Issue 2, 2022 - Pellet Mill Magazine

Page 1

Issue 2, 2022

CONTROLLING COMBUSTIBLE DUST Keys to Lower Insurance Premiums Page 10

PLUS: Dust Safety Science

2021 Incident Report Page 20

Pellet Plant Abatement Techniques Page 28

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Contents » 2022 | VOLUME 12 | ISSUE 2

FEATURES 10 INSURANCE Ensuring Better Insurance Rates

In a persisting hard market, pellet producers and other wood product manufacturers are struggling with high premiums, but there are some ways to help achieve the best rates. By Anna Simet

16 EVENT World of Pellets

The recent European Pellet Conference in Wels, Austria, included international pellet market updates that detailed development, challenges and opportunities. By Katie Schroeder



Insurance, Incident Prevention and Global Market Constraints By Anna Simet



Filling a 2 Million-Ton Hole


UK Wood Pellet Market Open to New Supply Opportunities

By Tim Portz

By Mark Lebus

08 BUSINESS BRIEFS Pellet Mill Magazine

Advertiser Index 2 22 31 29 32 13 9 26 30 14 23 18 15 27 8 12 19 25 21 17

2023 Int'l Biomass Conference & Expo Airoflex Equipment Biomass Magazine Biomass Magazine's Pellet Mill Map Baum Pneumatics, Inc. CPM Global Biomass Group Evergreen Engineering Fagus GreCon, Inc. FLAMEX Inc. IEP Technologies Jacobs Corporation KEITH Manufacturing Company KESCO, Inc. Mid-South Engineering Company MoistTech PAL s.r.l. Rembe, Inc. Screw Conveyor Corporation Timber Products Inspection / Biomass Energy Laboratories Uzelac Industries

CONTRIBUTIONS 20 FIRE & EXPLOSION 2021 Combustible Dust Incident Report: Wood and Wood Products

Dust Safety Science provides an overview of last year's report, including a summary and breakdown of incidents, as well as materials and equipment involved, By Chris Cloney

24 FEEDSTOCK Q&A: Biomass and Bulk Powder Flow Testing

Effective bulk solids handling is essential in biomass operations, with poor flowability routinely highlighted as a primary cause of operational problems. By Jamie Clayton

28 DUST MANAGEMENT Combustible Dust Hazards and Abatement Techniques

There are many different methods of minimizing or eliminating dust hazards at wood pellet operations. By Adam Haroz


Vast Expertise in Fire and Explosion Hazards



« Editor's Note

Insurance, Incident Prevention and Global Market Constraints

Anna Simet


In October, Pellet Mill Magazine conducted an industry survey to gain insight about some of the challenges wood pellet manufacturers were facing as a result of the pandemic, inflation and lack of workforce. One surveyee cited the difficult insurance environment, commenting, “Our plant insurance premium went from $85,000 annually to over $350,000, and only a handful of carriers were willing to even consider insuring wood products manufacturers.” Since then, I have heard similar remarks on a number of occasions, which is what led me to pursue our page-12 feature, “Ensuring Better Insurance Rates.” Being honest, it was a challenge finding sources who would have on-record discussions with me, but the insurance industry professionals I did speak with had some useful information to share about the scenario that wood pellet and other wood product manufacturers are in right now. This included suggestions regarding careful selection of an insurance broker—one important guideline is to find someone who is familiar with the business, knows how to market your operation to carriers, and is remarketing in proper intervals. As for other content related to dust management and fire/explosion protection, there is plenty—be sure to check out our page-20 contribution that summarizes industry relevant data from the 2021 Combustible Dust Incident Report. In it, Chris Cloney, managing director at DustEx Research Ltd., provides a summary of the dust fires and explosions uploaded into the combustible dust incident database throughout the year, which analyzes the materials, equipment and industries involved in incidents. Finally, I will highlight staff writer Katie Schroeder’s coverage of the European Pellet Conference that was held in Wels, Austria, in early April. The story focuses on global market updates, and includes some summaries of presenters from Japan, Brazil, Germany, Spain and Austria. As I expected, it was mentioned several times that the Russian invasion of the Urkaine is predicted to pose challenges for European domestic heating pellet markets (among the other mounting energy challenges), whether directly or indirectly (and you’ll find this topic mentioned on several other pages as well). Christian Rakos, CEO of ProPellets Austria and president of the World Bioenergy Organization, touched on the constraints in his presentation, but pointed out a potential silver lining, a note that I will end on: “While European producers are bracing themselves for a tight winter with high demand from consumers, the situation does provide bioenergy producers an opportunity to show how renewable fuels can bring more reliability and lower cost to consumers.”

Subscriptions to Pellet Mill Magazine are free of charge—distributed 4 times/year—to Biomass Magazine subscribers.To subscribe, visit or you can send your mailing address to Pellet Mill Magazine Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You can also fax a subscription form to 701-746-5367. Back Issues & Reprints Select back issues are available for $3.95 each, plus shipping. Article reprints are also available for a fee. For more information, contact us at 866-746-8385 or Advertising Pellet Mill Magazine provides a specific topic delivered to a highly targeted audience. We are committed to editorial excellence and high-quality print production. To find out more about Pellet Mill Magazine advertising opportunities, please contact us at 866-746-8385 or Letters to the Editor We welcome letters to the editor. Send to Pellet Mill Magazine Letters to the Editor, 308 2nd Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203 or email to asimet@ Please include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity and/or space.


Industry Events » Carbon Capture & Storage Summit

JUNE 13, 2022 Minneapolis Convention Center | Minneapolis, MN



Capturing and storing carbon dioxide in underground wells has the potential to become the most consequential technological deployment in the history of the broader biofuels industry. Deploying effective carbon capture and storage at biofuels plants will cement ethanol and biodiesel as the lowest carbon liquid fuels commercially available in the marketplace. The Carbon Capture & Storage Summit will offer attendees a comprehensive look at the economics of carbon capture and storage, the infrastructure required to make it possible and the financial and marketplace impacts to participating producers. 866.746.8385 |

2022 Int’l Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo

JUNE 13-15, 2022 Minneapolis Convention Center | Minneapolis, MN


From its inception, the mission of this event has remained constant: The FEW delivers timely presentations with a strong focus on commercial-scale ethanol production—from quality control and yield maximization to regulatory compliance and fiscal management. The FEW is the ethanol industry’s premier forum for unveiling new technologies and research findings. The program is primarily focused on optimizing grain ethanol operations while also covering cellulosic and advanced ethanol technologies. 866.746.8385 |


Biodiesel & Renewable Diesel Summit


JUNE 13-15, 2022 Minneapolis Convention Center | Minneapolis, MN The Biodiesel & Renewable Diesel Summit is a forum designed for biodiesel and renewable diesel producers to learn about cutting-edge process technologies, new techniques and equipment to optimize existing production, and efficiencies to save money while increasing throughput and fuel quality. Produced by Biodiesel Magazine, this world-class event features premium content from technology providers, equipment vendors, consultants, engineers and producers to advance discussion and foster an environment of collaboration and networking through engaging presentations, fruitful discussion and compelling exhibitions with one purpose: to further the biomass-based diesel sector beyond its current limitations. 866.746.8385 |

