Leakage: The Thief Lurking in Your Company's Fluid System
by Jeff Hopkins, on 8/23/17 8:45 AM
A small leak can drain big dollars off the bottom line, and get worse over time
Learn how to calculate the hidden cost of leakage, download the full chapter "The Hidden Costs of Leakage" >>
Costly to ignore
How big of a problem are leaks in fluid systems? Big enough that industry associations conduct major studies to pin down the causes of leaks and ways to prevent them. Also big enough that the Swagelok Tube Fitter's Manual devotes an entire chapter to leakage. Here are a few key points from that chapter:
People often will say things such as, “A little leakage doesn’t bother us,” “Air is cheap,” or “Oil is cheap; a few drops aren’t worth saving.” They don't know how wrong they are.
It is estimated that 100 million gallons of hydraulic oil are lost each year through leakage. All that lost lubrication accounts for millions of dollars in damaged equipment. That, of course, means lost production when machines are shut down for repair.
Dripping fluid can be a safety hazard, a fire hazard and a health hazard. Even if those leaks don't hurt employees, they still might contaminate products.
The cost of a leak will vary greatly depending on what kind of fluid is leaking out (or, in a vacuum system, leaking in). One drop per second will add up to more than 400 gallons a year. For fluids costing, say, $5 a gallon, that can be up to $2,000 wasted every year. And that's just from a single leak. If you've ever spotted one leak in a fluid system, it's very likely that that there are others hidden out of sight.
Even when the only fluid involved is compressed air (a seemingly “free” fluid), it still means using extra power to keep the pressure up. A leak with an orifice of only 1/16 of an inch at 100 psig will waste 280,000 cubic feet in a month. At a cost of only 20 cents per thousand cubic feet, that's $672 wasted each year on "free" air from a single leak. Multiply these losses by the number of leaks in a facility, and the wasted money compounds quickly.
It is estimated that 100 million gallons of hydraulic oil are lost each year through leakage
If the leak results in the loss of process gases, analyzer gases, nitrogen, helium, or hydrogen, it can mean the difference between profit and loss. These specialty gasses can have costs per cubic foot in orders of magnitude more expensive. That's in addition to the cost of improperly calibrated or operating instruments, which can result in off-spec product.
We often write about the importance of a well-maintained steam system. The same benefits that makes steam a useful tool also can make it a big headache when the system has a leak. Aside from all the problems mentioned above for other fluids, steam has well-known erosive properties that usually make leaks grow larger with time.
If you are wondering how much leaks are costing your plant, we can help. First, Swagelok's high manufacturing standards mean that our fittings work better to begin with. Our training classes help make sure that your employees know how to install them properly. We also can utilize state-of-the-art technology to inspect your fluid system to spot leaks and give you advice on improvements, saving your facility big money.
Even small leaks can be a big headache. Contact Swagelok Northern California to bring fast relief.
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