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TRACERCO Diagnostics™ - Leak Study

On-Line Detection of Leaks for Better Shut Down Scheduling

Inter-stream leakage is a commonly occurring problem on all types of process plant. A typical situation is where water contamination of the liquid product from a distillation unit may originate either from a leakage in the reboiler or from a water leakage in one of the product condensers. The problem facing the plant manager is to identify the leak and to effect repairs in such a manner that shutdown-time is minimized.

Heat exchanger

One obvious approach is to shut down the unit and subject each of the suspect vessels to appropriate hydraulic or pneumatic tests – a time consuming and expensive procedure. Worse still, there is a possibility that the water contamination does not originate from a leak at all, but from some upstream process problem.

The TRACERCO Diagnostics™ Leak Study can provide a way out of this dilemma and can assist the manager to ‘get it right first time’.

The TRACERCO Diagnostics™ Leak Study technique involves testing the vessels online;

a) The reboiler is tested by injecting a gaseous tracer radioisotope into the reboiler steam supply and sampling the vapour from the return-line to the column. Any steam leak will be revealed by the presence of tracer in the samples and the size of the leak can be calculated from the measured concentration.

b) Water leakage in the product condensers may be investigated by injecting an aqueous tracer into the cooling water, sampling and assaying the condensed product.

Leak study

If a leak is identified by these procedures, the manager can ensure that, at the shutdown, maintenance effort if directed immediately towards the relevant vessel. If no leak is identified, then immediate attention needs to be given to identifying alternative sources of water contamination. In either case, there are significant savings of shutdown time and of maintenance effort.

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