The prediction and evaluation of leakage and leak tightness is an important issue in a multitude of high-pressure applications, such as valves, flanges and threaded pipe connections that are used under extreme service conditions that occur in oil and gas exploration and production. Using Hertzian contact theory or finite element techniques it is possible to determine the local contact conditions at the seal on a macroscopic level (to wit the extent of the contact area and the contact pressure in this area). However, the leak tightness of such a contact depends also on the surface topology, which is a microscopic characteristic. Therefore, the assessment of leak tightness requires an evaluation criterion relating both scales. Empirical evaluation criteria have been postulated in the past, each with their own application domain. More recently the Persson method has been developed that models the contact area microscopically using contact models developed in the field of tribology. However, in its current form this model is limited to flat surfaces while in many applications, such as valves, O-ring seals or metal-to-metal seals of threaded pipe connections, the contact is Hertzian and the contact pressure distribution is not uniform but parabolic. This paper provides the experimental results that will be used to validate an extension of the Persson model to Hertzian contact seals. A set of samples for leakage experiments was produced with varying surface topology. The surface roughness of these samples is measured and the leakage behaviour under high pressure is evaluated. This paper focusses on the experimental evaluation of the influence of surface topology on leakage.

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