Steam Line Source Detection

After experiencing abnormally hot water in a potable cold water supply line, an industrial client needed to find the source of a steam leak along a 40-foot length of buried pipeline. If the exact location of the steam line and leak could not be identified, the client would be required to excavate a 40-foot by 5-foot area of recently repaved asphalt parking space.

Prior to starting work, RETTEW’s Subsurface Utility Engineering team met with the client on site to discuss facility access, project specific concerns, due diligence, and overall expectations. We completed the work on a weekend to minimize sound interference from ambient construction noise. Our experts used a thermal imaging camera to detect differences in the surface temperature of the objects, as well as an acoustic leak locator with a highly sensitive microphone to listen for the sound of steam escaping the pipes. During the survey, RETTEW’s technician discovered the metal manhole access to a plastic sanitary sewer line was significantly hotter than it should be, indicating that steam was entering the sewer lines. A plume of hot water was also detected around the two lines underground. By locating the source of the leak non-obtrusively, we reduced the excavation, saving the client both time and money. By detecting two other issues not originally expected, our client received a comprehensive scan of the total impact and repaired the lines with confidence.

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