The cost of leaking

Published:  09 February, 2018

Peter Crossen, VP of NCH Europe, looks at the cost of a leaking pipe.

A three millimetre hole doesn’t seem like it would cause a lot of damage. However, a three millimetre hole in a metal pipe at a pressure of 40psi will result in a leak of 8,450 litres of liquid in 24 hours. Factories and plants rely on pipes to transport vital fluids, so even the smallest amount of damage can have a serious consequence.

Pipes are found everywhere. From manufacturing facilities to hospitals, pipes are used to transport a wide range of substances, such as steam, water, oil and chemical solutions. If pipe work systems fail, there is the very real potential that a facility’s entire operation will fail. The severity of water leaks is clearly demonstrated by the fact that they cost European businesses around €80 billion a year.

The most common cause of pipe damage is age, which is a common issue in many older European plants where infrastructure has not been updated for decades. Other common causes include vibration, heat, rust, corrosion and bends in pipes. While most companies will instantly replace a burst pipe, small leaks often go ignored. Companies wrongly wait for the next period of scheduled maintenance to repair the pipe, rather than shutting the plant down and repairing it instantly.

These small leaks have a large impact on a business. For example, by not fixing a pipe, employers are putting employees health and safety at risk by increasing the chance of slips and trips. In Europe, Article 137 of the European Union treaty states that all companies are required to ensure the safety of their workers. Not only do slips and trips present a legal concern to employers, they also threaten the productivity of the workforce. Each year in Europe, 210 million working days are lost due to work-related accidents, diminishing output and worker morale.

So, what should plant managers do? Shutting the plant down for one damaged pipe stops production, results in delayed orders and there is the expense of the skilled labourers needed to fix the problem.

The easy solution is simple — online pipe repair.

There are a range of products that can allow plant managers to repair a leaky pipe without shutting down production. Pipe repair tape, for example, covers a leak and allows normal output to continue until scheduled shut down. By using flexible self-amalgamating tape which is resistant to high heat and pressure, the leak is dealt with quickly and easily. The bandages can also be put in place by any member of staff.

Facilities managers should also consider the needs of their plant when choosing a pipe repair product. For example, in a food processing plant, pipes must be quickly fixed to ensure that no chemicals contaminate the food production line. This means that any product chosen should be NSF approved in accordance with food safety regulations.

A small leak from a pipe may not seem like the kind of problem that should concern a facilities manager, but with issues such as workplace accidents, contamination, loss of productivity, downtime and high costs, they cannot be ignored. By conducting pipe repair while the system is online, plant managers can easily avoid slipping up.

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