Industrial Dust Explosions: Exposing the Myths, and Establishing the Facts, Behind These Devastating Events

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Despite the frequency and seriousness of these events, many corporations are slow to accept the reality of the problem, and are often unaware that dust explosion protection solutions exist.

Current statistics indicate that the average manufacturing facility will experience a dust explosion every twenty years, with chemical, pharmaceutical and milling plants likely to experience more frequent events. However, despite recent examples of the devastation (in life, downtime and lost revenue), many manufacturers remain unaware that their facilities could be at high risk, or even that a wealth of dust explosion protection solutions exist to prevent a problem before it occurs.

According to David Cvetas, president of Cv Technology (http://www.cvtechnology.com) a prominent dust and gas explosion protection consulting and technology company, many corporations are slow to accept the reality that this could happen to them, despite the massive financial risks, liability and potential loss of life.

“The corporations we work with operate industrial or material processes that produce revenue from a quarter million to several million dollars a day,” observes Cvetas. “A single incident can shut a facility down for weeks or months, with devastating effects.”

Cvetas explains that there are many myths surrounding dust explosions, including:

Myth: Industrial dust explosions don’t occur that often.

Fact: Current statistical calculations estimate that an average of approximately 2-3 dust explosions occur in various manufacturing facilities in the United States every day, with the results being very deadly and very expensive.

Myth: If industrial dust explosions occur frequently, why don’t we hear more about it in the press?

Fact: There are reports of such events daily on national news tickers, but at the time of the initial explosion the cause is generally unknown or identified. Usually, after a period of days or weeks, an investigation will find that the cause was ignited dust. Furthermore, discussion of an explosion is often off limits outside most corporate offices for liability reasons.

Myth: It takes very unusual and unique situations for a dust explosion to occur

Fact: Almost all organic material or un-oxidized metal, when in a dust cloud, will ignite at a temperature below 500 C approximately the temperature of a recently extinguished match. Companies in pulp and paper, plastics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, textiles, and milling operations that handle powders and bulk solids are also susceptible. Food dusts such as sugar, starch, flour, and cocoa are also major causes of explosions.

DUST EXPLOSION PREVENTION:

Today, safety-conscious facility managers are turning to specialized consultants and technology vendors to develop strategies to reduce or eliminate the underlying causes of explosive events.

Cvetas emphasizes that the best protection systems blend active and passive technologies, and are as non-intrusive to process operations as possible. He credits his company's success to mixing and matching all available protection strategies and systems to each application, based on hard engineering data.

Cv Technology has also invested a great deal of time investigating technologies throughout Europe, to add to the protection solutions available in the United States. Such technologies include the Q-Rohr, a device originally developed by Rembe of Germany for safe indoor venting of process-driven dust explosions.

“Dust explosion prevention systems provide companies with peace of mind that they are operating their plants safely, preventing potential loss of life, and also protecting capital goods and valuable process revenue,” explains Cvetas.

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Bill Stevenson
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