he Asia-Pacific region this year will become the world’s largest market for flowmeters with sales revenue of US$1.7 billion, according to IMS Research. From 2011 to 2017, Asia-Pacific is also forecast to be the fastest-expanding region for flowmeter sales with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.5 percent. This high growth can be attributed to greenfield investment, together with an increasing need for greater flow-measurement accuracy.
“China and India in 2013 will continue their decade-long effort to invest in infrastructure to address the needs of their growing population and rising energy requirements,” said Kiran Patel, process instrumentation and control analyst at IHS.
“Capital expenditures in the oil and gas, chemical and power, and refining and petrochemical industries in these countries will drive demand for process instrumentation and measuring devices, including flowmeters.
“With a growing focus on environmental conservation, the monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions is increasingly important as businesses are keen to portray themselves as being green.
“Another progressively important application is custody transfer. In the oil and gas industry, for instance, rising energy costs have driven the need for greater flow-measurement accuracy given that small percentage errors can result in significant costs,” outlined Patel.
While China historically has had an abundance of human resources for low-skilled jobs, labor costs are rising and young people overall are choosing to pursue higher education, likely leading to the reduction in supply of cheap, low-skilled labor in the country. Such constraints in the labor force have affected process facilities in particular, resulting in a lack of technical, hands-on expertise at plant sites because low-skilled staff for the most part has been employed.
To help fill the gap, businesses are utilizing so-called smart flowmeters, which not only are easier to use and maintain but also provide online diagnostics if required. Still, these smart flowmeters come at a price premium – something that businesses are not always able or willing to pay. Instead, companies resort to using mechanical flowmeters—among the easiest to duplicate, with an increasing number of Asian manufacturers making the machines at low cost, often compromising quality.
And while local end-user industries with limited regional reach are most likely to invest in such products, typical process facilities tend to be managed by global players whose corporate image is paramount. Here reputations are at stake and large corporations cannot be seen to be using low-quality products that could affect production and efficiency or pose a safety risk to operators.