How much air leaks really cost – Leak Survey Examples
We all know that compressed air leaks are a huge source of energy (and money) waste, but do you know how much they really cost? After conducting around 60 surveys in different facilities from different industries, using an ultrasound camera, we concluded that the average leak would cost around 1200€ per year. When you think that any industrial site will have dozens or even hundreds of leaks, you can quickly realize the savings potential.
As energy prices rose up to historical peaks, compressed air leaks have also become more expensive than ever. In these times, finding and repairing those wasteful leaks must be a priority for any maintenance team looking to cut down on energy waste.
Knowing that, on average, approx. 10% of all energy supplied to an industrial facility will be used for compressed air; and that the average leak rate across a site in industry is 30%, you can quickly realize that compressed air leaks will be one of the greatest sources of waste in industry.
How to conduct effective air leak surveys
It is well established that using ultrasound inspection instruments is the most effective way of finding leaks. Digital instruments will also record the decibel level at the leak point, which will be the basis to calculate the leak cost and elaborate reports.
Normally these are handheld and listen-only instruments – still very effective in detecting leaks, but more recently, with the deployment of ultrasound cameras, you can also see the leaks, in real time, turning leak surveys into a much more effortless and quick task.
Thus, when considering that:
1. Air leaks are more expensive than ever – one leak costs an average of 1200€ per year
2. Finding air leaks is now easier and quicker than ever
We can conclude that having an ultrasound camera is a no-brainer for most industrial facilities.
As these cameras are working by simply showing the leaks on the screen, you can find dozens of leaks in minutes.
Leak Survey Examples & the cost of leaks
The examples of leak surveys below were conducted using the UltraView camera from UE Systems, one of the most advanced leak detection devices available today. You can clearly see how, in a matter of hours (sometimes even minutes), the UltraView can detect and quantify leaks worth thousands.
1. Commercial Printing Facility – 1 single leak costing 1650€ per year
The printing industry uses a lot of compressed air (especially when printing newspapers and magazine, like this facility), making these facilities perfect candidates for an efficient leak detection device. With a proper leak detection program in place, cost avoidance can be huge. One single leak was estimated to cost 1650€ per year! A 30-minute survey at this facility carried out with the UltraView detected 6 leaks amounting to a cost of 7000€ per year. This is only a small part of the total amount of leaks estimated at this site, since almost all printing machines will need compressed air.
Besides the energy waste, these leaks bring other issues: as leaks on the printing machines will bring down the system pressure, this will compromise the printing quality. Thus, finding and repairing leaks in the printing industry is not just a matter of energy savings, but also of assuring the final product quality.
2. Costly compressed air and argon/nitrogen leaks found at pharmaceutical company
Pharma uses a lot of compressed air, as well as special gas, which means leaks can quickly become a huge source of energy waste. We could attest exactly that when surveying a pharmaceutical plant using the UltraView. During the demonstration we were able to pinpoint and report 29 compressed air leaks in about 2 hours of survey.
The total cost for these leaks is estimated at a costly 28313€ per year. This includes some major leaks, including one huge leak which was undetected so far and was costing the company 5809€. The UltraView was able to easily pinpoint it even at a 5 meter distance.
Besides compressed air, we could also detect some very expensive argon and nitrogen leaks. Special or innate gas leaks can become quite expensive, as the price for these is usually 3 or 4 times more expensive than compressed air.
In the video we can see how the UltraView could find an argon leak at a tank. This is a leak losing 9 liter per minute of argon, meaning that, if it would be left undetected, the tank would be empty in about 3 to 4 days.
3. Food packaging plant: detecting compressed air, vacuum and vent leaks
At a food packaging plant we did a quick survey using the UltraView camera. Packaging facilities normally rely heavily on compressed air, so it was no surprise that we were able to quickly find 22 leaks amounting to almost 13000€, including 2 leaks at hard to reach locations which we could easily detect even at a 5 meter distance. These would be much more difficult to pinpoint using traditional listen-only ultrasound instruments.
On top of that, the UltraView could also detect 3 vacuum leaks and 1 leak in the ventilation system, as we can see in the video. Vacuum leaks are a big issue in many industries, as they are very hard to detect and can quickly lead to product quality loss and increase in production time.
Also, interesting to note that leak at the ventilation system, which is not a typical application for the UltraView but was very important at this facility, since the maintenance team wants to assure the vents are completely sealed, otherwise dangerous gas might not be expelled from the facility as they should.
Peter Boon, Product Specialist, UE Systems
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