Where and why might my compressed air system be leaking?

Published:  08 July, 2015

The answer to this month’s trouble shooter is provided by BOGE Compressors.

Q:

Where and why might my compressed air system be leaking?

A:

One of the biggest fault areas with a compressed air system is leakage. In fact, all compressed air systems have potential leaks. This is even true of new ones, which may lose up to 10% of air. The leak rate of an unmanaged compressed air system, however, can be as high as 50% - in certain applications even higher figures have been measured.

To put the cost of compressed air system leakage into context, one 3mm hole could cost over £1000 per year in wasted energy. Keeping leaks to a minimum makes good business sense. The first step to addressing and minimising leakage is to identify the location of leaks, which can be achieved by undertaking a compressed air leak detection survey. Although leakage can come from any part of the compressed air system, there are a number of problem areas where leaks are most commonly found. These include piping, flange joints, pressure regulators, couplings, sealing rings and connections.

There is no one single reason why leaks occur. The problems can be caused by human error, such as poor welding or pipe connections, or defective equipment in the case of damaged valves or degraded seals. Also, over time equipment naturally undergoes some level of wear, such as in the case of unsupported flange joints, or can become loosened as a result of thermal expansion and contraction, or vibration.

The key to keeping air leakage at the lowest possible level is on-going detection, monitoring and repair of compressed air systems. Although this may not guarantee 100% efficiency, substantial energy and cost savings can still be made.

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