Did you know that plants across various industries lose millions of gallons of hydraulic fluids to leaks every year? This translates to the loss of millions of dollars and possible safety risks. . Losing fluid lubrication can create the need for expensive equipment repair. Gas and liquid leaks mostly happen when appliances are poorly fitted, not maintained well, or faulty.
The gas or liquid may escape through broken hoses and seals. Even though leaks are pretty common in plants, they can cause significant damage and shouldn’t be ignored. After fixing the leak, create a plan to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Here is a security guide to prevent gas and liquid leakage.
1. Recognizing Common Causes of Leaks
If you know the common causes of gas and liquid leaks, you can work to prevent them. Surprisingly, human error is the most significant cause of these leaks. Even when you have high-quality, well-maintained parts, the possibility of suffering these leaks is still high.
There may be errors in the installation and design of different components. Another common mistake is in the choice of components. Here are the top causes of leaks. Understanding them may help prevent leaks.
● Unreliable Metal-to-Metal Seals
It is difficult to make or maintain ”packless” metal-to-metal seals. They aren’t very reliable, mainly when used for a long time. When installing them, you need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions very closely. Even the slightest mistakes can cause major leaks. To create a stronger, more reliable seal, consider replacing the component with an option with adjustable packing.
● Poor Tubing Choice, Preparation, and Handling
Your tubing choice and preparation may be increasing your likelihood of experiencing a leak. If you use tubing material that is incompatible with your process fluid or the environment around your plant, there is an increased risk of premature failure and corrosion, leading to leaks. Tubing that is unevenly cut, dented, or scratched may influence the sealing potential of the fitting.
● Poor Installation of Tube Fittings
If your tube fittings are assembled properly, you have a lower likelihood of getting leaks. Leaving the installation work to skilled technicians will improve security and reduce leaks. They should have enough experience to make up fittings and verify the appropriate pull-up.
2. Understand Common Types of Leaks
Knowing the different causes of leaks is not enough. You must understand that there are different types of leaks as well. Every type of leak has unique repair steps.
● Real Leaks
These are leaks resulting from pressure barriers that fail to isolate or contain a system fluid from the environment. Gaps and cracks in sealing surfaces mainly cause these leaks. The most basic resolution is for the technician to tighten a valve packing. They may also need to change valve components like O-rings and the packing.
● Virtual Leaks
These leaks happen when fluids in the system accidentally pass into other areas of the plant’s fluid system. Material outgassing may be a cause of these leaks as well. In other instances, fluids may adsorb or absorb into components. Eventually, they leak out as system concentration changes.
Fluids may also get entrapped in dead legs or cracks. Eventually, they may leak into the fluid stream, hence altering its composition. Avoiding dead legs is one of the
Permeation leaks happen when fluid goes through pressure barriers whose holes aren’t large enough to allow a considerable fraction of the molecules through a hole. These types of leaks are prevalent with fluoropolymers used for valve seats and flexible hose cores. Gases and fluids are likely to pass through the material, hence desorbing to the other side. You can avoid permeation leaks by picking components with sealing material.
3. Invest In Rubber Gaskets
Consider replacing your old gaskets with rubber options to prevent leaks. Gaskets are essential as they create airtight seals to prevent leaks. If they aren’t in their best condition, your entire system is compromised. Even when you have the best rubber gaskets, you need to replace them often. They may crack and dry out over time.
Even though rubber gaskets are often underappreciated, they are used in both industrial and household appliances. They seal refrigerator doors, keep moisture away from ammunition, and even help when building bridges. Rubber gaskets prevent both liquid and gas leaks. Other types of rubber gaskets serve as barriers between two objects. For example, they may create a barrier between chemicals or different metals. When unsure of the right gaskets for your needs, consider getting the opinion of a professional.
4. Learn How to Detect Them
Knowing how to detect present leaks can help you avoid them in the future. It is one of the most important skills for workers to master. When workers know how to detect leaks, they can reduce operational risks and improve general safety. A proper leak-detection program has five primary Non-Destructive Test (NDT) methods: airborne ultrasonic testing, bubble testing, pressure change measuring testing, pressure leak testing, and mass spectrometry testing.
With bubble testing, you can detect and place gas leaks. By identifying the cause of your leak, a technician can give you tips to prevent it in the future. During this test, a component is pressurized to create a differential in pressure.
Next, the technician may immerse pressurized components in a solution. Alternatively, they may apply a soapy film on the outer part of the component and observe it for signs of a leak. If there is any leak, it will be indicated by bubbles. This is an excellent test as the entire component is observed at once. It doesn’t waste too much time.
With pressure leak testing, a technician will help you determine where your liquid or gas leak is. It is an excellent test as it lets you know exactly where your attention needs to be. The best techniques for pressure leak testing are pneumatic and hydrostatic tests. The operator will slowly pressurize the component with air or water to a specific pressure for both tests. They will then hold it for a specified period. After that, they can measure loss to determine if there is a leak. The test is most appropriate for scanning big areas for gas and liquid leaks.
5. Leak Maintenance
Prioritize leak maintenance to prevent gas and liquid leaks in the future. Almost all plants have leaks at some point. However, it isn’t always possible to address all leaks at the same time. With a good leak maintenance plan, you can address the existing leaks and prevent similar issues in the future. Create a list of leaks in your plants and categorize them. When you have a good plan, it is possible to handle all of them. Categorize your leaks as follows:
● Dangerous Leaks
These are leaks that pose a threat to your safety. Any leak that poses a safety concern should be addressed as soon as possible. Leaks under this category include those that release caustic chemicals and toxic gases. They also include the kinds of liquid leaks that could cause fall/slip hazards. The risk manager at your plant should come up with a plan to fix these leaks right away.
A good leak maintenance plan to prevent dangerous leaks should also consider how such hazardous materials are stored and disposed, especially if they are being transported from one place to another. This can be done by checking if the vessels they are using are specially designed to handle such substances, from storage, transportation, up to disposal.
● Nuisance Leaks
These are the kind of leaks that create a nuisance even though they may not pose any security concerns. They don’t cost you much, but that is no reason to ignore them. However, they can wait. You can deal with them after handling the more critical types of leaks.
● Expensive Leaks
Even though all types of leaks ultimately cost you, some are more expensive than others. If you have a leak causing a lot of expensive wastage, you need to handle it as soon as possible. With expensive argon gases, for example, even the tiniest leak can cause turmoil. It should be prioritized over a large leak that doesn’t cost much. Ignoring the expensive leak may affect your bottom line significantly.
The secret to effective leak maintenance is ensuring that you address all your leaks and put in the effort to ensure that they don’t happen again in the future. Get a team of trained and experienced engineers to help with the process. They should be able to detect, address, and prevent leaks. Offer them consistent training on material selection, how to identify leaks, and installation procedures. They can help improve the safety of your plant. Even though the training process can be long and expensive, it is worth it.