Pipeline Leak Detection Using Thermal Imaging


Leaks are a common problem faced by almost all underground piping systems. As a result of being located underground, these leaks often remain concealed for a while before being detected.  As many of you may have experienced, this leads to major pipeline issues and expensive repairs. These problems can be solved faster only if they detected early. This is where thermal imaging can be immensely helpful. Whether your underground pipeline is used for carrying cold or hot fluid, infrared thermography can be used for accurate leak detection.

What does it detect?  

Thermal imaging is considered to be highly effective in detecting the electromagnetic spectrum’s fluctuations in the infrared range.  Our eyes are only capable of interpretation of visible light. However, thermal imaging can be used to interpret wavelengths that can’t be seen by the human eye.

Thermal imaging is capable of leak detection simply because of the fact that infrared radiation is emitted by every material that has a higher temperature than absolute zero and this applies to liquids, too.  Thermal imaging maps the different recorded temperatures in any given area, and shows the areas where the liquid is flowing through a pipe as well as the points from where the liquid is leaking.

Infrared Imaging for Leak detection:

It is always better to carry out buried piping system inspections at night or during the winter. Ideally, there should be no light or wind during these inspections. The operation of infrared imaging technology can be obstructed by the presence of bright sunlight. This is commonly referred to as solar reflection or solar loading. Therefore, it is important to take all possible measures to eliminate interference caused by heat or light sources.

Infrared imaging inspections can be conducted using an aircraft, on foot, or via motor vehicle. In this method, the thermal imager is manoeuvred over the pathway of the piping. As pipes are generally aligned in straight lines and have well-defined networks, they are seen easily in the infrared imaging scanner. If there is a leakage somewhere in the pipe, it is displayed in a different colour compared to the remaining parts of the pipeline. This happens because as a liquid passes through the pipe, it gets heated or cooled. There is sudden change in temperature when the liquid leaves the piping system, causing the change in colour.

Advantage of Locating Leaks with Infrared Imaging:

After a leakage is detected, it should be marked for the purpose of further investigation. The most compelling benefits of using thermal imaging include the ease of deployment, cost of the system, and the speed of underground leak detection.

Thermal imaging allows our repairing crews to find the exact location of a leakage without extensive excavating and helps them avoid disruptions such as shutting off the water main, etc. Technicians can dig down directly to the leakage source and carry out necessary repair work leaving minimum footprint.

This was a brief overview of thermal imaging and how it helps detect leaks in underground piping systems. If you suspect you have an underground pipeline leakage, please contact us at Austeck.  When it comes to pipeline inspection and rehabilitation, we are one of Australia’s largest supply and support companies.