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& Safety Technology News

Fike Corporation
Fall, 1997 Volume 9, Issue 2

In this issue
Recipe for a Dust Explosion .................................................................. 1 New Explosion Protection advances ................................................... 5 Learning from Industrial Explosions ................................................... 6 Safety Update ............................................................................................ 7

Recipe for a Dust Explosion

Editors note: This issues article is provided courtesy of Factory Mutual Engineering Corporation. It is notable because it looks at the many causes of dust explosions and how a lack of both preventation and protective measures can truly be a recipe for disaster. A suspended, combustible dust cloud burns much more violently than a pile of sawdust. When suspended dust particles are completely surrounded by oxygen, they rapidly release a tremendous amount of energy. The pressure wave produced by the initial exploding dust cloud shakes and suspends more dust from other surfaces to fuel a chain reaction of violent explosions. Usually, the second or third explosion is worse than the first. Industries producing dust as a product, such as some pharmaceutical industries, tend to be more aware of the hazards than industries that produce dust as a by-product. Unfortunately, its very easy for personnel to overlook the fallout from operations, such as grain handling or furniture making. Then an explosion hits, endangering the facility and equipment as well as the employees.

Results of a dust explosion. Photo Copyright 1995 Factory Mutual Engineering Corporation, All Rights Reserved.

This article is condensed and used with permission of Factory Mutual Engineering. Copyright 1995 Factory Mutual Engineering Corporation, All Rights Reserved.

ombine complacency with lack of housekeeping and you have the perfect recipe for a dust explosion. At too many facilities, the ingredients are already there. All you need is a building with layers of combustible dust, like corn starch. Add unvented equipment that draws in suspended dust. Let a few airborne particles stray and find a spark. The first explosion will rupture the equipment, tossing the building dust into the air. The second will probably collapse the walls. And, if by chance you attached a sprinkler riser to one of the load bearing walls, forget your sprinkler protection. Its gone.

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DUST EXPLOSION PENTAGON An excellent tool for preventing a dust explosion or mitigating its damaging effects is the dust explosion pentagon. An explosion can be averted by eliminating one of the five sides. ELIMINATE IGNITION Strictly control ignition sources such as smoking, open flames, hot gases, direct contact dryers, mechanical sparks, static electricity, spontaneous heating and ordinary electrical sources. Prevent overheating inside equipment such as ovens or heaters. Enforce FMs Hot Work Permit System (catalog no. P9311) for all hot work operations. Design electrical equipment so it will not be an ignition source for either layers or clouds of dust. Locate electrical equipment partly or entirely outside the hazardous areas. Inspect equipment and processing regularly. Grinding operations can create mechanical sparks if equipment is misaligned. Sparking can also be produced by the impact of a dropped tool or metal object into an enclosure. Subject all major electrical equipment to an annual infrared (IR) scan to detect overheating. Prevent materials subject to spontaneous heating from accumulating in ductwork or equipment. Do not allow moisture to contact such materials; however, use automatic sprinklers or spark extinguishing systems in ducts when needed. (Be sure the area is completely dry before resuming operations.) Clean collectors daily or as often as needed if they handle residues subject to spontaneous heating. Processes and systems that are prone to frequent dust explosions should be equipped with a spark detection system. Combine spark detection with spark extinguishing or with a high-speed abort gate. Control friction heating from overheated bearings or sparks from tramp metal. Also, provide magnetic separators or screens to keep tramp metal or other foreign objects from entering 2
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Explosions are caused by a variety of ignition sources. Chart courtesy of Factory Mutual Engineering Copyright 1995 Factory Mutual Engineering Corporation, All Rights Reserved.

