Underground Water Pipe Leak Detection- Why Use Hydrogen Tracer Gas?

Leak Detector

How Hydrogen Works to Find Underground Pipe Leaks


Using a tracer gas to determine the leak location of the pipe underground has always been secondary to the use of ultra-sound type listening equipment. This makes sense in that using ultra-sound is quick, inexpensive and easy in use. But what happens if this method fails to locate the leak location?


  1. Helium gas injected into the pipe has been an option in the past. Using a helium sniffer leak detector at the ground level, walking the length of the pipe the leak location can be found by detection of helium escaping the ground. There are significant disadvantages with this method. Helium is in short supply and very expensive. Helium is used in medical equipment like an MRI. So using helium to find pipe leak locations is both expensive and a poor use of a finite resource.
  2. Hydrogen has come on in the past 10 years as an alternative tracer gas to replace the use of helium. While hydrogen is known to be flammable and explosive, if combined with nitrogen at a 5% H2 concentration, the gas mixture is then considered non-combustible and safe to use. When this dilution of the gas takes place, the mixture can not return to a flammable mixture. Benefits of the 5% hydrogen/95% nitrogen gas is that it is inexpensive and plentiful. Hydrogen is a small high energy molecule, capable of quickly moving through dirt and asphalt. Coming out of the leaky pipe, it moves straight up to escape the ground within 3 feet of the leak location.

Hydrogen leak detectors are well suited to this important application and are much less expensive than the helium counterparts. Companies that use this hydrogen leak detection technology can find the harder to find leaks differentiating themselves from the local competition. So for an investment of under $2000, companies can broaden their leak detection portfolio of services.

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Hydro-Lok Underground Leak Detector (Subsurface Leak Detection)

Leak Detector