Sunday, December 21, 2008

Milk Powder Combustible Dust Hazards

It's been nearly two months now since the California Dairies Inc facility in Visalia, Ca experienced an explosion in the milk hydrator. According to news accounts, "the explosion blew out a "blowout panel" in the five story tower but the structure itself was safe." This is an excellent example how an industry leader in the United States implements good engineering practices in reducing the severity of a combustible dust explosion where ignition sources are readily present.

Another example of proactive measures, is the dairy industry in New Zealand, which is a global leader in milk powder production. In a recent discussion with Dr. Chris Bloore, Dairy Industry Systems Consultant, in Dunedin, New Zealand highlighted that back in 1988 the dairy industry, Insurance Council, Labour Department and Fire Service got together and after 2 years of meetings and discussions arrived at the Appoved Code of Practice for the Prevention, Detection and Control of Fire and Explosion in New Zealand Dairy Industry Spray Drying Plant (1990).This is available for FREE download as a .pdf

The New Zealand Department of Labor's web page on Approved Code of Practice notes that:

An approved code does not have the same legal force as a regulation, and failure to comply with a code of practice is not, of itself, an offence. However, observance of a relevant code of practice may be considered as evidence of good practice in a court.

Dr. Bloore emphasized, "that
the NZ dairy industry earns about 25% of the country's export income, and nearly half that comes from powders. We make over 1.1 million tonnes (about 2.2 billion pounds) of milkpowder each year, so the rate of explosions per pound is not high. The cost per explosion ranges from a few thousand dollars up to US$15 million."

In addition to
whole milk powder (WMP or Full cream Milk Powder FCMP) and skim milk powder (SMP or Non Fat Dried Milk). Dr Bloore notes, that New Zealand manufactures several tens of thousands of tonnes each of :

  • Buttermilk powder (BMP)
  • Milk Protein Concentrate (MPC) powder
  • Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)
  • nutritional powders (infant formula, growing up milks etc.)
"These bring the total tonnage to around 1.1 million tonnes per year, which New Zealand exports virtually 100% of powder production. The local consumption is restricted to calf food powders and small volumes of powders as food ingredients and some body building and health related products," says Dr. Bloore

The above example in New Zealand where the fire service and insurance sector works collectively with stakeholders in labor, business and government in seeking a potential solution in lessening the likelihood and reducing the severity of combustible dust related fires and explosions might be of interest to stakeholders here in North America.

For additional information on Case Studies and Principles, Prevention, Detection and Control of fire and explosion hazards in milk powder production, the Combustible Dust Policy Institute recommends the training pamphlets that Dr. Chris Bloore has available for purchase. Contact Dr. Bloore at who will also be a keynote speaker April 15-17, 2009 at the 4th International Symposium of Spray Dried Dairy Products in Melbourne, Australia.

Resources :

NZ Code of Practice in Spray Drying

Conventional Spray Drying Concept

World Dairy Production Trends

Top Five World Milk Powder Producers

U.S. Dairy Export Council

Milk and Milk Products: A Global Market Analysis

International Symposium on Spray Dried Products 15-17 April 2009


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