The most common reasons for valve leakages are old age, damage, and poor installation or maintenance. Valves used in industrial applications such as chemical, oil, and gas plants can pose a great hazard to the surrounding environment when they leak. This was the case with the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, in which an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil was spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.
To avoid valve leakages, you first have to understand the common causes of valve leaks.
A valve that has been in service for too long -- say for more than 10 years -- is at a high risk of leakages because of wear and tear, especially when exposed to extremely high pressures and temperatures. Valves in such environments take on serious stress, and if their components don’t receive adequate maintenance throughout their service life, they are bound to fail and lead to leakages.
The solution here is to check for old and worn-out valves regularly and replace them fully or repair their worn-out components.
Damage (external and internal)
Damage either to the seat or seal of a valve can result in leakage. Damage may be as a result of an accident or wrong use of the valve. It also could be due to internal dehydration, resulting in the internal elastomeric seal to dry, harden, and stick to the sealing surfaces.
To solve this problem, ensure valves are placed safely in areas that are less prone to work accidents. Each valve should be used for its specific purpose, and regular lubrication and maintenance should be carried out according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
Valve is not fully closed
Valves may leak if they are not fully closed. This may happen because of dirt accumulation, rust, line debris, or any other form of obstruction. These obstructions prevent the valve seat from closing fully and thus can lead to leaks.
The solution is simply to regularly check and clean your valves to clear any unwanted dirt or debris accumulation.
Valve is incorrectly sized
If a valve is incorrectly sized for the project at hand, it may fail to close completely or fail to connect seamlessly with the other system’s components, leading to leakages. In one of our earlier posts, we discussed the importance of having the right valve sizing.
The solution here is to replace the faulty valve with the correct valve size for the project. Always consult a professional valve engineer to help you in the valve sourcing process.
Valve leakage can be avoided or minimized with the right tools and expertise. Continuous regular valve maintenance, valve leakage tests, repairs, and external leakage experts can help you avoid valve leakages and potential catastrophic events.