Efficient Plant October 2021 - 15

feature | leak detection
COMPRESSED-AIR SYSTEMS ARE
a critical asset in many industries. As a
result, compressed-air leaks constitute a
large source of wasted energy and expense,
with a third of compressed air lost annually
to leaks and other system ineffi ciencies. In
many cases, the cost of the electricity to
operate compressed-air systems dwarfs that
for other plant systems, such as natural gas
and water.
Given the necessity of compressed air,
locating and eliminating system leaks can
generate enormous cost savings with the
added benefi ts of improving operational
effi ciency, safety, and reduced overall carbon
output.
LEAK REMEDIATION
Leaks can play an outsized role in contributing
to system operation problems, especially
fl uctuating system pressure, which can
cause air tools or air-operated equipment to
function at reduced capacity and effi ciency,
ultimately aff ecting production and potentially
compounding issues down the line.
Th e ineffi ciencies caused by unknown leaks
may lead companies to purchase excess
compressor capacity or even unnecessary
additional compressor systems, all the while
escalating costs. For existing equipment,
leaks can lead to increased maintenance
requirements due to unnecessary cycling
and increased run time that will ultimately
decrease service life.
Th ese issues were echoed throughout a
study at a chemical plant conducted by the
United States Offi ce of Energy Effi ciency
& Renewable Energy, Washington (energy.
gov/eere/offi ce-energy-effi ciency-renewable-energy).
Th e plant leadership conducted
a compressed-air audit, followed by
the creation of a leak-prevention program.
Th rough the study, plant operators discovered
they could signifi cantly lower operating
costs through remediation eff orts. By fi xing
the 10 largest leaks uncovered during the
OCTOBER 2021
audit, operators realized 70% of the overall
available cost savings.
To help organizations create an eff ective
compressed-air leak detection program
that aligns with best practices and policies,
plant operators can adopt ISO 50001 energy-management
standards. Th is program
provides guidance on targets and objectives
to help meet the standards, including the
use of data to better understand and make
decisions about energy use, measure results,
and review progress as part of a program to
continually improve energy management.
When organizational leaders decide to
implement these standards, they're empowered
to not only take meaningful steps to
improve energy effi ciency through compressed-air
leak detection and remediation,
among other key tactics, but also develop a
framework that shows meaningful progress
to external parties.
LEAK-DETECTION METHODS
Whether an organization plans to implement
ISO 50001 or simply wants to improve
plant effi ciency for its corresponding
benefi ts, identifying compressed-air leaks
is the fi rst step. Locating those leaks can be
particularly challenging in a noisy manufacturing
environment, so plant operators use
a handful of methods and tools to correctly
identify leaks.
High-defi nition acoustic images: High
defi nition (HD) acoustic imaging, comprised
of a cluster of specialized integrated
microphones, is simply the fastest and usually
the most accurate method for detecting
compressed-air leaks. Typically, such devices
feature dozens of MEMS (micro-electromechanical
system) microphones, which are
small, consume minimal power, and provide
optimal performance and stability.
Th ese devices can produce precise images
from sounds that visually display ultrasonic
information, even in loud environments
Continued on p.18
EFFICIENTPLANTMAG.COM | 15
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Efficient Plant October 2021

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