Plant & Works Engineering

Leaking money

Published:  07 September, 2007

Compressed air leaks are the greatest avoidable waste in a typical compressed air system.  Such leaks cost money, compromise reliability and safety of the process, and waste energy.  A well managed system should have a leak rate no higher than 10%.  A typical industrial system has leak rate in excess of 25%, even up to 60%.  Before making changes or new investment, it is vital to get leakage rates under control, otherwise the benefit of the other improvements will be negated.  To be truly effective there must be a complete leak management programme which includes regular leak surveys, and ongoing repairs.  If carrying all or part of the programme in-house in which case you should consider the following:

  • Do you have the time and resources to complete project within the next 3 months?
  • Do you have a sufficiently accurate method to estimate flow rates and cost to calculate payback times and hence justify the financial investment in repair?
  • Who will be responsible, and how much time will be required to manage it?
  • Do you have the appropriate ultrasonic equipment is used that can detect the required frequencies with sufficient accuracy?
  • Are you able to determine the cause of the leak and the action required to repair it?

To realise the potential energy savings it is important to re-visit the pressure after implementing the leak repairs.  Otherwise the pressure will rise where leak have been repaired and consume more energy.  A system with a previously high leak rate will have been over-pressurised to maintain production, so this is the opportunity to save substantial energy by lowering the pressure.

For further compressed air energy saving advice, visit our two Carbon Trust Networks websites:  and