grinders, pulverizers, crushers or other process equipment and clean these as necessary. Eliminate or minimize static electricity. Oper-ations such as mixing, milling, sifting, pouring and filtering produce static charges. Pneumatic transport and filling containers can also produce static electricity. Bond and ground electrically conductive components. Be aware of nonconductive breaks in ducts and fabric bellows. If materials are easily ignitable, operate equipment in an inert environment. If this is not practical, apply the recommendations of FM Data Sheet 5-8, Static Electricity. ELIMINATE CONFINEMENT If a dust cloud is not confined, pressure buildup from the combustion process is minimized. Adequate explosion venting provides a desirable escape path for the explosion or pressure wave. Other methods can be equally important. BUILDING OR ROOM SAFEGUARDS Room explosions occur more frequently than other types of dust explosions. The Lower Explosive Limit (LEL) for dusts can be as low as 0.03 oz/ft3 (30 g/m3) and layers of dust as thin as 1/16 in. (1.6 mm) have caused explosions. If fugitive dust is a problem, find out where it is coming from and eliminate it at its source.

DAMAGE-LIMITING CONSTRUCTION Provide damage-limiting construction where process modifications and equipment upkeep cannot prevent combustible dusts from accumulating. Install pressure-relieving walls if engineering evaluations dictate. These walls are designed to fail and vent the force quickly and safely before the explosion causes excessive damage. The dropout panels might be destroyed by the impact, but at least the structural building members will remain intact, making reconstruction easier and less expensive. To minimize damage to nearby buildings from flying debris, provide a clear space of 50 ft (15 m) opposite the pressure-relieving walls. If this space is not available, provide appropriate exposure protection. If the hazardous process is in an attached building with exterior pressure-relieving walls, make sure the common interior walls are made of pressure-resistant construction to protect the main building. Typically the construction is reinforced concrete, metal lath and plaster on steel studs or insulated metal panels with gypsum board core on steel framing. Pressureresistant walls should be able to absorb several times the load needed to push out the relieving walls. If a hazardous process is inside a main building, provide at least one exterior pressure-relieving wall. Make sure interior walls are of pressure-res-

Watch out for obstructions that can increase vent relief pressure and subsequently cause pressure-resistant walls to fail and damage the building structure during an explosion. Failure can be caused by corrosion, ice and snow loads, and obstructions in front of a vent. Movable parts and rupture membranes should not be painted. EXPLOSION SUPPRESSION Installing an explosion suppression system is another way to protect equipment with a high explosion potential. This system will detect an explosion shortly after ignition occurs. It will then discharge an agent to extinguish the explosion flame and inert the unburned explosive dust mixture, eliminating destructive pressures from the equipment. An explosion suppression system can also shut down equipment and actuate alarms. (Refer to FM Data Sheet 7-17, Explosion Suppression Systems.) When explosion suppression systems operate they can create a pressure of 2 to 3 psig (13.8 kPa to 20.7 kPa). EXPLOSION ISOLATION Explosion isolation protects equipment by separating it from the damaging effects of an explosion. Provide explosion isolation between two pieces of equipment connected by ductwork and having an explosion hazard if one of the pieces has pressure containment to protect it against explosion damage, or propagation of an explosion between adequately protected enclosures would cause an unusually large property or business interruption loss. The equipment protected against the internally originating explosion could fail from a second explosion propagating through it, because the second explosion can be much more severe.
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Process equipment such as dust collectors often bear the brunt of industrial explosions. 1995 Factory Mutual Engineering Corp. Reprinted with permission.

istant construction. Do not locate a dust explosion hazard inside a building where the surrounding areas are exposed. Contact your FM loss prevention consultant for assistance in determining how much explosion venting and pressure-resistant wall strength you need. EQUIPMENT SAFEGUARDS Provide openings in equipment for fire fighting and periodic cleaning. Use scheduled maintenance to ensure equipment continues to operate properly. EXPLOSION VENTING It is usually not practical to provide heavy, pressure-resistant construction which is strong enough to contain a dust explosion, but explosion venting can be supplied. The amount depends upon the characteristics of the material being vented and the strength of the equipment. Use one of the following options listed below in order of preference: Locate equipment outdoors and provide it with explosion venting. Locate the equipment next to an exterior wall and vent the explosion to the outdoors through a short vent duct. 3

