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New Heinrich high-precision mass flow meter for H2 filling stations; OIML R 139 2018

Hydrogen fueling is more complex than that of gasoline and diesel; hydrogen heats up as it expands, causing pressure and temperature changes during fueling that need to be precisely monitored. (Hydrogen, helium and neon are the three gases that do not cool upon expansion by the Joule–Thomson process when being throttled through an orifice.)

In response to this challenge, Heinrichs Messtechnik GmbH, a member of the Kobold Group, has developed the TMU-W 004 mass flow meter. It is the first of its kind to be certified to international standard OIML R 139 2018 and approved for hydrogen filling stations. Recommendation (R) 139 is the OIML (International Organization of Legal Meetrology) model regulation for equipment used to deliver compressed gases (natural gas, hydrogen, biogas, etc.) as fuel into motor and fuel cell vehicles, small boats, and aircraft.)

This newly developed mass flow meter is already in use at filling stations of the listed company Nel Hydrogen.


For passenger cars, fueling the hydrogen is typically done at 700 bar. This high pressure is necessary to generate the energy density needed for useful ranges. During this process, the temperature must not exceed +85 °C, otherwise the tank lining can be compromised. Since the tank expands and heats up during filling, the hydrogen is cooled before it gets to the tank. This high-pressure environment, combined with the small size of the hydrogen molecule, makes special demands on the accuracy of flow monitoring.

—Guido Thometzki, CEO of Heinrichs Messtechnik GmbH

Heinrichs Messtechnik GmbH optimized its proven Coriolis Mass Flow Meter for such high-pressure applications, and now offers the TMU-W 004. The meter ensures that during filling the amount of hydrogen transferred to the vehicle tank is measured accurately. This enables correct billing of the amount filled, which is a prerequisite for fueling at public hydrogen filling stations. It covers a measurement range of 0.133 kg/min H2 to 4 kg/min H2.

For the meter to fit into Nel’s narrow fuel dispensers, it was designed substantially narrower than its predecessor models. Inside the compact and deformation-resistant housing are two U-shaped measuring tubes arranged in parallel. An exciter system causes the measuring tubes to vibrate at their natural frequency.

As the media flows through these tubes, the Coriolis effect causes additional phase-shifted deviations of the tubes. Sensors positioned at the optimum points on the measuring tubes pick up these phase-shifted deviations and send them as signals to the transducer (also called the transmitter) for further analysis. From them, the current mass flow is calculated.

—Guido Thometzki

The special device architecture—that is, the shape of the measuring tubes and the ideal positioning of the sensors on the tubes—along with the further harmonizing of the other components such as the gusset plates, make this a particularly sensitive and accurate meter, despite the thick walls of the measuring tubes.

This robustness on the part of the measuring tubes is necessary in order to withstand the high 1000 bar pressure (the test pressure is actually 1500 bar). The tough, fully welded housing with corrugations for added stiffness gives ample protection for the sensitive measurement equipment within.

The flow amount can be evaluated using the pulse or status output of the transducer. The user also receives information for the temperature flow and optionally the density as well. This can be used to control the compressor pumping the hydrogen, for example switching to a higher volume or conversely interrupting pumping, Thometzki said.

The transducer has a two-line LCD display that shows the values directly. The unit is easy to configure using the four keys provided on it. Among other functions, the user can define outputs and do fault analysis with the keys. The transducer can be set up as a round version or installed in a switchgear cabinet as a rack version. Both the TMU-W 004 housing and the field housing of the transducer are pressure-resistant and intrinsically safe, which helps prevent fire or explosion in case gas escapes.

In the development, manufacture and calibration of its meters, Heinrichs Messtechnik GmbH makes use of many simulation and optimization methods to ensure the precision and reliability of its devices under all conceivable conditions. For the development of the TMU-W the latest techniques in the simulation of structure and flow conditions were applied:

  • CSM: Computational Structural Mechanics
  • FEM: Finite Elemenet Method
  • CFD: Computational Fluid Dynamics
  • CEM: Computatioanl Electromagnetics
  • FSI: FLuid Structure Interaction
  • TFSI: Thermal FLuid Structural Interaction

These techniques allow a precise virtual assessment of complex, coupled behaviors; i.e., the specific characteristics of H2 high-pressure measurement can be addressed directly. The result was the rapid development of an optimized Coriolis sensor.


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