Flowmeters must be sized properly for each particular application, type of gas, gas pressure, and operating range. First, make sure that your flowmeter is calibrated for the specific gravity of the gas that you are metering. Check the label or the glass tube of the flowmeter or call the manufacturer to be sure. Second, operate the flowmeter only at the pressure for which it was calibrated. As an example, a variable-area flowmeter calibrated for 80 psi and reading 1000 scfh will really only be delivering 760 scfh if it is operated at 40 psi. This is a 24% error! Third, for best accuracy and to allow room for adjustment, size the flowmeter so that your normal flow rate falls within 30%–70% of full scale. These three steps will help ensure that you have good control over your gas flows and, ultimately, your process.
Industrial gases (such as nitrogen, hydrogen, and argon) for furnace atmospheres are characterized by their very high purity (>99.995%). Typical impurity levels are much less than 10 parts per million by volume (ppmv) oxygen and less than 3 ppmv moisture (<– 90° F dew point). This purity is typically adequate for many processes involving a wide array of materials. Some materials, though, due to their high reactivity, may require additional purification to reach even lower levels of impurity, especially with gases supplied via bulk or tube trailer supply modes. Some facilities install in-line purifiers as an added precaution against impurities picked up from the houseline. In-line purification typically involves the removal of oxygen and moisture. Sometimes with argon supply, it is necessary to remove trace nitrogen impurities. The choice of purifier is dependent on the gas and the type and amount of impurities to be removed.
There are many aspects of a flow control or blend panel that require periodic maintenance for proper functionality—especially those related to its safe operation. You should check the operation of the solenoids to help verify that the combustible gas flow is automatically turning off and the inert gas purge is automatically turning on as intended. They should be tested in accordance with recommended maintenance frequency—typically every six months. Plus, you should rebuild the solenoids as needed. It’s also important to check the purge timer setpoint to help confirm that it can adequately purge the furnace. And you should verify and document the low-flow alarm setpoints on the inert gas purge and process flows. These are just some of the items that should be reviewed on a regular basis.