventional techniques.
Q. What’s the uniqueness of your Oil Flow Lab?
The Oil Flow Lab is a world-class facility designed for evaluation of flow products in oil media. The facility has a flow range up to 650 m3/hr. The lab has capability to calibrate flow meters used mainly for bulk flow measurement, accommodating flow products of sizes up to 250 mm diameter. It also has a facility to calibrate flow meters in different viscosity media ranging from 2 cst to 450 cst.
Q. Can you say something about your Multiphase Flow Facility?
Multiphase flow measurements in hydrocarbon and thermal/nuclear power sector pose immense challenge. The Multiphase Flow Facility at FCRI currently operates with two-phase gas-liquid mixtures. It has been catering to research and performance assessment requirements of flow product manufacturers and end-users. We are developing it in to a full-fledged multiphase flow facility with oil-water -gas mixtures.
Q. What are the activities of your CNG Facility?
CNG is the latest addition to the comprehensive facilities at FCRI. Natural Gas at 250 or 200 bar is the medium. The services offered include calibration of mass flow meters, model approval of CNG dispensers, services to automotive industries, and on-site calibration of CNG dispensers. We also undertake study of Loss of Unaccounted Gas (LUAG) in gas networks. The upcoming 50 Bar Natural Gas Calibration & Test Facility is expected to cater to calibration requirements of custody transfer flow meters of sizes up to 300mm and pressure up to 50 bar with flow rates up to 5000 m3/hr.
Q. Do you also conduct tests on noise and vibration?
Yes of course. Our Environmental Qualification Lab specializes in noise, vibration and environmental testing. It conducts vibration tests, seismic qualification tests, shock tests, vibration measurement of onboard ships, power plants and process plant equipment, fatigue test, resonance search test, static or dynamic strain measurement and testing DG sets to conform to CPCB guidelines. The Acoustic Test Facility comprises sound level analyzers,hemi-anechoic chambers, sound source and free field test areas. The facility is used by manufacturers of flow and engineering products as well as medical equipment for noise evaluation. Secondary calibration system for measuring microphones, sound level meters and acoustical calibrators, also exists at FCRI.
Q. Can you enlighten us on your supporting facilities apart from the flow?
The Physical Standards Lab is the backbone of FCRI providing traceability to all measurements made at FCRI to National /International standards. It also provides calibration services to industries and laboratories in dimensional metrology, pressure, mass, torque, force, volume, density and viscosity. The Electro Technical & Thermal Calibration Lab caters to the calibration of parameters like voltage, current, frequency, time, power, resistance, temperature, etc. Facilities also exist for humidity, high & low temperature and multi-meter calibration, apart from maintaining traceability of measurements at FCRI.
The Data Acquisition Systems Group provides solutions through electronics and instrumentation services. It also conducts sponsored tests & experiments and provides custom-developed solutions and consultancy to external clients.
Using Computational Fluid Dynamics in flow product design and its performance analysis, lead to significant reduction in time for design and development . FCRI has expertise to undertake sponsored CFD projects in the area of design optimization, modeling, simulation, and design validation for industries and scientific & technical organizations.
Q. We understand that you also undertake special assignments & projects. Could you throw some light on these services?
We have a separate Division to take up sponsored research projects to find solutions for complex flow measurement and control problems. It undertakes custom designed tests on valves, pumps, heat exchangers and so on. These include tests on valves and flow elements used in severe service operating conditions such as high pressure, high temperature, fugitive emission testing, fire testing, cryogenic testing, LOCA/MSLB/DBA testing for nuclear components, proof of design tests, life cycle testing of critical components, flow visualization and cavitation studies.
The Division also undertakes custom-designed tests to study & assess flow related problems at high pressure, high temperature applications.
FCRI has completed more than 160 such industrial projects for its national and international clients. The beneficiaries include Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, ONGC, Nuclear Power Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, Regional Reference Standards Laboratories, Festo Controls, Control Components Incorporated and GE-Transportation, just to mention a few.
Q. Why does the flow fraternity prefer FCRI for their product evaluation / problem solving?
Any product which is developed /sold/used shall have to prove its worthiness to the end user. This can be ensured only through stringent and reliable testing as per International standards, thus ensuring the reliability / durability and accuracy of the product.
As the old adage goes, “Something which cannot be measured cannot be improved”.
The expertise, reliability and accuracy of the test / calibration facility play a vital role in case of flow products since it is a very specialized area.
Backed by three decades of domain expertise and experience, FCRI is known for its state-of-the-art facilities, customer friendliness, integrity of results and its analysis, transparency and the least turnaround time for evaluation programs. There was a time when Indian manufacturers used to fly their flow products all the way to Europe and USA for certification. But today they can get their products validated at FCRI in India at fraction of the cost and that too within the shortest possible time. The clients can also visit our facilities and witness the evaluation program of their products as per international standards – an evaluation which is stringent and foolproof.
Q. What’s your contribution towards training & skill development in the country?
Skill development is a national agenda today. But FCRI presaged this long ago. We have conducted over 160 national training programs and innumerable tailor-made courses for managers, field engineers, executives, technicians and engineering graduates for developing and honing skills in flow technology in the country.
We also conduct post-graduate certificate programs for practicing and fresh engineers.FCRI is acknowledged as the seat of knowledge in the domain of ‘flow technology’. We have gone beyond our shores to disseminate knowledge. We also organize international training programs for the benefit of foreign students especially from developing countries. Till date over 900 international participants from 90 countries have undergone training at FCRI.
Q. Now that the Indian Institute of Technology-Palakkad has come in close proximity to FCRI, what are your plans for collaborative research programs?
We are in close contact with IIT Palakkad. We need to take advantage of the physical closeness.
Director –IIT and some senior faculty members have already visited FCRI and have appraised and appreciated the facilities available here. We are thinking of interdisciplinary research programs which would help the industry to develop new products, suggest methods to improve process through simulation studies and analysis, internship to IIT students to make them appreciate industry problems and their complexity, quality improvement of FCRI staff and much more…
Q. You also conduct international conferences. Could you update us on the upcoming conference?
Our International Conference known as FLOTEK-G is held once in three years in the Institute campus. Till now we have held four conferences. We have now announced the 5th edition of this Conference to be held in Palakkad during 28-30 August, 2017. The theme for the current year’s program is ‘Innovative Solutions in Flow Measurement and Control – Oil, Water and Gas”. The Conference presents an enlightening forum for sharing information and knowledge on trends in technological advancements in flow measurement and control solutions, process and product research, manufacturing and education. The concurrent 3-day Exhibition would showcase technologies, products & services related to flow. More details are obtainable from the FLOTEK-G Secretariat.
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