Explosion Protection in the Biomass Industry


Where does the wood come from?

There are many sources of wood as a biomass energy source. Larger pieces can be harvested directly or comes as stumps and branches from forest clearing. While smaller chips and sawdust can come from many different industrial processes. Since it is very bulky, wood biomass is normally sourced locally to reduce the transportation costs.

What is the biggest risk?

Biomass in bulk is a dangerous material which can ignite and burn spontaneously, and fine wood dust – which is often generated during the transport or processing of larger wood pieces – is explosive. Any dust of 0.5 mm or finer should be considered explosive and, as a general rule, the finer the dust, the higher the risk of explosion.

It’s also worth noting that since the biomass industry is comparatively new, there is not an established history of fire/explosion safety. There have already been a large number of major fire incidents due to biomass, including storage facilities, power plants and MDF production. Some have even resulted in a tragic loss of life. This is due to the fact that most efforts have been spent on perfecting pellet production and maximizing the efficiency of transforming the heat of combustion into work (mostly electrical energy) rather than on explosion or fire protection.

So what protection is required?

Since the dust that biomass produces is explosive, it’s important to control any explosion and to ensure that it doesn’t spread quickly through a facility by igniting these dust clouds. So, explosion suppression and venting will control any ignition, and explosion isolation will ensure it does not spread.

Combustion can occur from many sources, such as electrostatic charge, friction, heating or even spontaneously while in storage.

Explosion suppression

Fike uses a range of different sensor types to monitor combustion. Once a sensor registers combustion, a chemical suppressant fills the vessel.

The correct solution depends on the location and the risks. This is where Fike’s decades of experience in explosion safety are key.

Explosion venting

Non-rupturing explosion vents are placed on closed vessels so that any explosion can be released in a controlled manner. If it is indoors, or there is a lot of biomass dust around, flameless venting can be used to prevent a secondary ignition.

Explosion Isolation

If an explosion is picked up by the sensors, then the inlet and outlet of the vessel are also filled with a suppressant chemical to keep the explosion contained to prevent secondary explosions throughout the plant

How can Fike help?

Explosion protection is vital in the biomass industry and Fike’s years of experience and testing mean we are able to identify and mitigate the risks present in these types of facilities to quickly help this new industry to reach the high safety standard that it needs.