3 Main Causes of Steam Leaks

Steam leaks end up costing steam-based plant operations thousands of dollars each year. This wasted energy can also lead to injuries and accidents, increase emissions and lower the reliability of plant operations. 

While the industrial production manager should be concerned with all forms of utility losses, they should pay special attention to steam leaks since these can result in much higher losses. Therefore, a steam leak repair can save a plant a large sum of money while costing very little in comparison. 

Let’s take a look at the three main problems that cause steam leaks.

1. Threaded-Pipe Connections

Pipe threads were developed in the 19th century and haven’t been improved much since then. Consequently, it is no surprise that threaded pipe connections in a steam and condensate system are the most common cause of steam leaks.

During startup, operation, and shutdown steam and condensate expand and contract. Sometimes, the contraction can exceed a few inches. Therefore, more demand is put on the pipe threads, causing them to fail.  

Using different kinds of materials on the threaded connection to prevent leakage will do little good. Instead, other connection methods need to be employed. These may include welded connections or tube-type connections. 

2. Packing on Standard-Type Valves

Although gate and globe valves are the most common styles, they employ older methods of sealing. Hence, they are more prone to leakage and failure. 

Gate or the globe valves are supported at the top by the valve stem but unsupported at the bottom. Thus, the pressure system’s force causes it to have movements other than up and down. 

Such movements damage valve packing, causing exposure to steam and leakage. Since the flow directs toward the valve’s operating handle, it presents a significant safety hazard to personnel. 

In recent years, ball and butterfly valves have improved and now make better candidates for some systems. They can operate at higher pressures and temperatures and have leakage rates that are much lower than other valves. Also, it is essential to have a proactive maintenance program. 

3. Carbonic Acid

Oxygen and carbonic acid can attack the components of a system. As a result, the pipe’s weakest part (pipe threads) deteriorates and creates a leak. 

Again, the solution is using welded connections or tube-type connections. These will better resist carbonic acid corrosion. Using stainless steel inside the condensate system will create a maintenance-free solution. 

Seek Professional Help to Repair and Prevent Steam Leaks

Maintaining your steam system and assessing your energy expenditure is essential to avoid leaks. However, if you suspect that your system has steam leaks, it is best to contact professionals. 

At RAK Industrial Services, we specialize in on-line steam leak repair. Using specialized equipment, such as clamps and sealants, we can repair leaks without isolating and shutting down your equipment. Since you don’t have to shut down your equipment, you will prevent losses in time and profit. 

If you have a steam leak, contact us today by calling 404-985-2171! You can reach us anytime, day or night! 

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