2023 International Biomass Conference & Expo

FEBRUARY 28 - MARCH 2, 2023 Cobb Galleria Centre | Atlanta, GA The 16th annual International Biomass Conference & Expo unites industry professionals from all sectors of the world’s interconnected biomass utilization industries—biobased power, thermal energy, fuels and chemicals. Produced by Biomass Magazine, this event brings current and future producers of bioenergy and biobased products together with waste generators, energy crop growers, municipal leaders, utility executives, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policy makers. It’s a true one-stop shop– the world’s premier educational and networking junction for all biomass industries. This event provides the opportunity to meet face-to-face with industry experts who will offer new technology and solutions to making plants and facilities safely operate at peak capacity and optimum efficiency. 866.746.8385 -

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Filling a 2 Million-Ton Hole BY TIM PORTZ

The war in the Ukraine has disrupted commodity markets across the world, including wood pellets. Over the past decade, Russia’s wood pellet industry has grown into a significant player, contributing more than 2 million tons of wood pellets to the European market. As sanctions mount and sustainability licenses for Russian producers are suspended, pellet buyers across Europe now move to the challenge of replacing these volumes. Apart from the fact that it is rooted in a much larger story of human misery, the market dynamics created by the sudden stoppage of the flow of Russian pellets to their traditional buyers is amongst the most interesting stories in the global biomass marketplace in a decade. On the surface, the stars have aligned and the solution to this very significant inventory and pellet availability challenge is plain to see. On one side of the ocean, the market is anticipating being short on pellets. On the other, producers serving domestic markets are emerging from a disappointing year, watching inventories swell and throttling back on production. Heating degree days lagged long-term averages in every pellet-burning region in the country, and U.S. producers experienced their lightest sales volume (just over 2 million tons) in four years. While no one is expecting U.S. heating market producers to magically double their production next year and cover all of the Russian volume, all corners of the global pellet industry are being explored for their potential to contribute some meaningful volumes. European pellet interests are not wrong to look toward heating fuel producers in the U.S. When limiting an inquiry to simply a review of the available data, a compelling case could be made that stateside heating market participants could contribute meaningful volumes to European buyers. Monthly production data produced and curated by the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows manufacturers in the East haven’t produced anywhere near full throttle in well over a year. The highest month ever recorded for production in the EIA’s East region was in October 2019, at 136,921 tons. The region averaged just 91,902 tons per month in 2021, suggesting that nearly 50,000 tons of pro-


duction throttle was left untouched each month throughout the year. Turn every 90,000-ton month in 2022 into an October 2019, and producers in the region will have laid up nearly 600,000 tons of additional production in a year. It is back-of-the-envelopment tabulations like these that have wood pellet interests in Europe looking hopefully toward heating producers in the U.S. to satisfy a portion of this vacated supply. These tabulations can reveal what may be theoretically possible, but they fall well short of successfully ramping up production in the right locations and moving product efficiently and cost effectively to market, connecting buyers and sellers who heretofore have not done business together. Layered on top of this are the economic challenges that U.S. producers have been managing for two years, including inflationary pressure across their businesses and increasingly tight labor markets. Finally, stateside producers serving the U.S. heating and barbecue markets will have to perform some delicate calculus as they anticipate demand for the 2022-‘23 heating season. While recent trends point to shorter and milder winters, producers will have to weigh how much volume they feel comfortable setting aside for export. There is no doubt that some stateside producers will step forward to capture some sales afforded by this unique marketplace opportunity. As to answering questions about how to best integrate this new demand into stateside producers’ established book of business, work is already underway. While the opportunity to satisfy a portion of these volumes may not be viable for all U.S. wood pellet producers, it isn’t difficult to see how it might boost the fortunes of a sector that is emerging from a lackluster season. The economic opportunity emerging in Europe will inspire increased production here across the domestic fleet, and time alone will answer the questions of “By whom?,” and “How much?” Author: Tim Portz Executive Director, Pellet Fuels Institute

UK Wood Pellet Market Open to New Supply Opportunities BY MARK LEBUS

Changes to global supply chains brought on by the crisis in Ukraine, as well as increased demand across Europe, have seen United Kingdom producers and suppliers urgently switch to alternative sources of imported wood pellets to ensure minimal impact on the biomass heating market, a sector that currently sees U.K. demand for premium grade wood pellets reaching 600,000 tons per annum. The UK Pellet Council, a trade body representing the premium wood pellet heating sector—a niche and separate industry to the biomass power market—is now forging new partnerships with worldwide suppliers to plug an immediate pellet shortfall of 200,000 tons per annum, previously sourced from Siberia but ceased following its EN Plus certification suspension. This has created new opportunities for existing pellet suppliers from the Baltics and the Iberian Peninsula to increase exports (and months ago, were shipping approximately 150,000 tons annually to the U.K.), and potentially, North and South America producers, too, should an excess of premium grade inventory exist. We are very much open for business, with the UKPC and its members now looking for alternative wood pellet producers and competitive supply routes, all working under the EN Plus A1 accreditation scheme or equivalent quality standards. Our market needs to respond to (and accommodate) a short-term issue brought on by the crisis in Ukraine, and whilst overall heating demand is beginning to reduce as we head into the warmer summer months, we must have new supply chains up and running now to prevent any possible shortfall across the whole of Europe next winter. With up to 55% of our annual demand sourced from imports, the knock-on effect would be huge; therefore, we’re open to all discussions. Despite these circumstances being brought on by the worst possible events overseas, it is now an opportunity for change and growth. The U.K. is home to many strategic ports located up and down the coastline, with several regions already receiving regular wood pellet shipments via dedicated fuel handling facilities. Storage options may be lower than other European countries at present, but companies operating within the biomass heating market take regular shipments of one-ton bulk bags (25 per container) to 3,000- to 5,000-ton-plus bulk pellet consignments. Working hand-in-hand with a domestic production sector, this is also an area that could also be developed further via major inward investment. Our sector has continuously developed over the past 10 years, being very much supported by the domestic and nondomestic Renewable Heat Incentive scheme. While this has ended,

