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TRACERCO Diagnostics™ - Leak Study

Confirming Source of Leakage within Heat Exchanger

Leakage with heat exchangerThe Tracerco Diagnostics Leak Study technology has a proven track record in successfully identifying and confirming the source of leakage within banks of heat exchangers. A recent example of the use of this powerful inspection tool was a project we undertook for a major UK refinery.

The plant utilises seawater as a cooling medium to serve a bank of four exchangers, which were on a common product stream. Process sampling had indicated a leak of the seawater to product but attempts to identify the leaking unit by isolating each unit in turn had failed to conclusively identify the leaking unit. The client then contacted Tracerco regarding the use of the Tracerco Leak Study technology.

The procedure involved the injection of an aqueous based radioactive tracer (as Bromine-82) into the individual seawater inlet lines to the four units and detection on the product exit side. This would allow any leakage of > 0.5% to be detected which was well below the leak rate estimated by the client. A general layout showing one unit and the detector positions used (This layout was similar on all units.) is shown by clicking on the image right.

Heat exchanger

The test on the first exchanger showed a positive response on both detectors on the product exit line and also on the inlet to the reflux drum and the drum itself. Estimation of the size of the leak was that approximately 50% of the seawater was leaking into the product stream.

Further tests on the other three units were then performed and these showed leaks of 5% on two of the units and no leak of the third. The fact that three out of the four exchangers explained why the client was unable to resolve his problem without the use of the Tracerco Leak Study technology.

Subsequent to the test the unit with the large leak has been removed from service and tested off-line. With the other three exchangers in service the plant is now making on–spec material.

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