Vent the explosion to the surrounding area with an FMRCApproved explosion quench pipe. This can be done if there is no room explosion hazard in the area surrounding the equipment. The pressure produced by the explosion venting into the room must not exceed 50 psf (24 mbar) and no objects subject to fire or pressure damage can be located in any area where the explosion vents will relieve. When calculating room pressure produced by equipment explosion venting, contact your FM loss prevention consultant for assistance. Unless the volume of the room is several magnitudes greater than the volume of the equipment with the explosion hazard, the room will not be large enough to absorb the explosion pressure. When explosion venting devices swing open during an explosion, make sure they cannot re-close. Forcing them to remain open allows air to reenter as gases cool down and prevents equipment collapse from an internal vacuum. Use mechanical devices or gravity to prevent explosion venting devices from reclosing. It is best to install tethering cables at the bottom of panels, instead of at the top.

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Also provide explosion isolation between the building and the last dust collector in the system if the air exhausted from a dust collection system is recirculated into the building. EXPLOSION CONTAINMENT Explosion containment requires that equipment be strong enough to fully contain the pressure of the unvented dust explosion. Exterior framing might be needed to strengthen equipment. All vessels with a design pressure of 87 psig (6.0 barg) or more are considered explosion resistant, assuming the pre-explosion pressure does not exceed 1.5 psig (0.1 barg). ELIMINATE DUST Dust fuels the explosion, so it is the most important element to eliminate. Depending on the dust type, the size of particles needed to produce an explosion varies. Research conducted by Factory Mutual Research Corporation (FMRC) shows that a particle size of 0.02 in. (500 microns) or less is required. Larger particles are not explosible; however, if a significant amount of finer dust is combined with these larger particles, an explosive mixture could be produced. Frequently remove dust accumulations on all surfaces including areas that seem harmless. (If you can write your name in it, its too much dust.) To be safe, remove layers as thin as 1/16 in. (1.6 mm) or about 1/8 in. (3.2 mm) for wood dust on any surface including floors, piping, vents and furniture. Regularly inspect any operation that produces combustible dust, either as a product or by-product. If a new process that generates dust is being planned or a new dusty material is about to be introduced, look to your FM loss prevention consultant for guidance in planning the safeguards. Prevent dust leakage by keeping process equipment under a slight negative pressure. Eliminate accumulations above the floor level such as equipment tops. Dust at higher loca 4

tions is much more hazardous because it can become airborne and create explosible clouds once it is disturbed. A way to reduce explosibility of dust is to mix the combustible dust with a noncombustible dust (phlegmatization). This is acceptable as long as the noncombustible dust does not separate from the combustible dust during processing. Test the mixture per American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard Test Method for Minimum Explosible Concentration of Combustible Dusts, E1515, or an equivalent international standard. Inert concentrations of 50 to 75 percent are typically required. REDUCE OXYGEN Oxygen has to be present before ignition can occur. Between every airborne particle of dust, a small pocket of air is ready to support rapid combustion. Inerting is one way to reduce oxygen concentration. It involves introducing a continuous flow of noncombustible gas into an enclosure to reduce its oxygen content to a point where ignition cannot occur. This process should keep the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere surrounding the dust below the Limiting Oxygen Concentration (LOC) or the minimum level required for combustion to occur. (For LOC values refer to FM Data Sheet 7-59, Inerting and Purging of Equipment.) PREVENT DISPERSION To prevent dispersion, prohibit dust from accumulating in the first place. Again, use a good housekeeping program that keeps all surfaces free of dust. Then take measures to prevent the suspension of dust that cannot be immediately removed. Dust can be dispersed in many ways: the vibrating of heavy equipment; a small explosion or earthquake; leaking caused by hose fittings or holes in pipes or ducts. Keep equipment in good repair and inspect it regularly to help prevent dust dispersion.