it has meant a seven-year subsidy for domestic heating and 20 years for commercial users based on metered heat use. This ensured that high-quality wood pellets remained competitive against fossil fuels. Looking ahead, the U.K. government has committed to ambitious net zero targets with biomass (wood pellets) being identified to help achieve that, especially for rural off-grid homes and buildings where other technologies simply aren’t feasible. The awaited Biomass Strategy, to be delivered by the Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy, is due for release later this year. This program, along with the Boiler Upgrade Scheme that began in April, should allow our industry to be a driving force in encouraging a switch from oil, coal and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) systems in the hardest-to-heat properties, as well as challenging and remote, rural off-grid locations. And this is where a major opportunity lies. Our customers include private homeowners and an array of commercial users. Furthermore, independent research has identified that there are approximately 1.45 million (and possibly up to 1.9 million homes) or 7% of the total housing stock, and 200,000 commercial buildings that cannot be decarbonized via the gas grid. Of these, at least 422,000 homes are only suitable for biomass and bioenergy, with this number likely to be much higher when the cost benefit analysis has been completed on electrical grid investment, as urban areas will likely be prioritized. Additionally, 57% of rural homes use oil, coal or LPG currently, producing 20 to 40% more carbon emissions than natural gas in urban areas. Demand for premium wood pellets will increase as people move away from fossil fuel use, and while we will still have a need for premium imported stock, we must also grab the opportunity to upscale our own home-grown, domestic production in line with new woodland creation and sustainable forestry management. Investment and increased government support would help develop more strategic autonomy, allowing us to become more protected from global price surges and a crippling energy crisis. We have a lot of work to do, but the opportunity is now. As representatives of the wood pellet sector and the biomass heating industry, the UKPC is at the forefront of wider discussions to help grow our industry both at home and on an international level. Contact: Mark Lebus Chair, UK Pellet Council +44 (0) 1670 338395


Business Briefs


CPM debuts new wood pellet technology CPM has launched new technology designed to improve the efficiency of wood pellet mills. The company's patented Twin Track technology has been developed after a decade of research, with multiple goals of reducing energy demand, ensuring consistent pellet quality and boosting mill capacity. Twin Track uses two rollers inside the pellet mill, and uniquely, each roller has its own track. The system is designed to push pellets with one long, energy-efficient push per die revolution, resulting in less required energy to move the pellet mass than with two- or threeroller machines. At the same time, Twin Track provides a surface area that has 43% more holes in the die than average. CPM's research team validated that a higher hole count in the die also facilitates longer baking time in the die itself to make use of natural binding properties, including added binders, and maintain


pellet consistency. Twin Track technology has been extensively tested in real world mill operations, and the higher die hole count has been found to stabilize mill running conditions due to the longer pellet retention times that help dampen fluctuations. Twin Track can be supplied in new machines or retrofitted into a range of CPM machines in as little as four hours.

Musser Biomass and Wood Products to install second dryer from Dryer One After a successful launch in 2021, Musser Biomass and Wood Products LLC in Rural Retreat, Virginia, will bring online its second dryer from Belgium company Dryer One at the end of 2022. In addition to the second dryer, the company plans to open a pulpwood and log yard to supply its dryer operations, according to Ed Musser, president. When the new dryer comes online, MBWP will be one of the largest suppliers of dry wood fiber on the East Coast with an annual production of more than 200,000 tons. Musser said the


company plans to expand operations in at least two more states during the next three years.


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Groupe Lebel plans new wood pellet plant in Quebec Groupe Lebel announced in early April that it will continue its investment program by building a new wood pellet plant on the Cacouna, Quebec, site it has occupied since 2002. The company acknowledged the financial contribution of nearly $15 million from key partners for this $40 million project: the Quebec Ministry of Economy and Innovation granted the company a $12 million loan, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources Quebec contributed $1.75 million, including funds from Environment and Climate Change Canada; and the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks is contributing $1 million.


The first phase of the plant’s operations will begin in 2023 with an annual capacity of nearly 100,000 metric tons of wood pellets. Groupe Lebel aims to ship the majority of its production to growing international markets.

JAPEX announces plans for pellet-fueled power plant in Japan Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. Ltd announced it is working with Maeda Corp., Yonden Business Co. Inc., and Shinko Denso Co. to develop a 50-MW, wood pellet-fueled power plant in Ozu City, Ehime Prefecture, Japan. Construction of the project, referred to as Ozu Biomass Power Co. Ltd., is scheduled to begin in June, with commercial operations scheduled to commence in August 2024. Electricity produced at the facility will be sold to Shikoku Electric Power Transmission & Distribution Co. Inc. under the feed-in tariff system for renewable energy. The facility will be fueled by imported wood pellets.


Once fully operational, the plant is expected to require approximately 200,000 metric tons per year.



« Insurance



Ensuring Better Insurance Rates BY ANNA SIMET


hen Lumbermen’s Mutual Casualty Co. was founded in 1912, it set out with a focus on insuring sawmills. The company was successful for many decades, and at one point was among the largest and most profitable property and casualty insurance companies in the U.S. By the end of 2000, it ranked in the top 20, as well as the top five largest workers compensation insurers in the U.S., with $2.7 billion in net premiums and more than $2 billion in surplus, according to court documents. However, that success came to a near-screeching halt in 2003, with a rapid amassing of industry claims, and ensuing financial catastrophe. “All they did was insure wood product manufacturers—from biomass to sawmills to pellet manufacturers,” says Will Downing, an insurance broker from CapriCMW. “They went bankrupt because they just weren’t making money paying out so many claims all of the time, and subsequently went out of business.” That left all the company’s clients with a short notice and accompanying scramble to find new insurance. “There was this surge of wood product manufacturers needing insurance, and carriers charged more than double than they were current-

ly doing,” Downing says. “But they really didn’t have another option.” Insurance premiums for North American wood product manufacturers have soared over the past decade. Patrick Tomkow of Aon Risk Solutions, a risk management and insurance brokerage company with clients in over 120 countries—and a practice in Vancouver focused on wood products manufacturers—says that pellet mills go for roughly $1 to $4 per $100 of value, depending on construction type, protection and loss history, as well other variables, including whether the mill has silo-type storage or is a stand alone facility, which will typically land in the higher in range, vs. collocated, which are typically on the lower range. “The pellet plants that we do are typically only a portion of the overall clients’ facilities,” he says. “They have other locations that are less volatile in terms of historical losses or risk, so we are able to obtain terms that include the pellet plant and all the rest of the clients’ risks. There is some give and take by the insurers.” Tomkow says the company’s clients do includea few stand-alone pellet producers, but that generally, they will have a more difficult time getting favorable terms in the insurance market. “This is because of historical losses in this space, and no other values


« Insurance to insure to offset the insurer’s exposure to the pellet plant,” he says. “And as well, insurers wanting top dollar for their capacity. Other items that make these rates fluctuate include deductibles—approximately $500,000 to $2.5 million—and values, as an insurer’s ultimate goal is an acceptable premium. So, higher-value facilities may get a rate break due to size.” Downing says the insurance industry is currently experiencing a hard market— a period of time, often two to three years, during which insurance carriers increase premiums or stop writing business to increase profits. “Then, they will start writing business again—it has been a factor for the past three or so years.” As for keys to getting the best rates in the market whether hard or soft, Downing says it begins with finding a broker who is knowledgeable in the space.

