Leaks translate into cash. Allowing leaks to exist without a leak identification and repair program will add a hidden cost to the products your company produces which can negatively impact the ability of the company to compete and affect profitability. These leaks can be compared to having small pinholes in your automobile gas tank. After a while, you’ll notice how they’ve created a hole in your wallet. The sooner leaks are eliminated, the more money you’ll save.

Can a compressed air audit be costeffective for small plants? The answer is yes. Leak detection is important in any size plant, but in smaller plants, financial survival and competitiveness are that much more important. For larger plants, the impact may be exponentially more costly.

When performing an audit in a large plant, it is not unusual to find $5000 or more per day of loss through leakage. Once you get a handle on your leaks, you may be capable of shutting down the operation of an extra compressor.

How often should a leak audit be performed? Audits are typically done semi-annually or at least once a year.

Everyone can pitch in
When leaks become large enough, they become audible without the need for ultrasonic scanning. Heighten the awareness of all individuals in each department. Ask them to report leaks that may be audible. If you do not already own ultrasonic leak detection, consider purchase of equipment and train one or more individuals in each department to perform their own leak audit. These leak auditors should be recognized as “energy conservation champions.” As energy continues to become more expensive, we must take steps to conserve. Our very manufacturing existence might depend on it.

Performing a leak survey
The success of a leak survey requires three major elements:

  • knowledge
  • planning, and
  • follow-through.

Knowledge requires an understanding of the compressed air system on a wide scale, including all the subsystems and components. What are the sizes, types, and ages of the compressors? Have they been properly maintained? What about traps and drains? Are pressure gauges working, and if so, do they indicate adequate pressure for the various areas of use? What are the assigned pressures for these areas? Can some compressed air applications be replaced by other methods? For example, instead of using compressed air for cooling, drying, or cleanup, lowpressure blowers or fans may suffice.

Knowledge can also include the understanding of your ultrasound instrument, how it works, and the techniques of inspection. If you are not sure about the technology or how to use the instrument, training courses can help make you and other inspectors in your facility more competent and effective in your inspections.

Planning incorporates elements such as a map of the compressed gas system and its various components. If none exists, shoot digital photographs of each section using wide-angle and close-up views and labeling them. Planning also includes scheduling of the survey. Break up the survey so that it can be performed without negatively affecting other maintenance responsibilities of the personnel assigned to be the leak team.

Before the survey begins, have inspectors walk through the various sections to review their route. In planning the walk-through, be sure to discuss safety procedures and equipment and additional equipment that may prove useful, such as flashlights, keys, or specialized leak inspection attachments.

In addition to finding leaks, the walk-through also can identify:

  • potential safety issues,
  • changes needed to the routing of piping, and
  • placement of components. Key components, such as dryers, drains, and

compressors may have initially been installed at a location that was convenient at the time. But plant expansion and reconfiguring may have occurred. Relocating major components could make them more accessible for maintenance or make the system operate more efficiently.