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Explosibility Testing

Stuart Johnson, Fike Combustion Testing Services

It takes less time than you may realize to start results, tests must also be conducted in accordance
an explosion. Dust and gas explosions are deadly with ASTM and CEN standards. Some material
and commercially devastating. Unfortunately, tests available include:
many of them occur at facilities without a prior
explosion incident, providing a false sense of secu- Dust Explosivity Screening of a Dust Cloud
rity. Leading insurance firms estimate the direct Prior to performing more specific tests to de-
costs of an explosion typically run in excess of one termine explosibility parameters such as KST
million dollars, with many unprotected explo- and PMAX, a series of tests can be performed to
sions leveling plants and/or closing businesses. The determine whether the sample in question can
reality is that many facilities have inherent risks produce a dust deflagration at all. The latest ver-
that should be addressed to prevent an inevitable sion of ASTM E1226 Standard Test Method for
catastrophe. Explosibility of Dust Clouds includes a proce-
When it comes to safety and protection in dure for performing a simple explosivity screening
dealing with dust explosions, there is little margin test. Tests are conducted at a few dust concentra-
for error -- effective testing, product analysis and tions covering a wide range, exposing the resulting
explosion risk management are critical. The first dust clouds to a sufficiently strong ignition source.
step in hazard analysis is to effectively determine Analysis of data is performed to determine wheth-
the materials combustible or explosive nature. To er any test conducted produced sufficient pressure
assure proper execution and interpretation of the to meet the qualification for ignition.

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Maximum Deflagration Pressure (Pmax) in propagation of flames. The MAIT is used in the
and KST of a dust cloud analysis and design of explosion prevention and pro-
Tests are conducted in accordance with ASTM Stan- tection systems. In addition, the MAIT of a dust,
dard E1226 Standard Test Method for Exposibility along with the samples minimum ignition energy
of Dust Clouds. Dust samples are pneumatically sus- (MIE) and its minimum explosible concentration
pended and ignited using a sufficiently strong ignition (MEC) is used to calculate the ignition sensitivity
source. The maximum rate of pressure rise measured (I.S.) of the dust sample.
is used to calculate the KST value -- an international-
ly recognized index used to classify dust explosibility. Minimum dust cloud ignition energy (MIE)
This test measures the potential explosion severity of a Determines the lowest spark energy required to
dust/air mixture, and is used to assist in the design of initiate a dust explosion. Small quantities of dust are
explosion protection systems. pneumatically thrown into suspension and ignited
with an electric spark within a test vessel. This test
Maximum Deflagration Pressure (Pmax) assesses relative sensitivity of the sample to ignition by
and Kg of a vapor cloud electrical sparks using the test procedures specified in
Steps to determine explosibility for gases or hybrid ASTM E2019 Standard Test Method for Minimum
fuels -- similar to tests for dusts. Ignition Energy of a Dust Cloud in Air. The MIE of
a dust, along with the samples minimum explosible
Minimum Dust Cloud Ignition Temperature concentration (MEC) and its minimum dust cloud
or Auto Ignition Temperature (MAIT) ignition temperature (MAIT) is used to calculate the
The minimum temperature at which a dust cloud ignition sensitivity (I.S.) of the dust sample.
will ignite when exposed to air heated in a furnace,
in accordance with ASTM E1491 Standard Test Auto-ignition temperature of vapors
Method for Minimum Autoignition Temperature Tests are conducted in a temperature controlled 1-L
of Dust Clouds. The minimum ignition tempera- vessel per ASTM E659 Standard Test Method for
ture is the lowest furnace temperature that results Autoignition Temperature of Liquid Chemicals.

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Tests are conducted at varying sample concentration face. Tests are conducted in accordance with ASTM
to determine the lowest temperature for the develop- E2021 Standard Test Method for Hot-Surface Igni-
ment of a hot-flame ignition. tion Temperature of Dust Layers. This data is used
to analyze and design fire / explosion prevention and
Minimum explosive concentration of protection systems.
dusts (MEC)
The minimum explosible concentration (MEC) of Limits of Flammability (liquids / gases)
a dust is the lowest airborne concentration of dust Determines upper flammable limit (UFL) and
particles that can result in a deflagration. Tests lower flammable limit (LFL) of liquid or gaseous
are conducted in accordance with ASTM E1515 chemicals in the air at ambient pressure per ASTM
Standard Test Method for Minimum Explosible E681 Standard Test Method for Concentration
Concentration of Combustible Dusts. The data Limits of Flammability of Chemicals (Vapors
from this test can be used to design explosion pre- and Gases). This test is used in the design of safe
vention systems per applicable NFPA standards. In operating limits and process operations. Informa-
addition, the MEC of a dust, along with the samples tion is suitable for publication in Material Safety
minimum ignition energy (MIE) and its minimum Data Sheets.
dust cloud ignition temperature (MAIT) is used to
calculate the ignition sensitivity (I.S.) of the dust Limits of Flammability (elevated pressure
sample. and temperature)
Determines upper flammable limit (UFL) and lower
Limiting oxygen concentration flammable limit (LFL) of liquid or gaseous chemi-
for dusts (LOC) cals at elevated pressure and/or temperature per
This test determines the lowest oxygen (oxidant) ASTM E918 Standard Practice for Determining
concentration at which a dust deflagration hazard Limits of Flammability of Chemicals at Elevated
exists for a given dust. Tests are conducted in accor- Temperature and Pressure. Tests can be performed
dance with the ASTM draft standard Standard Test at conditions as high as 300C, 300 psig. This test
Method for Limiting Oxygen (Oxidant) Concentra- is used in the design of safe operating limits and
tion of Combustible Dust Clouds. It is used in the process operations.
design of explosion prevention systems, specifically Material explosibility testing provides a basis for
inerting systems, per applicable NFPA standards. safe plant design, safe operating parameters, and safe
handling procedures. It is important to find a testing
Minimum dust layer ignition temperature lab that not only has the correct testing facilities, but
Determines the minimum temperature at which a is staffed with highly trained technicians, engineers,
dust layer will ignite when exposed to a heated sur- and combustion scientists. n

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