Checklist for Minimizing Insurance Rates Conduct a third-party risk inspection (every three years) Follow and document a risk management plant/ maintenance schedule Compile and keep annual maintenance reports

ing who to work with for risk management is critical. “We’ve had clients tell us their previous broker got them to pay for a risk report, only to find out that the report wasn’t accepted by the insurance carriers for not meeting NFPA or FM Standards,” he says. “Often, I have run into those who are having trouble finding someone who understands their business. Basic things you should ask include, do they insure any Finding the Right Broker associations related to the industry? Is the From Downing’s perspective, knowbrokerage ai165157187828_IMALPALGroup_PelletMill_2022_May-Jun.pdf 1 03/05/2022 11:58:07 involved in any conferences or

speaking events? There just aren’t that many that specialize in a specific area of manufacturing, which is a problem because if you work with a broker who doesn’t understand the industry or who they should be approaching, they may be overcharged by underwriters.” While Downing focuses primarily on sawmills, he says the company does have a couple of wood pellet manufacturer clients, and there is a lot of crossover in terms of the same problems—it’s difficult to get in-

surance and premiums are very high. “We’re trying to change that, because it’s just painful going back to a client saying, ‘This is the only option we can get for you, and its 50% more than what it was last year,’ ” he says. Two fatal, catastrophic sawmill explosions in British Columbia in 2012 had an impact that reverberated across North America, and insurance rates have been on the climb since. A post-investigation report indicated the main underlying factors in both incidents included ineffective wood dust control measures, ineffective inspection and maintenance, as well as inadequate supervision of clean-up and maintenance staff. “Today, these are some of the biggest concerns for insurance carriers when assessing the operations of wood product manufacturers,” Downing explains. “In B.C., the standards have been raised, and WorkBC makes frequent visits to see whether an operation has a dust control policy and if it’s being enforced. Now, companies will get fined if they aren’t implementing good risk

management practices. In 2013, it might have been a $15,000 fine for not implementing safe controls on machinery, or poor dust control—now, it is north of $650,000 for that same thing.” Downing says his firm has been in discussions with insurance carriers to determine how the situation can be improved. “They have been pretty good about letting us know which items we should have in place for them to look at reducing premiums and becoming a better risk, so they become more comfortable writing that type of business,” he says. Another item to check off the list is to ensure brokers are remarketing your business to insurers when appropriate. “I find that when we take on a new client, we’ll go out to all our insurance carriers and present the business to them, and you would be very surprised at how many businesses are not getting remarketed to insurance carriers on a 3- to 5-year basis,” Downing says. “And when I say remarketed, I mean taking that


For a best-in-class manufacturing plant compared to one without great housekeeping, poor dust management and sprinkler systems that aren’t updated or inspected, you could be looking at a $30,000 to $50,000 difference in premiums. Will Downing, CapriCMW


« Insurance business to all the insurance carriers that want to write that business. Some may not be doing that because they think it’s too difficult to place, too much time and effort required, or that they already have them with the best option. But in doing this, we have found there may be a new insurance carrier that would be very interested in writing this type of business.” In an example, Downing says one carrier his brokerage uses hired a risk engineer with significant experience in the wood products manufacturing industry, expertise they didn’t previously have. “So now, that insurance carrier is much more comfortable writing that type of business,” he says. “When I submit an application, it gets passed straight on to the engineering department. If they have engineers with a background, they can ask the right questions, and they know how to look at the

risk, whether it’s good or bad one, and be more comfortable with it. The only way you find out about these new insurance carriers is speaking with them on a regular basis and asking questions. It’s something that some brokers just aren’t doing.” Downing adds that three to five years is the standard for remarketing, unless a facility has made some significant changes within that timeframe. “Generally speaking, you won’t see too much change from year to year—it normally takes around three years for carriers to want to be more competitive,” he says. “And if you stay with carrier for long enough time, we’re in a good position to negotiate as well—we might be able to say, ‘Over this five year period, look what they did for risk management and policies put into place, as their track record.’ They will likely come with more favorable terms if they want to keep the business.”




Flameless Venting

+1-855-793-8407 14 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | ISSUE 2 2022

As for a pellet manufacturer can do to show carriers they are actively reducing risk, Downing says there are a few things. Reducing Risk Third-party risk inspections, documentation and reporting and monitoring, as well as annual maintenance reports are some key bullet points when it comes to reducing risk, Downing says. “These are 100% relevant to wood pellet manufacturers and are still the number one way on improving your insurance premiums,” he says. While U.S. wood pellet manufacturers and all other facilities with combustible dust hazards were required by OSHA to have completed a dust hazard analysis (DHA) completed by September 7, 2020, they may be completed in-house by a “qualified person” and currently, there are not any specific certifications they must have. Under NFPA 652, the DHA recommendations/findings must be completed within two years, and DHAs reviewed and updated every five years. “The main thing is that the risk report is accepted by the insurance carrier, it should be of high quality and according to NFPA and FM standards—having them conducted by engineers who have worked for FM Global or are very familiar with those standards is another thing,” Downing says. Beyond a risk report, documentation and monitoring is critical, Downing says. “For dust control, how often are you cleaning, who is doing it and when, and is it documented? It’s all good having a policy in place, but actually getting it enforced is more challenging. It can be a bit of a change in culture, giving somebody a responsibility to make it happen and get it done on a day-to-day basis. There is technology that improves safety, but a lot of it is housekeeping and preventable.” In one example, Downing says he has seen businesses use their phones to take pictures on a daily or weekly basis to track dust levels, or keep track of cleaning and checks in an Excel document. As for annual maintenance and upkeep, Downing says it should be focused

mainly on the sprinkler and fire protection systems. In some cases, he says seen operations that haven’t had their on-site fire hydrants and fire extinguishers checked or inspected for five-plus years, or placards on sprinkler systems updated. “There is a budget and cost to having all these things done, but it’s a necessary cost of business,” Downing says. “We had a wood pellet manufacturer have a risk report done and it came with recommendations of what needed to be implemented—not all quick fixes. But if they work throughout the year at all of the recommendations, if all of those things have been ticked off at the next renewal, they can show that they put in the money, time and effort to reduce risk. They will look at that more favorably, and it will likely put them in a position to negotiate your premium down—that’s exactly what happened with some clients of ours this year.” To give a rough calculation as to costs and ultimate savings, a third-party risk report and other recommended risk management items may cost annually $10,000 to $15,000 for a $4.5 million wood processing facility. “However, you could see savings of $22,500 per year or $112,500 every five years in insurance premiums,” Downing says, adding that risk reports are generally considered valid for about three years. “For a best-in-class manufacturing plant compared to one without great housekeeping, poor dust management and sprinkler systems that aren’t updated or inspected, you could be looking at a $30,000 to $50,000 difference in premiums.” Brand new facilities are often in a better position that existing facilities, depending on the company’s experience. “If you have a building that’s steel-on-steel construction, 100% sprinklered with a couple fire hydrants on-site, immediately that looks like a much better risk,” Downing says. “Then, they’ll look at experience level—being totally new to the industry might be a red flag, but 20 years of experience in wood products, a risk report and even maybe a health and safety offi-

