Friday, April 25, 2008

Controlled ComDust Explosion: Flash-Bang!

Until the horrific combustible dust explosion at Imperial Sugar Refinery over two months ago, most of the nation had no idea that seemingly harmless coffee creamer and sugar poured into a cup of coffee jump starting us with a morning java jolt could also create another type of jolt, yet devastating . Many of the same food products found on the aisles of the local grocery store have the explosive power of gunpowder when suspended and ignited in a confined space such as a manufacturing facility.

Information gathered from OSHA's National Emphasis Program on combustible dust in conjunction with the Chemical Safety Boards Combustible Dust Study provides a conservative glimpse of over 100,000 firms in the United States that utilize raw combustible particulate solids of wood, rubber, plastic, metals, food, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals, which could generate explosive atmospheres. When the manufacturing process begins, combustible dusts are generated. Military and police forces use the same physics of a dust explosion in fuel-air bombs that generate controlled dust explosions.

The United States military has been very successful with fuel-air thermobaric bombs hitting the enemy caves in Afghanistan with the Hellfire missile. Police SWAT teams also have an application for controlled combustible dust explosions with flash-bang grenades that utilize a mixture of aluminum and potassium perchlorate dust. Yes, this is the same dust thats caused many combustible dust explosions and fires in the metal and chemical process manufacturing industries over the past several decades.

Combustible dusts are commonplace occurrence in our daily lives; in the packages on the grocery store aisles, military arsenals, community police tactical equipment, in addition to the manufacturing process. Once an awareness of combustible dust is acknowledged, then the proper mitigative and preventative measure can be instituted. Just don't go hiding in any caves or get the SWAT teams upset, theres no mitigation there.

Explosion Suppression and Spark Detection

The 2008 Process Technology Expo International Conference to be held at the Donald Stephens Convention Center on the outskirts of Chicago on May 6-8 2008 is the extravaganza to attend concerning combustible dust explosion prevention and mitigation equipment. Exhibitors will be displaying new technologies that the process manufacturing industry utilizes in the prevention and mitigation of future preventable and predictable combustible dust incidents.

Since the tragic Imperial Sugar explosion there's been over 30 combustible dust fires and explosions throughout the United States. OSHA's Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program highlights nearly 70 North American Industrial Classification codes (NAICS) of over 63,000 firms that have frequent and/or high consequence combustible dust explosions/fires in addition to industries that may have potential for combustible dust explosions/fires

The Combustible Dust Policy Institute has localized an additional 47,000 (NAICS) firms that also have occurrences of combustible dust related fires and explosions. With over 110,000 firms potentially exposed to explosive atmospheres in the process manufacturing industries, its' crucial that proactive measures be instituted

Initially firms must conduct a risk analysis of their unique processes in determining if hazards exist. For a minor investment of several thousand dollars, commercial testing facilities can assist in determining the minimum ignition temperature, minimum ignition energy , minimum explosive concentration, and explosive severity of the dust generated in their process.

With the information obtained concerning the ignition sensitivity and explosion severity, plant management can plan on the technical mitigative and preventive measures to implement. Protective and mitigative equipment could include spark detection systems, spark suppression, mechanical isolation valves, explosion vent panels, in conjunction with a
multipoint monitoring system.

The PTXi show in Chicago will have a diverse spectrum of combustible dust protection manufacturers exhibiting such equipment and answering technical questions that arise concerning specific applications in the thousands of process industries throughout the nation.

Hope to see you there.

Explosion Protection Resource

(OSHA) Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP)

2008 Process Technology Expo International Conference

North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)


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