Small Compressed Air Leaks Mean Big Problems

Case Study by: Chuck Peterson, Peterson Predictive Maintenance


A plant in Kansas was losing significant dollars in energy loss and in compressors running over the course of the past three years. They were running as many as 4-500 CFM compressors at one time to keep up with the air demand. They did not have a consistent air survey program in place and ended up having to replace a few of their 5-500 cubic foot compressors more frequently than necessary, costing them 4 days of shutdown and approximately $225,000 in compressor fees.

Mr. Peterson immediately recommended quarterly air surveys. Air is the most expensive utility a plant has. This plant was running a compressor at 500 cubic feet per minute but leaking 100 cubic feet per minute, losing as much as 20% efficiency, slowly killing the machine. Ideally air leaks should be down to less than 5% of compressor capacity.

Since conducting these surveys using their airborne ultrasound instrument, they are finding as many as 40 compressed air leaks during every inspection. The ultrasound system is also telling the technician exactly how much air is leaking.

Fixing leaks has resulted in greater efficiency for each compressor. By fixing the leaks and reducing the demand they have now been able to run on one and at times 2 compressors thus cutting the actual compressor run time in half, energy output is also reduced, helping cut energy costs and their carbon footprint.  Plus the compressors are not wearing out, extending equipment life.

Based on cost of compressor and energy waste, it is projected that this plant saves approximately $25,000 – $35,000 each quarter. Considering the cost of one Ultraprobe® 10,000 inspection gun is roughly $11,000, the ROI after one quarter was already 2 to 1.

Since this inspection program was established, not one new compressor has had to be ordered, creating a savings of at least $225,000 based on the frequency for which this plant was frying their compressors.

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