cer on-site to go over documents they will need, with everything tracked and reported, it would be a better risk.” Despite the difficulties pellet manufacturers and other wood products facilities face, underwriters do want to write this business, Downing says, but they must be comfortable that what they’re taking on isn’t a ticking bomb. “And each person has different opinions around risk management. We have had cases where we’ve told people, for us to get insurance options for them, that they get a risk report done, and they won’t actually allow it to happen— I’m not sure why, either they don’t want to spend the money, or they are uncomfortable with someone coming into their facility.” Tomkow says insurers want to see less losses—both in frequency and severity— before rethinking premium calculations,

and that for pellet plants, this year likely won’t see much relief. Insurance companies are out to make a profit, and if they’re having to pay out significant losses frequently, then they’re not making money, Downing emphasizes. “They’ll just decide not to write that type of business, or charge a significant premium,” he adds. “It’s very important to be working with a specialist insurance broker that understands the business and the requirements. Underwriters have to get more comfortable with writing your risk, so you really need to find a broker who can present your company in a favorable way, highlighting all of the good stuff that you’re doing.” Author: Anna Simet Editor, Pellet Mill Magazine 701-738-4961

Celebrating 20 Years of Service



« Event

World of


World Sustainable Energy Days was held in Wels, Austria, in early April. The three-day event hosted multiple conferences and workshops, including the European Pellet Conference. PHOTO: OÖ ENERGIESPARVERBAND

The recent European Pellet Conference in Wels, Austria, included international pellet market updates. BY KATIE SCHROEDER


he landscape of the wood pellet industry has been impacted greatly by Russia’s attack on Ukraine. In early April at the European Pellet Conference, representatives of countries across the globe discussed the current state of their pellet markets, including Japan, Brazil, Austria, Germain and Spain. The session was moderated by Gordon Murray, executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada. Market Growth in Japan Ken’ichiro Kojima of the Japanese Pellet


Club and CEO of Lab Forest Inc. reported on Japan’s wood pellet market, which is largely driven by the country’s feed-in tariff. Production is growing a small amount each year, he said, with a total of about 137 factories that collectively produce about 150,000 tons annually. “So, each mill produces a very small amount of fuel,” he said, adding that about half of production is made from sawdust. Most of the pellets consumed in Japan are used for power generation, which is “increasing rapidly,” from 3.5 gigawatts in 2019 to an estimated 4.1 gigawatts in 2025, he said. The

heating industry is still small—in 2020, only 1,857 Japanese pellet stoves were sold in the country, and even fewer imported pellet stoves were sold—a total of 438 units. There are about 1,000 operating pellet boilers and another 1,000 wood chip boilers in commercial industry sectors, according to Kojima. “There are very few pellet boilers working in the single-family houses because we don’t use hot water central heating systems,” Kojima said. “So, this is our challenge—to install [more] pellet boilers in single-family houses.” Heating oil is cheaper than wood pellets right now, he added. Japan has two national pellet quality standards, the Japan Industrial Standard and the Japan Agricultural Standard, the latter of which will be published this year and is based on the European standard. According to Japan wood pellet association, Kojima said, there are eight production facilities certified under the old standard that will be changing over to the JAS standard. Pellets are primarily used at power plants due to the feed-in tariff, Kojima reiterated, and growing pellet imports from Vietnam and Canada—and soon, the U.S.— will rise from 3 million to 6 million tons annually. One issue of concern is that these power plants don’t utilize the generated heat, Kojima said, which he would like to

see change with more combined-heat-andpower application. Kojima emphasized that the price of pellets in the domestic market is currently quite high, which may be a hindrance on future growth of the sector. He concluded by emphasizing the importance of energy security in context of the uncertainty caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and COVID-19. Forestry Management in Brazil Afonso Bertucci, a representative from Brazil’s Braspell Bioenergia, discussed Brazil’s superior forestry management and its wood pellet production potential. Currently, he said, the country only produces a small volume of pellets, “1 million tons per year in 30 factories,” but that number will rise significantly in the next few years, according to Bertucci. The country’s goal is to be carbon neutral by 2050, and Bertucci said forest plantations—and, potentially, wood pellets—will play a key role. Bertucci outlined the plan for this forest-based bioenergy program in his presentation, explaining the plant requirements which include the establishment of environmental debates, bilateral agreements and long-term contracts with offtakers, technological agreements with interna-

tional companies and consolidating carbon dioxide credits market with global coverage. Bertucci said Brazil’s forest plantations have supplied the pulp and paper industry traditionally, but in the future, there will be high consumption in biorefineries, especially in second-generation ethanol. In the white pellet sector, traditional markets include power plants and heating, but there are emerging markets like the cement industry, Bertucci said. Brazil is also looking at opportunities in hydrogen, he added. With outstanding figures for forest productivity, Bertucci said Brazil has the potential to produce 1 billion tons of wood pellets annually. When asked if he sees any short-term potential in helping fill the supply shortage expected in Europe during the next couple of years as a result of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, Bertucci was doubtful, given the timeline of the three large-scale production facilities currently under construction in the Rio Grande region. “In the short-term, I cannot see any possibility, because Brazil exports approximately 600,000 tons and all of it is contract, and there are no existing factories to expend additional supply from,” he said. The next facility will be complete in two years, he said, and it will be able to supply large volumes to both the export and residential markets. As


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« Event for wood chips, he added, there is a chance for Brazil to supply some volumes to Europe. Market Pressures in Germany In Germany, there has been a rush on pellet stoves as a way to compensate for rising electricity prices. Martin Bentele, representing the German Pellet Association DEPV, spoke about the pellet market in Germany, which he said is one of the leading pellet markets in the world. “As far as pellet production is concerned ... 3.3 million tons were produced in Germany, and 2.9 million tons were consumed in Germany,” Bentele said. Many efforts have been made toward quality assurance, he said, offering that nearly 150 pellet producers have received the European ENplus certification for quality. As an exporting country, Germany has not needed much in the way of imports in the past. However, with the impacts the war in Ukraine has had on the market, imports


have become more necessary, Bentele said. There has been increased interest in pellet heating systems throughout the country due to the high cost of oil, as well as government legislation that bans the use of gas heating in the future. Bentele explained that imports are becoming harder to acquire since foreign companies are selling their stock at home as demand increases due to high electricity prices. “It’s going to get harder to get imports, and the other thing is that low-grade quality will have to be accepted in order to cover the rising demand for industrial plants,” he said. “I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t tell you what the end result will be, but in terms of security of supply we’re going to have to really try very, very hard.” Supply Security in Austria Christian Rakos, president of the World Bioenergy Organization, and CEO of ProPellets Austria and Save Energy Austria, gave updates on the Austrian market.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, the market for pellet heating has fluctuated significantly with the price of oil, primarily consisting households that are moving from heating with oil to pellets. He explained that fluctuating oil prices and environmental impacts are leading homeowners to choose wood pellet heating as a more secure option, and businesses, too. “All the companies that are now worried about the development of gas supply security, of gas prices, of heating oil prices, are now rushing to go for pellets and that is going to have a very serious impact on pellet demand,” Rakos said. Rakos also discussed Austria’s exports and imports, as well as the issue of pellet storage. Austria exported nearly 900,000 tons of pellets, primarily to Italy. The country imports about 100,000 from Germany, the Czech Republic and Romania, from Austrian companies sited in those countries. Rakos explained that there are concerns it may be difficult to acquire pellets for some traders in upcoming moths. “This

