When an influx is flowing into a well with normal circulation in progress, the total volume of material flowing out of the well increases. A flow sensor, such as a flow paddle system, provides a means for measuring quite small variations in flow; See Figure 1
When a kick is occurring from relatively low permeability formations, as a slow 'bleed in', it is unlikely that any variation in flow rate will be observable.
Roll, and more particularly, heave on a floating vessel will provide considerable variations in flow which will mask any small increases in flowrate. It is possible to produce averaging systems to damp out the effect of movement, though this is also likely to make a true flow change hard to spot. If it can be detected, this change in flowrate is a definite sign of a kick in progress. There are few other possible causes for an increase in flowrate and for this reason it is sometimes said that a flowrate increase is the first reliable indicator of a kick in progress.
Figure 1 - Flow Rate
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