SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 01 January 1993

Pipeline Leak Detection Using Volatile Tracers


A method of leak detection for underground storage tanks and pipelines adds volatile tracers to the product in the tanks and analyzes the surrounding shallow soil gases for tracer vapors. This method has several advantages : the success of the test is not limited by the size and structural design of the vessels, tanks can be tested at any fill level without taking the tank out of service, the location of a leak along a pipeline is clearly marked by the location of the tracer, and liquid leaks as small as 0.2 liters per hour (lph) can be detected. A limitation is: the backfill material must have some degree of air permeability in the zone above the water table. Several field tests document the success achieved using this method. A tracer leak detection system was installed at Homestead AFB after several other testing methods failed to locate a leak at a valve pit location along approximately 4 kilometers of fuel transfer piping. The leak was detected to the side of the valve pit at a depth of approximately 2.5 meters below the ground surface. Another installation at Edwards AFB involved the collection of 415 soil gas samples along approximately 3, 050 meters of 15.25-centimeter fiberglass pipeline. Fourteen separate leaks were detected.

Author Information

Thompson, GM
Tracer Research Corporation, Tucson, AZ
Golding, RD
, Tucson, AZ
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Developed by Committee: E50
Pages: 131–136
DOI: 10.1520/STP25080S
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-5224-3
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-1858-4