“Brown Gold” in Spain Pablo Rodero Masdemont, representative the Spanish Bioenergy Association (Avebiom), and president of the European Pellet Council, explained that Spain is primarily importing pellets from Portugal. Recently, wood pellets have attracted the media’s attention, inspiring headlines calling pellets “brown gold.” The rewards of growing demand are being somewhat negated by the rising cost of electricity, however, as it now makes up almost 20% of production cost. The government has suggested capping the price, but Rodero said he is not sure whether that will actually help. “Many other producers in Spain are hoping or waiting what the government will introduce a new price of electricity or new support to this, but not only pellets; it is all industries,” he said. “So, I guess there will be some measures, but I don’t know if they will be enough.” Rodero explained that the Spanish pellet market is expected to be tight, even as the demand increases.

The troubled times coming off of years of a global pandemic and currently a war in Ukraine, have led to a measure of uncertainty for pellet producers looking to the future. The unrest has led many European producers to brace themselves for a tight winter with high demand from consumers. However, this situation does provide bioenergy producers an opportunity to show how renewable fuels can bring more reliability and lower cost to consumers. Rakos summed this up well, adding, “The

new thing is supply security, which is really driving markets absolutely crazy. So, price differential is huge, but I think even if that drops again, people will just be frightened off to continue with oil and gas, especially industries. And I believe that we’ll see massively growing demand for biomass.” The next European Pellet Conference will be held March 1-2, 2023, in Wels, Austria. Author: Katie Schroeder

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is an issue that our association has been dealing with for a long time. It’s the issue of pellet storage and supply security,” he said. The competitive pellet market in Austria has led to producers being unwilling to have extra inventory. “And that has an economic reason—having inventory is, first of all costly, and secondly, it’s also risky because if you’re stuck with the inventory because of a warm winter, the pellets you put into the storage in the fall may be significantly devalued in springtime when usually pellet prices decline.” Due market conditions, there have been serious concerns about supply security, and for this reason, Rakos and other members of pellet market have been lobbying for a requirement that all pellet producers have 10% of the inventory from last winter stored at the beginning of winter. “I think that would be very important for the future of our market, because supply failure would be just catastrophic, we cannot afford that,” he said. With the current concerns about pellet shortages due to the invasion of Ukraine, Rakos hopes that the legislation will get through to make this requirement a reality.

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« Fire & Explosion





)RRG 3URGXFWV Figure 2: Summary of materials involved in combustible dust fires and explosions from the 2021 incident report. SOURCE: DUSTEX RESEARCH LTD.

2021 Combustible Dust Incident Report Dust Safety Science summarizes the 2021 wood and wood products industries loss history. BY CHRIS CLONEY

How big is the combustible dust fire and explosion problem around the world? That’s the question that we set out to answer at Dust Safety Science. Determining how to prevent these incidents and related losses of product, life and limb is the driving force behind this work. Since launching combustible dust incident reporting in 2016, we have recorded 961 fires, 357 explosions, 720 injuries and 126 fatalities from dozens of countries around the world. During those six years, the U.S. has averaged 133 fires, 30 explosions and 36 injuries per year with fatalities ranging between one and six per year. Canada has averaged 15.2 fires, 3.5 explosions and 4.2 injuries over that same time period. A

CONTRIBUTION: The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Pellet Mill Magazine or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s). 20 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | ISSUE 2 2022

United States Fires Explosions Injuries Fatalities



















117 28 52 6

158 37 40 2

175 37 42 1

116 26 35 1

98 20 26 2

15 4 9 0

17 4 1 0

22 1 4 0

14 7 2 0

8 3 9 3

37 36 102 7

38 27 73 21

253 37 72 7

35 27 51 9

57 30 180 64

Figure 1: Summary of combustible dust Incidents recorded from 2016 to 2021. Modified from the 2021 Combustible Dust Incident Report at SOURCE: DUSTEX RESEARCH LTD.

A comprehensive combustible dust safety program must include several key components, beginning with proper engineering and design of equipment to minimize dust being released into the surrounding environment, as well as ongoing maintenance and inspection programs, and adequate dust collection and housekeeping programs.

breakdown of the incidents captured each year are summarized in Figure 1. The incident data from 2021 is slightly skewed by a particularly devastating methane gas explosion at a coal mine in Gramotenio, Russia, which led to a subsequent coal dust fire in the ventilation shaft. This tragic catastrophe injured at least 157 workers with 51 of those being fatally injured. Once this large outlier incident is removed from the 2021 data, 83% of the remaining injuries in 2021 occurred due to dust explosions, while 17% occurred due to dust fires. All but one of the remaining fatalities in 2021 were due to dust explosions as well.

In general, we see that dust explosions cause larger loss of life than dust fires, while dust fires appear to generally cause larger loss of product and damages to the facility. These results indicate that both dust fires and explosions are important to control to reduce personal, financial and facility loss from combustible dust incidents.

Materials, Equipment Involved In 2021, 35 of the combustible dust fires and 14 of the explosions reported involved dust from wood or wood products. These incidents resulted in 29% of the injuries (32 total) and 33% of the fatalities (6 total) reported from combustible dust, again once the outlier Russian mine explosion was removed.

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« Fire & Explosion

Dust Collector Storage Silo Other Storage Dryer Elev./Conv. Other No Details Total





25 34 14 31 13 24 22 163

4 12 4 3 3 7 20 53

6 8 2 10 6 11 172 215

1 1 0 0 0 2 65 69

Figure 3: A breakdown of fires, explosions, injuries and fatalities recorded by equipment in the 2021 incident report. SOURCE: DUSTEX RESEARCH LTD.

