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The Fluid Systems Engineering and Management Blog

by Swagelok Northern California

How To Solve Tapered Pipe Thread Leaking in Northern California Industrial Plants

by Malik Durojaiye, on 1/18/22 9:00 AM


A major and common concern for many industrial plants, including semiconductor manufacturers and refineries, is tapered pipe thread leaks. Tapered pipe threads are frequently used for end connections between male and female pipe threads but need a sealant applied to prevent highly problematic leaks. Tapered pipe thread leaks pose risks to employee health and safety as they could potentially release toxins into the atmosphere. In addition to the health and safety risks, severe fines and halted production to deal with pipe thread leaks can be extremely costly for an industrial plant.

A solution to many tapered pipe thread leaks is the correct application of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) tape. Utilizing PTFE tape allows for safe and efficient production. By working with a local vendor for training and consultation, you can seal leaks and ensure PTFE tape is applied correctly to reduce future tapered pipe thread leaking.

Risks From Tapered Pipe Thread Leaks

Tapered pipe thread leaks may result in significant issues that may halt manufacturing or production. The following are just a few of those issues:

  • Staff Exposed to Toxins: A tapered pipe thread leak could potentially expose staff to dangerous toxins. This risk could include carcinogens and, as such, would shut down production and violate Cal/OSHA regulations, resulting in fines, potential lawsuits, and increased regulatory scrutiny.
  • Pollutants Released to the Environment: Chemicals used in semiconductor manufacturing and the refinery process can cause significant environmental damage if not properly disposed of. Breaking environmental regulations can also result in fines.
  • Production Limitations: The right concentration of chemicals plays an important role in the production of semiconductors and refinery processes. Leaks will impact product goals or could result in loss of product.
  • Inefficiency: Leaks could cause manufacturers to use more energy and effort than typically required to meet production goals. This can be costly and wasteful.

Applying and Utilizing PTFE Tape

PTFE tape can be used to fill gaps between the roots and crests of pipes and lubricate the threads. The threads can then be easily screwed together with the PTFE tape filling in gaps where leaks could occur. Applying PTFE tape to tapered pipes requires a specialized process. The steps are outlined below:

Step 1: Collect Tools

To seal a tapered pipe thread leak, you will need PTFE tape, an open-end wrench, a brass or stainless steel brush, and a vice. Note that the PTFE tape can only be used on male tapered pipe threads.

Step 2: Clean the Male and Female Threads

To avoid getting excess tape into the flow stream, or putting too much into the threads such that it gets pushed out, remove previously applied anti-seize tape and use a soft-bristled brush to clean threads. Make sure the proper tape size is used based on the thread size; use 1/4 inch wide tape on 1/8 inch, 1/4 inch, and 3/8 inch male tapered pipe threads; use 1/2 inch wide tape on 1/2 inch and larger male tapered pipe threads. Now you are ready to wrap the tape.

Step 3: Wrap the Tape

Find the male pipe thread and wrap the tape in the same direction as the thread spiral. Based on the thickness of the PTFE tape, determine the number of revolutions of the tape (usually around three times). Then tautly draw the free ends around the threads.

Step 4: Cut Excess Tape

After wrapping the tape, cut any excess tape. Tighten the male end connection into the mating female end connection. After creating a tight connection, do not loosen it as it could create leaks. 

Step 5: Stop Leaks and Prepare for Future Leaks

If you have followed the steps above, you will likely have created a strong seal. However, you are now also prepared for future leaks. Leaks can be extremely difficult to find with some as small as 1x10-3 cm3. Training staff can help you determine if a leak is present and how best to repair it (and use PTFE tape). Swagelok, a local vendor to Northern California refineries and semiconductor manufacturers, can help with this training.

For more information on sealing threaded fittings, watch this 3-minute tutorial on applying PTFE tape.


Learn How to Repair Tapered Pipe Thread Leaks

Swagelok provides the expertise to help with the application of PTFE tape to tapered pipes. They can also train staff to fix current pipe thread leaks and to prepare for future leaks. This training—Swagelok Tube Fitting Safety Seminar—involves showing tape application techniques and ways to identify potential issues. Swagelok certified trainers will show participants how to apply PTFE thread sealant and then watch as participants attempt to utilize the PTFE thread. Participants will also learn about pipe fittings, tubing handling, and how to install Swagelok tube fittings.

Tools for fixing tapered pipe thread leaks, other pipe leaks, and for piping can also be rented from Swagelok. These tools include hydraulic and pneumatic tools, an orbital welding system, and plastic tube flaring tools. Swagelok PTFE tape provides a strong seal on metal pipe threads in applications up to 450°F.

Solve Tapered Pipe Thread Leaking with Swagelok

Utilizing a local vendor for tapered pipe thread leaking can have significant advantages. Tapered pipe thread leaks can be unpredictable. Partnering with a local vendor can provide you access to quality PTFE tape and expert guidance for assessing the pipe leaks and suggesting ways to mitigate future problems.

Swagelok has the experts and supplies to assist refineries and semiconductor manufacturers in Northern California with issues related to tapered pipe thread leaking. Swagelok can also provide training to prepare your staff to repair pipe thread leaks as they occur. They will also be trained to troubleshoot issues that occur.

To find out more about how Swagelok Northern California can help you solve tapered pipe thread leaking, contact our team today by calling 510-933-6200.


About Malik Durojaiye | Field Engineer, Assembly Services

Malik Durojaiye began his Swagelok career in 2019 as a Custom Solutions Engineer in our Assembly Services group. Prior to Swagelok, Malik developed as a design engineer as well as a manufacturing engineer for 6 years serving Kentucky and California with Altec Industries; a leading provider of products and services to the electric utility, telecommunications, tree care, lights and signs, and contractor markets.

Topics:Assembly ServicesMission CriticalSeal Support Systems

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