According to a recent study by the ARC Advisory Group (www.arcweb.com), the worldwide market for radar level devices is expected to grow at a rate of 10.3 percent over the next several years. The market, which stood at $238 million in 2002, is forecast to exceed $388 million in 2007 as user demand for level measurement devices continues to rise.

Radar Level Gauges

The study, titled Radar Level Devices Worldwide Outlook, notes that revenue in the radar level segment has been strong over the past few years despite the depressed state of the overall plant automation business. And radar level is expected to grow even stronger as the world economy — particularly in the United States — rebounds from the doldrums of the first half of the decade.

Paula Hollywood, a field systems analyst for ARC and the author of the radar level study, says radar level is a promising technology because it is reliable and requires less maintenance than other popular level measurement techniques, such as DP cell-based systems and capacitance probes. Further, she says the falling price point for radar level technology should help boost demand going forward.

However, Hollywood says there are obstacles facing the radar level segment that it has yet to overcome, namely in applications that feature a high amount of agitation. “Radar typically has a lot of problems with foam,” says Hollywood. “Sometimes the device detects the top level of foam instead of the process level.” Depending on the application and the amount of foam, this can have a significant impact on accuracy. Although, Hollywood says radar level systems are growing more powerful and their capability for accurately measuring foamy applications is improving. Specifically, she says new generations of high frequency, two-wire systems are now on the market, which could potentially offer a solution for high agitation scenarios.

In addition, the study says new technology development in the radar level space is yielding systems with smaller antennae that provide more flexibility in regard to mounting, which also has been a key user issue.

Loop-powered devices, which are preferred in the process industries, are growing more common, the study says, while battery-powered and wireless radar devices are showing early signs of market acceptance. Based on these trends, the study predicts that radar level will become increasingly attractive as a replacement for traditional level measurement technologies.

Wireless is one area where Hollywood believes radar level suppliers are providing significant value. She says the integration of wireless technology and radar level devices offers users the ability to measure levels in remote tank farms. Hollywood points to the agriculture industry as a good example of a fit for wirelessly enabled radar level systems, as agriculture companies can use wireless radar to measure levels on farms in remote locations. In other industries though, Hollywood says wireless is less attractive. For example, she says chemical companies are not as eager to use wireless radar due to concerns over security.

According to Hollywood, contact-based radar systems will grow at a slightly faster clip than noncontact devices. But she says the market for both types of radar will be strong in the years to come. The chemical industry, despite its hesitancy on wireless, has been particularly receptive to radar level technology. Meanwhile, adoption in the food and beverage and pharmaceutical sectors has been a bit slower. “Highly regulated industries, like pharmaceutical and food and beverage, are not yet totally convinced of the reliability of radar,” says Hollywood.

Still, she expects food and beverage and pharmaceutical to present significant growth opportunity for radar level. And she predicts implementation of radar technology will continue to increase in the chemical, marine, and oil and gas industries.

Hollywood sees vendor-managed offerings as another potential revenue opportunity for radar level suppliers. “Supply chain is really generating a lot of interest right now,” says Hollywood. As such, she believes more vendors will launch radar level services, which allow users to outsource the entire level measurement process to be managed by the radar level supplier.

Matt Migliore
MMigliore@WitterPublishing.com