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The EcoSpectro fuel gas measuring system can measure the calorific value of hydrocarbons present in the gas more quickly and accurately.

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Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques (IPM) in Freiburg have developed a new system for measuring regeneratively-produced natural gas on behalf of RMA Measuring and Control Technology. The EcoSpectro fuel gas measuring system can not only measure the calorific value of hydrocarbons present in the gas more quickly and accurately than the existing technology but can also account for the feed-in of hydrogen (H2) from power-to-gas plants.

The quality of natural gas is not consistent. This is not only because the source of the natural gas deposits is variable, but also increasingly to the presence of hydrogen in the admixture. This not only affects consumer prices, which are based on the calorific value of the gas, but it can cause fluctuations in sensitive combustion processes – for example, in glass smelting.

The new IR spectrometer system improves upon chromatography for measuring natural gas by several degrees. The EcoSpectro metre can detect the percentages of methane, ethane, propane, butane and longer hydrocarbon chains with a high degree of accuracy. It has also been fitted with a special sensor to determine the H2 content – using the principal of thermal conductivity.

The system has been tested in the field at the Fraunhofer ISE on a natural gas bypass, over approximately 125,000 measurements. It proved to be highly accurate for reading the calorific value of hydrocarbons with one caution: consumers who need consistency within the minute range are advised to use an additional process-control measurement system.

The project "Gas efficiency - fast measurement technology for the efficient use of regeneratively produced gases" was funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour and Housing Baden-Württemberg and with funds from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).