Setting up a Compressed Air Leak Program for Phelps Dodge

Case Study by: Phelps Dodge Team

With facilities in North America, South America and Europe, the need to reduce the impact of rising energy costs, key personnel participated in US Department of Energy sponsored seminars for the Compressed Air Challenge.

The US Department of Energy has estimated that thirty percent of all compressed air produced in the USA is lost to leaks. With large facilities consuming compressed air, the potential for savings was obvious.

A group was formed to plan the compressed air leak program. Based on D.O.E and internal data the group was able to produce an estimate of potential energy savings   They set out goals, and created an inspection team that would look for leaks in compressed air and other gases such as natural gas, nitrogen, oxygen and steam.  A team of three was assigned to the task.  They were sent to UE Systems’ certifiable Level I class and purchased ultrasound instruments.  The team developed a scope of the work that included photographs and field logs of leaking systems, details of all the piping systems, a cost sensitivity model to document potential savings from the survey and a final report and procedures for repair and follow-up.  Their planning also included management methods to sustain a leak prevention program.

The team roles and responsibilities were to perform all tasks in a manner to maintain “zero” incidents, a survey of all compressed air and gaseous piping systems including tagging leaks and repair methods.  Photographs of tagged leaks were taken and leaks were logged.  A procedure for leak repairs was established.  The team was also asked to document other maintenance opportunities to reduce compressed air cost and/or improve performance.

2983 leaks were identified.  2170 compressed air, 19 nitrogen, 675 natural gas, 91 oxygen, 10 argon, 18 steam.  As part of the leak management, there were 2273 leaks repaired (76% by quantity):  1624 compressed air, 19 nitrogen, 524 natural gas, 80 oxygen, 8 argon, 18 steam.

The results for dollar savings were: $1.72MM leak opportunities, $1.46MM leaks repaired.  The team T&E expenses were $45M for a net savings of: $1,415,000.00

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