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Schneider Electric: Using State-of-the-Art Acoustical Imaging Technology for Compressed Air Leak Detection and Repair

Schneider documents compressed air system improvement processes in the company’s Global Energy Best Practice Manual. The Manual has a dedicated section on compressed air system optimization.

Schneider had a challenging time in the past convincing stakeholders that compressed air leaks were a serious problem and that more advanced detection technology was worth the investment. Before implementing the acoustic imaging leak detector process, Schneider followed traditional approaches to identify compressed air leaks—applying soapy solutions to pipes and hoses and using human ears to detect leaks. Additionally, electronic ultrasonic audio instruments were used but these tools were not always able to locate the precise location of leaks. Schneider worked with a third party to evaluate state-of-the-art acoustical imaging technology. These tools use a video camera to provide a live image, and an array of 64 different directional microphones to create a heat map of ultrasonic emissions on top of the visual display. Using audible and visual inputs, the acoustical imaging technology enables maintenance teams to locate compressed air, gas, and vacuum leaks quickly and accurately.

Once the tools were rolled out with training and assistance from their Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) partner, a standardized process was developed to instruct site-level personnel to perform the facility’s compressed air assessment and track data monthly. Site facilities personnel use a reporting tool to quantify leaks and savings by categorizing leaks into the appropriate areas of responsibility, either Production or Facilities. Then, the tool is shipped to the next scheduled site and the process is replicated.