Plants Look Harder for Leaks

More sites are adopting enhanced leak detection and repair strategies

By Seán Ottewell, Editor at Large

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Drago foresees this possibly becoming another standard technology. "The first demand for fenceline monitoring that I came across was the September 2010 Murphy Oil consent decree when they had to install a similar system as part of a SEP. Maybe in another ten years it will be routine that every site in the U.S. could be required to do the same thing. ConocoPhillips has been routinely using one at its Rodeo refinery near San Francisco for many years. (Its emissions can be seen at"

EPA's May 23, 2012, consent decree with BP North America, Houston, to cut emissions from its Whiting, Ind., refinery requires installation of a fenceline monitoring system as well as publishing the data live on a website.

As a result of LDAR and enhanced LDAR, chemical makers are asking Garlock to provide "best in class" sealing solutions — including product recommendations, training and on-site troubleshooting/failure analysis where required. "In an LDAR program, especially if a chemical plant is given a consent decree, they want training not only for their employees but also for the contractors and valve installers. In gasketing GST is called constantly for consulting."

Garlock's customers are focusing particularly on fugitive emissions from valve stem packing. Some, for instance, are looking into upgrading valve technology for lines carrying high priority volatile organic compounds such as benzene. Emissions from flanges, despite the large numbers of them at most sites, don't seem to be a major problem.

"When we started working on LDAR programs back in 2001, we were repacking all valves in the field that had readings of over 500 ppm. All the new valves that were in the storage yard were sent to a staging area for repack with Garlock low-emission packing. What we see now is that 80% of valves that are chronic leakers or problem valves are being replaced with new valves with low-leak packing," notes Drago.

Seán Ottewell is Chemical Processing's Editor at Large. You can e-mail him at


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