Calculate How Much a Fluid Leak Impacts Your Bottom Line
by Katie Reid, on Tue, Dec 18, 2018 @ 08:12 AM
Free, expert advice on calculating the cost of fluid leaks at your facility
Most experienced professionals who work on fluid systems have dealt with thousands of fluid leaks. In strictly financial terms, how much have they saved their companies by stopping those leaks? How much more can be saved by ending and preventing leaks?
Leakage is expressed as a flow—a volume per unit of time, cm3/minute, gallons/day etc. The system fluid is the leakage vehicle. Therefore, the cost of a leak varies with what is leaking out (or, in the case of 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 if fluid leaks don't result in fires, falls, and the like, leakage costs big money. Chapter Ten of the popular Swagelok Tube Fitter's Manual shows how to calculate it.
But 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.
Indeed, 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.
Industry experts estimate 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.
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.
Consider, too, that the same benefits that make steam useful make it a 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.
And in the case of steam leaks, fuel cost and boiler efficiency tell less than half the story. Many factors in the steam system affect the cost of steam. They include fuel cost (lower-cost fuels result in lower steam cost ); operating steam pressure (lower operating steam pressure results in lower steam cost, while higher operating steam pressure requires more energy to produce the steam); and the percentage of make-up water or percentage of condensate return (normal condensate returns have a higher Btu content than make-up water; today’s industrial benchmark for condensate return is 90% if the plant is not injecting steam for the process).
The good news
A small leak can drain big dollars off the bottom line, and get worse over time. But there is a free resource that can help you calculate the cost of leaks in your unique operation. Download Hidden Cost of Leakage here.
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