Programs of Protection

By Tom Bryan | May 27, 2020

When it comes to preventing and mitigating pellet mill fires and explosions, redundancy is a good thing. So, if a few stories in this issue seem to echo similar guidance and best practices, consider it by design. After all, when it comes to safeguarding human lives, it’s wise to have multiple options and opinions that confirm, rather than challenge, industry assumptions.

We drop into this month’s safety and prevention theme with a useful look at the  necessity of teamwork, training and communication between pellet facility personnel and local emergency response groups. In “Flattening the Learning Curve,” on page 10, Pellet Mill Magazine Editor Anna Simet reports that while OSHA does not necessarily mandate communication between a pellet plant and its local fire department, the safety agency strongly encourages it—not just to keep people safe, but to avoid actual violations. Ultimately, the onus of communication lies with the plant; and it’s up to facility management to make sure fire crews and first responders know the plant’s access points, danger zones and available fire prevention equipment and technologies.  

In “Driving Down Dust,” on page 14, we explain the measures one Pennsylvania wood pellet manufacturer has taken to manage combustible dust and substantively decrease its chances of disaster. As Senior Editor Ron Kotrba reports, Greene Team Pellet Fuel Co.’s plan began with the sure footing of a dust hazard analysis (DHA), which not only identified where explosion-prone areas of the plant were, but also where they were probably not. From there, planners were able to suggest equipment installations that made the facility much easier to keep safe. In addition to an oversized baghouse, pneumatic conveying and industrial cyclones and vacuums, the plant remedied a high-maintenance problem—dust up high in the rafters—with high-tech oscillating fans that effectively create a horizontal air barrier inside the structure, stopping fugitive dust from reaching the ceiling. Those smart fans, along with possible new equipment additions, make the facility’s dust suppression strategy worth of a closer look.

For those looking for a deeper dive into DHAs, contributing writer Jeff Davis of Conversion Technologies Inc., explains some looming fall deadlines (i.e., NFPA 652) pellet producers need to be aware of in “Changes to Dust Fire and Explosion Standards,” on page 20. Additional on-theme stories continue on page 22, with REMBE, Fagus GreCon and IEP offering even more insight on fire detection and explosion protection for pellet plants.

Stay safe. Enjoy the reading.

Tom Bryan
BBI International