Do not blow down dust accumula tions with compressed air. Use vacuum cleaners or soft push brooms to remove light accumulations. Pay attention to ceiling areas. The higher the dust is in the enclosure, the easier it is to create an explosible cloud. If overhead structural steel members with ledges and shelves cannot be reached by normal vacuuming or sweeping, enclose them with a noncombustible material to eliminate pockets for dust accumulations. For new construction, design shelves and ledges with smooth surfaces and install round ducts rather than square ones. Round surfaces shed dust accumulations better. When handling coarse material, like grain, be aware of the need to control the equipment explosion hazard inside the handling equipment. Grain and similar materials often contain enough fine particles to create a hazard. To confirm that airborne dust is not being generated, observe the equipment while it is running. Locate dust collectors outdoors if possible. Dust collectors are highly susceptible to explosions because they handle dust that is suspended in air, and the ignition source does not have to come from within the dust collector to ignite an explosion inside it. Burning particles, often drawn into the vent from remote pickup points, can ignite inside the vent. Provide interlocks to shut down any dust-producing process if the dust collection system is not operating. EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE Develop a maintenance program that continually identifies and eliminates fugitive dust sources. Test and maintain spark detection and extinguishing systems per manufacturers guidelines; do likewise for metal detection or metal extraction equipment. Given the right ingredients, a dust explosion can destroy your facility, creating a fallout of costly losses. By being aware of the dangers of dust and following these precautions, you can eliminate the potential for a catastrophic dust explosion.

New Explosion Suppression Components offers advanced features

New All-Digital Pressure Detector offers faster response, lower maintenance, wide range of applications

Ask for Component Sheet C3521

he new solid state Fike Explosion Protection detector is specifically designed for monitoring industrial processes for deflagrations. Using digital technology, Fike provides faster, more reliable detection than previous mechanically-based detectors. This allows Fike to provide the fastest, most reliable protection against a full scale explosion. The detector utilizes special transducer technology with the capability of sensing the incipient pressures of an explosion. The transducer signal is monitored by custom designed electronics that provide an optical relay closure when pressures generated by the explosion exceed a threshold setting. The detector is constructed from stainless steel and meets 3-A approval making it useful for hygienic and other clean-inplace applications. This hygienic design means lower maintenance costs as well. The entire assembly is provided in rugged explosion proof housing and is suitable for all process applications. The new Fike digital explosion protection pressure detector is now available for new installations and existing system upgrades.

New Gas Cartridge Actuator offers many advantages over conventional system initiators
he makers of explosion protection systems typi-cally use detonators to rapidly open a disc type valve. Once the disc opens, the protection system activates, either by injecting suppressant into the deflagration or initiating isolation valve closure. While effective, detonators do have drawbacks: They pose some difficulties in shipping, storage, handling, and disposal. To address these concerns, Fike has introduced a new, nonexplosive device called the GCA (Gas Cartridge Actuator) with the following benefits: Faster reaction time than conventional detonator. Enhanced reliability due to redundant set of bridge wires and hermetic seal. Lower system maintanence costs due to longer service life. Handling, storage, shipping, and disposal is easier and less expensive since the GCA replaces Class B explosive.

Ask for Component Sheet C3710

Fike GCAs are easily retrofitted to existing applications that currently use detonators. Availability is slated for January 1, 1998.

Learning from Industrial Explosions

What you dont know can hurt you!
By William J. Copelin

eorge Santayanas famous dictum Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it is particularly true in the area of industrial explosions. Process explosions are a more common occurrence than most people know. The problem is that these events are not widely publicized, unless they are hugely catastrophic. In the interest of understanding the phenomenon better ourselves, and communicating the information to industry-at-large, Fike Metal Products has been collecting data on industrial explosions since January 1, 1995. Our information is collected from the news media, trade publications, word of mouth, and reports from our Field Service Technicians, who are often in a position to see the results for themselves. The following is a summary of observations taken from this data. Keep in mind that complete information is not always available in all categories studied, so we must weigh the information that is available. We collected data on 39 events from January 1, 1995 through July 30, 1997. 12 of these explosions resulted in the deaths of 26 people, and injuries to 108 people Loss of property in six of the events (only six provided figures) amounted to $56,400,000.00 Industries affected, and number of explosions per category are: 8 Chemical, including plastics and pharmaceutical 7 Power utilities 1 Agricultural and food processing, including sugar refining 1 Metals, including steel manufacturing 1 Refineries 6

