A leak detection and repair program (LDAR) can help keep your workplace and community safe by preventing the unintended release of toxins. It can also help you avoid costly complications with local and federal regulators.
And at every step of the way, a good CMMS makes LDAR easier.
What is leak detection and repair (LDAR)?
The definition is often narrower than it might first seem. LDAR can refer specifically to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations surrounding the unintended release of volatile organic compounds (VOC) and volatile hazardous air pollutants (VHAP). The regulations affect organizations across industries, but the petroleum and chemical industries likely have the strictest compliance procedures, which makes sense because they're also the ones with both the most and the most dangerous gases and liquids.
Why is LDAR so closely regulated by the EPA?
There are two reasons: First, the agency determined that there were a lot of leaks. Second, what was leaking is exceptionally toxic.
According to the EPA's LDAR guidelines and best practices, "The Agency has estimated that approximately 70,367 tons per year of VOCs and 9,357 tons per year of HAPs have been emitted from equipment leaks."
Putting those numbers in context, the agency explains: "Emissions from equipment leaks exceed emissions from storage vessels, wastewater, transfer operations, or process vents."
On volatile organic compounds: "VOCs contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone. Ozone is a major component of smog, and causes or aggravates respiratory disease, particularly in children, asthmatics, and healthy adults who participate in moderate exercise."
For volatile hazardous air pollutants, it's worse: "Some known or suspected effects of exposure to VHAPs include cancer, reproductive effects, and birth defects."
What is the definition of a leak?
There are two parts to the definition of a leak, which, here again, is narrower than it might first seem. It's not like a leak in the waterline to a residential bathroom or one in the fuel line in a car.
For LDAR, the first part of the definition is that something is getting out when it shouldn't. So, a gas or liquid coming out of a joint in a pipe might be a leak. But for an LDAR program, that might not be enough; there also needs to be enough of it escaping for it to meet the definition. And for each gas or liquid, that amount is different. So, Gas A might be coming out just as much as Gas B, but only one of them is an actual leak.
It's sometimes more than just the amount. The definition of a leak can also include:
- Component type
- Service, for example light or heavy liquid
- Monitoring interval
When talking about the amount of a leak, the numbers are generally incredibly small. So, instead of visual inspections, LDAR programs involve sensitive instruments that can detect gas concentrations in the parts per millions (PPM).
What are common sources of leaks?
According to the EPA's research, leaks are common at:
- Sampling connections
- Pressure-relief devices
- Open-ended lines
Most leaks come from the first two on the list, valves and connectors, which makes sense because they're also the most common components. Usually, the leaks are from problems with the seals or gaskets, either because of normal wear and tear or poor maintenance.
What are the benefits of an LDAR program?
A good LDAR program saves you money.
First, especially in petrochemicals, leaks mean you're losing products you could be selling. It might be the feedstock or the finished product, but either way your facility is leaking profits. Second, LDAR programs usually focus on preventing unintended venting of toxins, so a good LDAR program helps you keep workers safe, healthy, and on the job.
Third, when leaks go on long enough, they can start to affect the health of the surrounding community, leading to long-lasting reputational loss and costly litigation. Fourth, and this depends on your local legislation, preventing leaks could help you save money on annual emission fees. In some areas, facilities pay fees based on total emissions, and so preventing leaks can cut some of these costs.
And fifth, a carefully scheduled, executed, and documented LDAR program helps you avoid EPA fines for noncompliance.
What are the parts of an LDAR program and how does CMMS software help?
Here are the steps you need to take for an LDAR program:
- Identify the components
- Define leaks
- Monitor components
- Repair components
- Record everything
Let's look at them more closely and how the right CMMS makes implementing and running a successful LDAR program easier.
Identity the components with CMMS site maps and barcodes
At this step, you're making sure you have a complete list of all the components you need to check for links. The suggestion here is to assign each one a unique number and plot it's location on a site map.
Modern CMMS software makes this easy. You can enter every component in its own equipment record or combine them into one master entry for the entire asset. You can also add them to the built-in interactive site maps and floor plans. Later, when techs are looking at the related work orders and PMs, they can see exactly where the components live in your facility.
To be sure they're working on the right part, you can add barcodes to your assets. Then, techs can scan the barcodes using the built-in camera on any Internet-connected mobile device. The CMMS app reads the barcode and brings up the asset's critical data.
Define leaks and add the info to related inspection PMs
For each component, make sure you have an accurate description on a leak. Remember, it's different depending on several factors, including what you're checking for and how often you're completing the checks.
It's important to check your local regulations as well. There can be additional parts to the definition, including other specific signs like liquid pools, spraying, or hissing.
Once you have all this information, you can quickly add it to all future on-demand and scheduled work orders. When the techs are checking for leaks, they can use the CMMS to instantly access accurate info, ensuring they're working from the most up to date leak definitions.
Monitor components with preventive maintenance (PM) setup and scheduling
Set up your schedule and make sure the team is completing the inspections correctly.
A good CMMS helps you set up, schedule, and track completion rates for your preventive maintenance program. Once everything is inside the database, the software does all the remembering for you, sending out new PMs according to your preset schedule. You can see what work is coming up with the easy, intuitive calendar view, and if something needs to be rescheduled, it's as easy as drag and drop
Repair components following best practices with work order templates
The EPA suggests working in "attempts," from first to final.
First attempts typically involve:
- Checking and tightening bolts
- Replacing bolts
- Tightening packing gland nuts
- Injecting lubricant into the packing
If you can't fix the leak without a more involved shutdown, you can add the component to the Delay of Repair list. Later, when there's a scheduled shutdown, you can make the repairs.
Regardless of which attempt you're on, a good CMMS helps. Inside all your PMs and on-demand work orders, you can use templates to quickly add all the information techs need to work efficiently and close out quickly, including customizable step-by-step instructions and checklists.
Record everything with a cloud-based CMMS
There's a lot of paperwork to keep and keep up to date.
A partial list of the things you need include:
- ID numbers for all your components in the LDAR program
- Schematics on the related equipment
- Results for testing and leak detection monitoring
This is one of the many places a CMMS really shines. Instead of scribbling everything down on paper, where it's both hard to read and easy to lose, you keep all your data safe, secure, and instantly accessible in a cloud-based database. And because everyone is working from the same data sets, the CMMS can keep everything up to date in real time.
LDAR programs exist across industries but are most common in petroleum and chemicals. The goal is to find and fix leaks of dangerous toxins, which often appear around valves and connectors. A good program helps you prevent the loss of product, keep workplaces and surrounding communities safe, and avoid expensive fines. And a good CMMS solution helps by making it easier to find the components, schedule inspections, and track the repairs. Because the software is cloud based, you have instant access to reliable data when the EPA comes for an inspection.
Let's get you to that next step
Ready to set up or improve your LDAR program?
Hippo's here to help you get the solution that works best for you, including answering your questions about maintenance strategies (and everything else related to maintenance), helping you book a live software demo, or even setting you up with a free trial.