Figure 2 provides a breakdown between the different materials analyzed in the incident report. The “Other” category includes coal, paper, plastic, textile and other materials less frequently mentioned. In past incident reports, dust collectors were the most oftenreferenced piece of equipment involved in combustible dust fires and explosions. However, in 2021 only 13% of the incidents occurred in dust collectors. Storage silos such as those used for grain and sawdust storage were the most frequently cited equipment involved in dust figures and explosions in 2021, resulting in eight injuries and one fatality. Wood, Wood Product Industry Examples In 2021, at least eight combustible dust explosions and two combustible dust fires that caused injuries to workers were reported

in the incident reporting system. Some of the fires captured in the incident report include the following. • One worker was fatally injured in a grinder fire at a lumber mill in Michigan. According to the local investigation, the injured employee was located in the cab of the grinder equipment. • One firefighter was hospitalized for heat exhaustion after fighting a pulp and paper mill fire in Florida. • No workers were injured in a pellet mill fire in Maine. The fire started in the wood pellet dryer and extended into the building, damaging the walls, roof and many wire trays. Some of the explosions captured in the incident report include the following. • One worker was injured in a dust explosion reported in a wood pulp dryer and dust collection system in Ohio. The fire was also reported to have spread on light beams and pipes at the facility. • Three workers were killed and five more injured in a lumber mill explosion in Quebec, Canada. The incident occurred while subcontractors were doing repair work on the roof of the plant. • One worker was killed and seven injured in a large wood processing building explosion in Klaipeda, Lithuania. Not much information is available, but a video of the incident posted online shows a rapid explosion propagating throughout the entire building. • One worker received second- and third-degree burns at a sawmill explosion in Weihenzell, Germany. According to local

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reports, the employee was fixing a blocked conveyor belt when he saw a three-meter-high jet flame moving rapidly toward him. • Seven workers were injured in an explosion at a frame production plant in Beit Shemesh, Israel. According to local responders, the incident included a well-developed fire involving a lot of sawdust. • Three firefighters were injured and one later died of his injuries, while fighting a fire resulting from an explosion at a sawdust processing facility in Segamat, Malaysia. Two of the firefighters fell 10 meters from the third floor, while the third was hit directly by the explosion involving a boiler and sawdust. • Three workers were injured in a wood chip silo explosion in Schameder, Germany. The facility was listed as a German pellet plant although not much information could be found about the incident. • Four workers were injured in a potential dust explosion at a wood pellet company in Georgia. Little information is available on the incident, but the fire chief suggested that some pellets may have overheated and the product ignited resulting in a flash fire and explosion.

A comprehensive combustible dust safety program must include several key components, beginning with proper engineering and design of equipment to minimize dust being released into the surrounding environment, as well as ongoing maintenance and inspection programs and adequate dust collection and housekeeping programs. Fire and explosion prevention and protection systems are necessary to avoid loss from these types of incidents when they occur. Training workers to understand the hazards associated with combustible wood dust is another important factor. In particular, on-site workers, external contractors, fire response personnel and others are known to have suffered injuries and fatalities from combustible wood dust explosions—all must be included in the training and education programs used. Finally, the absence of previous incidents at a given facility should not be used as a basis for not implementing a combustible dust safety program. Unfortunately, in many of the cases outlined above, employees may have found themselves stating, “This has never happened here,” right up to the day that the fire or explosion occurred.

Closing Thoughts As stated above, both dust fires and dust explosions are common challenges at wood products, woodworking and pelleting facilities around the world. A comprehensive combustible dust safety program must be in place to address these challenges and avoid loss of product, damages to the facility, and harm to employees or other individuals that are on-site at the facility.

Author: Chris Cloney Managing director, DustEx Research Ltd.


« Feedstock

How does bulk powder flow testing sit alongside other physical characterization techniques such as particle sizing?

Particle size is just one of many variables that impact bulk powder flow. Examples of others that are particularly relevant to biomass handling include particle shape, surface roughness, bulk density and moisture content. It’s quite easy to see the impact of these variables in practice and their effects are widely recognized. For example, bulk solids can be transformed from free-flowing to a solid-like mass by moisture ingress, and more regular-shaped particles tend to be associated with better flowability than elongated analogues with the propensity to mechanically interlock during transfer. When a biomass feedstock doesn’t behave as required, the default may be to investigate whether changing particle size will improve things and to what extent, not least because particle size is relatively easy to measure. But as the preceding observations make Bulk powder flow testers can quantify biomass feedstock flow properties, yielding data that can help improve clear, this approach is fundamentally flawed. flowability and productivity. It involves measuring just one of many influential variables as a proxy for the behavior of interest. Measuring bulk powder flow properties is more productive because it directly quantifies the behavior of interest. Such measurements support systematic investigation of the factors that can be manipulated to improve flowability and promote more robust optimization of the feedstock. For example, BY JAMIE CLAYTON longer drying times may be a far more benefihandling rates, making it a major cause of cial strategy than particle size reduction, but What is the relevance inefficiency in biomass handling facilities. there is no scope to compare these options of bulk powder flow testing Bulk powder flow testing can quantify the with particle size measurement alone. for biomass? Converting biomass into usable prod- flow properties of biomass feedstocks, prouct involves steps such as storage, chute viding insights that can help processors to What are the options transfer, conveying, mixing and feeding/ improve flowability and work more produc- when it comes to discharge into a mill or grinder, for ex- tively. The inherent variability of biomass measuring powder flow? ample. Effective bulk solids handling is and the impact of moisture are undoubtedEngineers and scientists have been detherefore essential, with poor flowabil- ly complicating factors in biomass handling, vising techniques for measuring the flowability routinely highlighted as a primary cause but there is considerable scope to gain valu- ity of bulk solids for decades, so there are of operational problems. Poor flowability able information that can have a direct im- plenty of commercial options to consider. causes unplanned shutdowns and can limit pact on processing efficiency. The lowest cost, such as angle of repose,

Q&A: Biomass and Bulk Powder Flow Testing

CONTRIBUTION: The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Pellet Mill Magazine or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s). 24 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | ISSUE 2 2022

tapped density and flow through an orifice, involve very simple, manual tests, with the trade-off being poor repeatability and minimal insight. All these tests are somewhat dependent on operator technique, so there may be significant variability in the data, compromising sample differentiation. With flow through an orifice, there is also the danger of an uninformative “null” result—no flow. These techniques also offer no control over the test environment, so it is hard to relate the data to specific processes; notably, to determine the impact of in-storage consolidation or how the sample might behave when aerated, for example, in a pneumatic conveyor. Shear cell testing was developed in the 1950s, and has the distinction of being the first scientific approach to bulk powder testing. It quantifies the ease with which a consolidated bulk transitions from the static to dynamic state, and generates parameters that are used for hopper design. This is a helpful technique for investigating the impact of storage and hopper discharge behavior, but it is less informative when it comes to determining how powders behave in low-stress regimes—for example, during gravitational transfer. The 1990s saw the introduction of dynamic powder flow testing with what would become the FT4 Powder Rheometer, an instrument that quantifies flowability from measurements of the powder in motion. It became possible to test powders in a consolidated, moderately stressed, aerated and even fluidized state to gain information of relevance to a wide range of different processes. At the same time, this instrument’s ability to measure dynamic, shear and bulk powder properties increased awareness of the practical benefits of multifaceted powder testing. Today, those working at the forefront of bulk materials handling rarely, if ever, rely on a single number approach, instead measuring multiple parameters to piece together different quantifiers of flow behavior and form a complete picture. In summary, modern options for powder testing range from the simple and manual to the more sophisticated and

highly automated. There are corresponding differences in upfront costs, but it pays to be aware of the total cost of ownership; powder testing with some instruments can be manually intensive. The relevance of the resulting data also varies substantially.