Equipment involved, and number of explosions per category are: 7 Storage tanks and silos 2 Grinders and pulverizers 1 Dust collectors and cyclones 1 Dryers 1 Incinerators/thermal oxidizers Process media involved, and number of explosions per category are: 3 Sugar 2 Various VOCs 2 Fertilizer 2 Metal dust 1 Coal Cause of explosion, and number of explosions per category are: 4 Process upset 3 Maintenance (welding, etc.) 2 Auto-ignition In addition to the above information, the Grain Elevator Processing Society (GEAPS) reports annually on explosions in the grain processing industries. Some overlap in their data and ours is likely. We typically see the results of this annual report in the June issues of POWDER & BULK ENGINEERING. The reports for 1995 and 1996 follow: Fourteen U.S. grain dust explosions were reported in 1995, which equals the 10 year average, and is down from 1994. In 1995 the US reported one fatality and 12 injuries, with property damage exceeding $6.7 million. Four of the explosions oc-

curred in feed mills, four in grain elevators, three in corn mills, two in rice mills, and one in an animal by-products plant. Five happened in bucket elevators, and five in storage bins. Probable ignition was welding/cutting, fire in two cases, and one case each from bearing failure, explosives, and sparks from foreign materials. Probable cause was unknown in the remainder of cases. Most explosions occurred in the Midwest: two in Iowa, three in Illinois, and one each in Arkansas, Ohio, Mississippi, Nebraska, Maine, Washington, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas. Over the past 10 years, dust explosions have occurred in 25 states, with Iowa reporting the most at 21. Thirteen U.S. agricultural dust explosions were reported in 1996, which equals the annual average over the last ten years. However, the number is down one from1995, as reported in the Grain Elevator and Processing Societys (GEAPS) issue of In-Grain. The 1996 explosions resulted in one fatality and 19 injuries, with property damage estimated at $29.6 million. Four of the incidents occurred in grain elevators, four in feed mills, and one each in a rice mill, brewery, flour mill, corn mill, and sugar plant. The above report is offered so you may better understand the industrial explosion phenomenon, and perhaps be able to recognize possible hazards in your workplace.

NEW AIChE LESSONS LEARNED DATABASE TO BE READIED BY YEAR-END By the end of this year, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChEs) Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS) member companies are expected to complete the development and testing phases, including a pilot study, of the new CCPS Process Safety Lessons Learned Database. The purpose of the database is to pool process safety incident experience among participating companies so they can learn from the experience of others, while minimizing corporate liability. It includes process safety incidents with a potentially important lesson to be learned. Such incidents could result in a fire, explosion, fatality, multiple injuries, significant release of hazardous materials, or any other unique process safety incident as defined by the submitter (including nearmisses). Benefits and Uses The new database captures and stores information relevant to many types of process safety incidents in a structured and consistent format. The database can be used for:

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. . . is published by Fike Corporation in the interest of communication and service to those involved with process and industrial safety. We welcome your comments and suggestions. If you would like to continue receiving this newsletter, please complete and return the enclosed Subscriber Qualification Form.
Copyright 1997 by Fike Corporation. All rights reserved.

Common event analysis - allows querying and identifying common contributing factors with respect to equipment, location, operating units, injury, process, chemicals, etc. Lessons learned - allows participants to share process safety experience for selected fields, including narrative descriptions of lessons learned. Process Design - Before building new chemical manufacturing units, the database will be useful in identifying and reviewing process safety experience of other participants for the proposed process, type of operations, types of processing equipment, and chemicals being considered. PSM - can provide useful information for continuous improvement of process safety management (PSM), and in conducting process hazard analyses at various stages in the process life cycle. Incident Investigation - useful during an incident investigation by providing industry experience for similar processes, equipment, chemicals, etc. Training - can provide useful input for continuous improvement of training programs and materials

A brochure describing this project is available from the Center for Chemical Process Safety. To receive a copy, contact Annette McCarthy, CCPS, 345 East 47th Street, New York, NY 10017-2395; 212/705-7353; e-mail For technical information on this project, contact Jack Weaver, AIChE?s director of sponsored research at 212/ 705-7407, or Albert Kover, staff consultant to this project at 216/975-2837.

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