There are 396 million gas meters in the world today with annual demand rising to an estimated 34.9 million in 2012. Accompanying this figure is a large number of refurbished meters, which have been verified, recalibrated, and used for replacement. Refurbishment of meters may increase if European countries follow in the footsteps of Germany, where new metrology regulations have removed the age limit and have increased the amount of refurbishment taking place in that country.
Unlike electricity and water, piped gas is not available in every country. Most of the piped gas is natural gas although there is still some city gas manufactured from coal or oil and some LPG is delivered by pipeline, mainly to industrial consumers.
Even within regions there are wide variations in the penetration of gas. For example, in northern Europe, Germany is the second largest gas consumer after the United Kingdom. However, the Scandinavian countries are small users of gas because of the use of coal in Denmark and hydropower in the other three countries, and increasingly nuclear, despite Norway being the largest gas producer in Europe and one of the largest in the world.
With global demand for LPG rising to 34.9 million meters in 2012, annual growth will be 4.0%. There will be variations in the growth rates in different regions of the world due to significant domination by a number of major markets. Growth of 8.7% in China, as the country converts from city gas to natural gas and the government promotes the use of gas as a clean fuel, extensive expansion of gasification in Russia, and continued growth in the USA at 5.5% will lift the world average, compensating for slower growth in other countries.
In value terms, the world market will grow to US$1.6 billion in 2012. The main growth will be in Asia, which will increase from US$439 million in 2007 to US$516 million, and Europe, which will grow from US$335 million to US$384 million. North America will increase from US$286 million to US$374 million.
The United States and Japan are the two largest markets for gas meters (with Japan including LPG meters). The US market is forecast to grow at an annual rate of 5.5% from 5.6 million meters in 2007 to 7.3 million in 2012. Gas meter growth will reflect surges in household growth and increasing AMR deployment. To date, the largest AMR installations in North America have been in the electricity utility sector; however, the gas utility sector is now expected to start gaining momentum.
Japan will grow by 1.4% from 5.2 million (piped natural gas and LPG) to 5.6 million meters in 2012. Growth will be considerably higher if installation of a new residential ultrasonic meter is not restricted to replacement of existing mechanical meters.
Growth in Europe will be the slowest, increasing at 2.8%. In the CIS, the intensive gasification of new regions of Russia will lead to growth of 4.4%, with slower growth in the other republics. According to industry reports, the market in Germany is in decline since metrology changes now permit gas meters to remain in service after 24 years, as long as they meet verification requirements.
China is the third largest gas meter market
in the world with 29 million consumers and is poised to overtake Japan to become the second largest by 2010. The government’s decision to develop the natural gas market and to increase its share in primary energy holds significant challenges for local gas distribution companies, which are accustomed to distributing manufactured gas. The majority of Chinese cities have traditionally been supplied with manufactured gas, and there is now a need for a nationwide standardised approach to gas conversion. The largest single gas distribution company in Shanghai has 3.37 million customers.
The number of cities using natural gas has been predicted to increase to 270 in 2010 but this may be optimistic. India is still a small market for gas meters but will grow very fast in the next few years as new distribution networks for residential supply come into service. Demand for gas has grown by 6.5% annually and was expected to reach a rate of 13% in 2005. Two distribution companies (GCGL and MGL) have 450,000 customers between them, and Gail, the national natural gas transmission utility, has formed a number of distribution partnerships to expand distribution to 15 cities. The growth of customers and meters is estimated to be at least 15% per year.