Another component to planning includes a leak identification method. Once a leak has been located, it should be tagged. A 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 than be used to demonstrate the cost savings and potential environmental impact of the leak. In addition, the leak identification process can be used to be sure a leak is repaired. It is very costly not to repair an identified leak.

Follow-through is another important factor. If a leak is not repaired, all the effort and cost of the survey will be wasted. Therefore, use a follow-up method to ensure that all identified leaks have been repaired. In addition, when a leak has been reported as fixed, the repair should be checked. Sometimes the repair might cause another leak to occur or the wrong component may have been “repaired.” Followthrough 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 should also include leak management. Even though a survey has been completed, many leaks may still exist. The problem is that the shear volume of these leaks can seem overwhelming to a maintenance department that is already working hard at meeting the daily maintenance requirements they are normally assigned.

Establishing a system that will allow for the leaks to be repaired is important. One method is to prioritize the leak repair so that the most costly leaks are repaired first. Progressively smaller leaks are then repaired over time. Once the last of these has been repaired — which may be several months after the audit — it might be wise to plan another audit. This helps hold leakage at bay and also helps you gain a greater return on your investment of equipment used in the audit.

Record keeping is another important element to the follow through part of a survey. Some companies provide software that can help, such as freeware offered by UE Systems Inc. It combines data management and comprehensive compressed gas survey analysis. Users can review annualized and monthly data that include leak cost and greenhouse gas savings.

Conclusion
Compressed air can be costly in more than the obvious. The cost of producing or purchasing the gas is one factor. Safety, the environment, and equipment degradation caused by leaks and equipment inefficiencies can all add up in many ways that 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.

Bruce Gorelick, vice president, Enercheck Systems, Charlotte, N.C., wrote this article, and Alan Bandes, vice president, UE Systems, Elmsford, N.Y., assisted with statistics. For more information, visit www.enerchecksystems.com and www.uesystems.com.