The Hidden Costs of Compressed Air/Gas Leaks


Written by:
Bruce Gorelick, Enercheck Systems and Alan Bandes, UE Systems, Inc.

Planning also includes survey scheduling. Do not survey all at once. Break it up so that the survey can be performed without negatively affecting other maintenance responsibilities of the personnel assigned to the leak team. Before the survey begins, have the inspectors walk through the various sections to review their route. The walk-through can help identify potential safety issues, note any changes needed to the planned route, identify obvious leaks and understand what equipment to carry such as flashlights, keys or specialized leak inspection attachments.

Another component to planning includes a leak tag/identification method. Once a leak has been located, it should be tagged. The tag number can be used, along with a photograph of the leak in the report. The identification process is extremely important. The leak rate can be assigned to the leak in a report that can then be used to demonstrate the cost savings and potential environmental impact of the leak. In addition, the leak identification process can be used to ensure a leak is repaired. 

Follow through is another important factor. If a leak is not repaired, all the effort and cost of the survey will be wasted. It is important to use a follow-up method to ensure all identified leaks are repaired. In addition, when a leak has been reported as fixed, the repair should be checked. Sometimes the repair might cause another leak, or the wrong component may be repaired. Follow-through includes review of the survey, cost analysis and, when possible, environmental impact analysis. A report can then be generated to demonstrate the effectiveness of the survey and the related cost savings benefits. 

Follow through includes "leak management." Whenever a survey is complete, there are often many identified leaks. The sheer volume of these leaks can seem overwhelming to a maintenance department that is already working hard to meet the normally assigned, daily maintenance requirements. One follow-through method involves prioritizing leak repairs, so that the most costly leaks or leaks that can affect production are repaired first, the next most important later and so on.

Record keeping is another important element to the follow through part of a survey. Some companies provide software that can help. 

Implementing Leak Awareness

Enlist the Help of Department Employees

When leaks become large enough, they become audible and do not require ultrasonic scanning. Heighten the awareness of all individuals in each department. Ask them to report any audible leaks. If you do not already own ultrasonic leak detection, consider purchasing the equipment and training one or more individuals in each department to perform leak audits. These air/gas leak auditors should be recognized as "energy conservation champions." 

Experience and Proper Equipment Matters

Investment in good equipment makes jobs easier and ultimately saves time. Always keep equipment properly calibrated and maintained. 

Conclusion

Safety, the environment and equipment degradation caused by leaks and equipment inefficiencies can impact a company's ability to compete and maintain profitability. A planned, comprehensive leak survey program can provide savings that can improve plant-wide productivity and profitability.

Leak FAQs

Is an Air/Gas Leak Audit Cost Effective Even in a Smaller Plant?

Yes. Leak detection is important in any size plant. In a smaller plant, your financial survival and competiveness are that much more important. For larger plants, the impact may be exponentially more costly.

Audits in a large plant can typically reveal $5,000 to $10,000 per day of loss through leakage. Once leaks are controlled, plants are often able to shut down an extra compressor in operation.

 How often should a leak audit be performed?

Most customers request a semi-annual or annual audit.

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See also:

Upstream Pumping Solutions

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