The Next Phase in Industrial Dust Explosion Protection

A controlled dust explosion using flour demonstrates the intense radiant heat emitted by such an event. Among its directives, NFPA 652 outlines deadlines for sampling and analysis to identify potential risk areas for dust explosions in industrial facilities. (Credit: Wikimedia/Hans-Peter Scholz)

For a wide range of facilities that manufacture, process, blend, convey, repackage, generate or handle items that could be categorized as combustible dusts or particulate solids, new NFPA Standards are now on the books. Even the first deadline to conduct a dust hazard analysis has been issued, adding to the responsibilities of owners and operators of such facilities.

Explosions can result from an ignition of a combustible gas, mist or dust when mixed with air during processing, handling or storage operations. A rapid rise in pressure occurs in the containing structure, and if it is not of adequate strength to withstand the pressure, extensive damage and injury to personnel can occur.

After a string of incidents in the early 2000s, organizations such as OSHA stepped up the requirements, as with the Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program of 2008, which is still in effect today.

The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), which has been issuing Standards and guidelines for decades, is doing the same with publication of NFPA 652 — Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust, in 2016. This new Standard consolidates best engineering practice and provides reference to all of the existing combustible dust standards in a single, overarching document that applies to all facilities that handle potentially explosive dusts.

A hybrid of measures like vents, explosion suppression and extinguishing is often required to protect equipment and personnel.

While the new Standard does an admirable job of unifying the various existing equipment and industry specific codes, NPFA 652 goes a step further by specifying — for the first time — a deadline for owners and operators of at-risk facilities to conduct a dust hazard analysis.

“Perhaps the most important aspect of the introduction of NFPA 652, is that it requires all owners and operators of a dusty industrial process to do a dust hazard analysis,” says Geof Brazier, president of BS&B Pressure Safety Management, a manufacturer of a broad range of dust explosion prevention and protection technologies.

According to Brazier, NFPA 652 specifies facilities must complete this dust hazard analysis within 3 years. However, recent revisions to NFPA 654 and 61 that additionally apply to many facilities have extended that deadline to 5 years.

While a significant step in the right direction, NFPA 652 is essentially requiring owners and operators of at-risk facilities to confront and address an issue that many may not fully understand in terms of both the potential for such an event and what steps must be taken to mitigate those risks.

The NFPA Standards, for example, outline requirements that can range from improved housekeeping to installing dust-collection equipment and offering protective equipment for personnel.

In addition, protection or hazard mitigation devices may also be required. Because these typically represent some capital expenditure, many owners and operators are seeking out information on the available technologies on the market.

Explosion Protection Devices

The Knife Gate Valve is designed to prevent explosion propagation from one vessel to another through interconnected piping.

To protect process equipment and personnel, a hybrid of technical measures is often required. Among the options are passive devices like vents or containment systems, along with active devices such as explosion suppression, or spark detection and extinguishing systems.

In addition, chemical or mechanical isolation devices are required to protect connected equipment and piping from propagating to a secondary event, which can often be more dangerous and destructive than the initial event.

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Posted by on Dec 1st, 2017 and filed under Feature Story. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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