Keeping Natural Gas Consumption Safe at Commercial Facilities

Natural gas serves as an energy lifeblood to commercial properties and businesses. It provides an abundant and affordable energy source to keep operations running smoothly and effectively.

Natural gas meters play a crucial role in that process. They monitor the flow of natural gas into the facility and its rate of consumption. The natural gas is supplied by a gas utility company, with the amount consumed over a particular billing period, usually a month, recorded by the meter and then converted into a bill that the consumer must pay in order to keep receiving the natural gas service.

The most common type of natural gas meter has a diaphragm design in which two or more chambers are formed by movable diaphragms. These chambers alternately fill and discharge the in-flowing gas, creating a continuous flow rate. As the diaphragms fill and empty, a series of levers turn a crankshaft that allows the gas to flow into the building. The meters are outfitted with an odometer-like mechanism that records the amount of gas that is consumed. Other types of gas-meter designs include rotary, orifice, turbine and ultrasonic flow.

Every business that uses natural gas requires this piece of hardware, yet despite its importance, a natural gas meter and its supply line can be easily damaged, causing varying consequences ranging from a minor gas leak to an explosion.

Three Common Threats

For commercial properties, there are three major threats to the integrity of natural gas meters and supply lines. The first and most common is vehicle impacts. Because businesses see their share of vehicle traffic, it increases the chances of distracted drivers running into the meter. Businesses also tend to have several people on site at a time, and a damaged meter and supply line puts all of them in danger if an accident occurs.

The second threat comes from compromised protection, such as bollards. Bollards are a series of short, thick posts that are cemented into the ground to form a protective perimeter around gas meters. Though bollards can handle smaller collisions with a bicycle or shopping cart, they can suffer damage from a heavy vehicle and be less effective the next time a collision occurs. Commercial property owners might not realize the compromised nature of a damaged bollard and forgo repairs or new bollards, leaving the natural gas meter vulnerable.

The third threat comes from acts of nature. These unpredictable events can easily damage gas meters and supply lines. Strong winds, falling snow, ice and tree limbs are all liabilities to this essential apparatus. The same goes for ground settlement, which can shift unexpectedly and separate the meter from the supply line.

A Halo of Protection

Despite these threats, there is a solution that provides a robust barrier of protection. That solution is the patented HaloValve, a product brand of OPW. Because of their rigidity, the risers and piping associated with natural gas meters can easily break upon impact. The design of the HaloValve, however, creates an intentional weak point in the piping assembly, which results in an engineered point in the riser pipe that will break at that point when a high-lateral-impact incident occurs.

During such an incident, the valve disconnects upon impact and a force-loaded spring pushes a ball inside the fitting into the area where the separation occurred. The ball acts as a plug that instantly stops natural gas from leaving the supply line, which also helps mitigate the risk of fire, explosion, property damage and serious personal injury, as well as the loss of saleable gas to the atmosphere.

HaloValve is suitable for applications where bollards might not be practical. Alternatively, HaloValve can also be used in tandem with a bollard setup, which will provide an even higher level of protection for the gas meter.

All HaloValve models are constructed of corrosion-resistant 316 stainless steel with nitrile seals. A general-purpose HaloValve has a pressure rating of 300 psi (21 bar) and is rated for temperatures ranging from -40ºF to 212ºF (-40ºC to 100ºC). This breakaway is available in four-and six-foot lengths, and both FNPT and MNPT connections. The HaloValve is currently compatible with 3/4-inch line sizes, though a 1-inch model is currently under development.