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3 ways technology is preventing unwanted industrial fluid leaks

9th September 2021 Print

You may have heard about companies that make biodegradable, eco-friendly hydraulic fluid that lessens the impact of a leak. While using this type of fluid is a step in the right direction, it’s equally important to prevent leaks in the first place.

Hydraulic fluid leaks don’t just harm the environment – leaks can harm the equipment and cause secondary disasters.

Most modern industrial machinery and equipment can’t function without hydraulic fluid. While we need these machines to keep society functioning, industrial fluid leaks can have serious consequences.

Hydraulic fluid leaks have serious consequences

Every year, thousands of gallons of industrial hydraulic fluid contaminate the earth, mostly through preventable leaks. In more serious incidents, hydraulic fluid leaks cause extensive damage. 

For example, a blowout preventer leaking hydraulic fluid caused the 2010 Gulf Coast Oil Disaster. This disaster resulted in a major explosion that sank the platform and killed 11 workers and is considered the worst oil spill in history.

Despite how frequently leaks occur, industrial fluid leaks are preventable. Here are three ways technology is helping.

1. Quick release couplers

For large machinery that can’t be completely shut down just to change attachments, quick release couplers are the answer. Quick release coupling solutions eliminate unplanned downtime while providing leak-free performance.

Using these connections, it’s safe to disconnect and reconnect attachments under pressure. These couplers improve operations, which also increases profitability.

Quick release couplers are used in many industries, including:

- Agricultural. Equipment like tractors and excavators use quick release couplers to switch out attachments.

- Oil and gas. The machines that drill for oil and extract natural gas need leak-free connections to maintain a safe work site. The consequences of a leak can be catastrophic.

- Industrial manufacturing. Industrial machinery often relies on quick release couplings to meet productivity goals.

The type of quick release coupler used in each industry will vary by equipment and needs, but there are seven general types:

- Flat face couplers

- Threaded flat face couplings

- High-pressure couplers

- Poppet interchange couplers

- Threaded poppet couplers

- Multi-coupling plates

- Custom couplers

In most cases, custom quick connect couplers can be manufactured to fit specific needs and will fit legacy equipment.

2. O-ring face seal

If you’ve got a hydraulic plumbing system, you need to use the O-ring face seal (ORFS). Your entire plumbing system’s reliability will depend on your connections. You might be tempted to go with the JIC 37-degree flare since it’s common. However, it’s hard to create a permanent leak-free joint.

The O-ring face seal with a tube and hose connection can provide you with the reliable seal you need. The downside is these connectors are large and don’t have many options for adapters. The ORFS connectors are more challenging to install and cost more. Still, if you can use this type of connection, it’s worth the extra time and cost.

3. Flared connections are still great tech for low-pressure systems

If you’ve got a low-pressure system, you can probably keep using flared connections. The only reason flared connections have become insufficient is because of the increase in pressure in modern hydraulic systems.

The consequences of a hydraulic leak go beyond the environment

Everyone talks about how bad hydraulic fluid is for the environment. While that’s definitely a major concern, it’s not the only concern. Leaks can drain company profits in several ways.

First, leaks can cause excess energy consumption. Leaks can also cause damage to the entire system and create unplanned downtime. Unplanned downtime will significantly crush a company’s profits.

How to prevent damage caused by hydraulic fluid leaks

It’s not enough to use secure connections. Leaks can happen accidentally or be caused by human error. In addition to the right equipment, you also need to have a plan for preventing and mitigating the damage in case you do experience a leak.

For example, you can use colored fluid to identify a small leak before it becomes destructive. You can also perform routine maintenance and train staff to report problems quickly, no matter how minor. The quicker you identify a leak, the more time you have to mitigate the damage.

You’ll also need to have a plan in place for dealing with leaks, the required cleanup, and disposal. Fluid leaks and spills are a hazard to people, not just the environment. Make sure your plan covers worker safety along with disposal and cleanup.

Not all hydraulic fluid leaks can be prevented, but many can be prevented or mitigated with a little bit of planning.