Reliability Teams are Often Surprised when Realizing Leaks go Beyond just Wasted Electricity

It’s time we weighed the overall cost of compressed air leaks, shifting the discussion from energy cost to asset accountability. Afterall, some of the largest and most important rotating assets in industry are air compressors.

About 10% of all global industrial electricity is used for compressed air generation, 30% of that very large number is lost to leaks. These are scary figures, especially in a day and age justifiably dominated by climate action. However, highlighting energy waste isn’t the purpose of this article. We aren’t attempting to understate energy waste, but merely look at what else a 30% leakage rate is costing manufacturers.

Leak mitigation, energy cost and savings are the most common discussion topic when discussing compressed air systems optimization. To which we get a typical response demonstrating where most of industries’ priorities lie.

We’ve heard it…

“Yeah, we have leaks, who doesn’t?”

“Compressed air leaks aren’t a priority right now, we’re behind on production.”

“There is no time to fix leaks we do find.”

Shortly followed by…

“Our compressed air system is down! We’ve lost ALL production!”

Often, these calls come when a compressed air system surpasses its leak threshold. One leak too many. The straw that broke the camel’s back.

Only then, do maintenance and reliability teams begin to question… maybe compressed air systems are more critical to production than otherwise thought. A simple way around this way of thinking is asking maintenance and reliability teams this.

Compressed Air Leak Found directly on Air Compressor using SonaVu™ Acoustic Imaging Camera

“What happens to their production output when there is no compressed air?”

As maintenance and reliability practitioners, and condition monitoring technicians, our goal is to help our organizations achieve their operational objectives by improving equipment reliability and maximizing the effectiveness of an asset’s useful life.

Yes, today that one air leak is not the culprit of downtime, but what is that leak costing your organization over the asset’s total life? No, not energy consumption… Asset life! If it is standard for an unmaintained compressed air system to lose 30-50% of its production to leaks, then that means 30-50% of that air compressor’s life is spent producing compressed air that will never be used.


What is a compressed air system made up of? Air compressors, filters, air dryers and condensate systems. These systems work 24/7/365. Replacing them is a Capex project, requiring considerable mechanical retrofitting and undoubtably days downtime.

Is wasting 30% of that asset’s useful life acceptable?

At SDT Ultrasound Solutions we enable our customers to achieve their operational objectives by improving the reliability of their assets. Our success is measured by the long-term implementation of our products, solutions and philosophies, and the impact they have on our customers’ sustainability, efficiency, reliability, and safety.

Compressed air equipment is likely critical to your output, if a simple method such as compressed air leak management can increase the output of your plant and reduce your overall operating expenses in energy and maintenance, shouldn’t we assign a higher value here?

By Steven O’Leary & Tristan Rienstra, SDT Ultrasound Solutions