What features should be looked for in a powder tester?

Picking up on the last point, the most important feature of a powder tester is its ability to generate information of value. Biomass samples are often fairly coarse and highly variable, so check whether the instrument can handle all the materials you are interested in. Then consider how the information generated might be used. What behavior do you need to understand? Powder properties measured under one set of conditions cannot be robustly extrapolated

Bulk solids and powders vary enormously, so don’t rely on per formance with a material that is very different from your own. Where possible, get some samples measured, because then you’ll be able to see whether the results highlight differences that you know are relevant.

Feeding, Conveying and Elevating Solutions

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« Feedstock

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Combustible dust can cause personnel injuries, equipment & plant damage. Spark & embers from dryers, hammer mills, pelletizers & coolers can cause cascading dust fires & explosions

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to another, so being able to measure under relevant test conditions will substantially increase the likelihood of generating useful data. Also consider practicality. How easy is it going to be to measure samples? How much training is likely to be required and how much ongoing effort? Automation can make a major difference to the day-to-day productivity of an instrument while simultaneously improving data integrity. Think about who will use the tester, how much effort will be involved and the likely payback in terms of information flow. Look for evidence that the instrument can deliver a solid return on investment by solving expensive problems.

What can be learned from bulk powder testing and differentiating biomass feedstocks with respect to pelleting energy consumption?

than the treated material under low-stress, forced-flow conditions, as applied during processes such as blending. Both samples are highly permeable, but this test indicates that the treated material is less permeable and more sensitive to consolidation (applied normal stress). These differences are relevant to storage and hopper discharge behavior.

What are some last tips for just starting out with powder testing?

In my experience, those working with bulk solids, whatever their industry, ultimately conclude that bulk powder behavior, notably flowability, cannot be quantified with a single number. Therefore, it is advised to be to very realistic with respect to expectations if you are considering investing in instrumentation with limited capabilities, and avoid doing so if possible. Another

recommendation is to check out a tester with some of your own samples. Bulk solids and powders vary enormously, so don’t rely on performance with a material that is very different from your own. Where possible, get some samples measured, because then you’ll be able to see whether the results highlight differences that you know are relevant. Finally, though many professional engineers and scientists have minimal knowledge of powder testing, it is easier to access useful information than you might think. Look for an instrument that is easy to use, backed by relevant application support and easy-to-digest literature, and you could be successfully troubleshooting your biomass feedstock in weeks. And the rewards can be substantial, particularly when it comes to solving long-standing problems. Author: Jamie Clayton Operations Director, Freeman Technology

In this example, four biomass feedstocks were used to make pellets (Figure 2). The associated energy consumption varied considerably, but no robust correlation was observed with particle size, moisture content or particle shape (aspect ratio). Can bulk powder testing provide relevant differentiation? The data in Figure 3 shows that it can. Compressibility values rank the feedstocks in terms of the energy required for pelletization, since more compressible materials poorly transmit compressive forces, thereby consuming more energy.

What Insight can bulk powder testing provide?

Figure 1 shows two samples of cellulose-based biomass—one untreated the other post-acidification. These two samples are visibly different, but what does this mean for ease of processing? Can bulk powder testing provide any relevant insight? Data shows that it can. Repeatable values of basic flow integrity, a property that quantifies dynamic flow behavior (Figure 4) were successfully measured for both materials. These show that the untreated material presents greater resistance to flow BIOMASSMAGAZINE.COM/PELLET 27

« Dust Management







Combustible Dust Hazards and Abatement Techniques There are many different methods of minimizing or eliminating dust hazards at wood pellet facilities, the first of which is a dust hazard analysis. BY ADAM HAROZ

By now, most companies and people throughout the manufacturing sector have heard of combustible dust, as it has become a widely discussed topic. As a review, combustible dust fires and explosions are caused when a combustible atmosphere of dust, or a layer of flammable solids, is introduced to an ignition source. These ignitions can be made worse if there are significant levels of dust accumulation present in surrounding areas, and hazard mitigation techniques are not properly utilized. One of the best ways to identify these dust fire and explosion hazards, as well as being the first step in putting a mitigation action plan together is a combustible dust hazard analysis (DHA). Besides being a great first step, it is also a required one according to the NFPA standards 652 and 61.

Dust Hazard Analysis A DHA is a systematic method for conducting a risk analysis of a facility and process to identify any pieces of equipment and areas that pose potential for combustible dust to be present, as well as identifying the potential ignition sources to which the dust can be exposed. According to NFPA standards, the DHA “shall be led by a qualified person, who possessed a recognized degree, certificate, professional standing, or skill and who, by knowledge, training, and experience, has demonstrated the ability to deal with problems related to the subject matter, the work or project.” Besides the notion of a DHA being a good practice and the requirements to have one conducted in accordance with national consensus standards, there is the question

of “Can these requirements be enforced?” The answer is yes, but not always in the ways industry typically thinks about safety and enforcement. NFPA writes the standards, but they do not have enforcement powers on their own. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not have regulations specifically covering combustible dust, though they do have some industry-specific regulations (e.g.,1910.272 for grain handling facilities), as well as a combustible dust National Emphasis Program. NEP states that OSHA prioritizes combustible dust-related inspections and utilizes the general duty clause to cover combustible dust hazards not otherwise covered by regulatory requirements like lockout/tagout, fire protection, electrical, etc. Also, we have been seeing an increase in insurance carriers requiring industrial facilities conduct a DHA before awarding coverage, and local fire marshals and building code enforcement requiring a DHA be conducted to determine building occupancy codes or before awarding a building permit. Hazards and Associated Mitigation Techniques While there are several potential hazards that translate across the manufacturing sector, especially related to combustible dust fires and explosions, there are some inherent to the pellet industry that correlate to the materials and equipment used, as well as some to the particular processing techniques involved. One such example relates to the widespread use of bucket elevators as a method of mechanical conveyance. Bucket elevators commonly have a hazardous dust atmosphere, as they convey dry material. Additionally, there can be quite a few ignition sources present, from a bearing that may overheat, metal buckets that could generate a spark, tramp metal entering the system, etc. In accordance with NFPA 652, some mitigation techniques include: • Bearings should be external. • Elevators should be outside and equipped with protection and venting. • Magnets at the elevator infeed. • Monitors for bearing temperature, with

CONTRIBUTION: The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Pellet Mill Magazine or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s). 28 PELLET MILL MAGAZINE | ISSUE 2 2022

a cutoff and alarm at 80% speed, monitor at head and tail, pulley alignment. Besides these systems being required by the standards, they are also good industry practices. Using a poly bucket instead of metal will minimize the potential for sparks. Magnets will limit the potential for foreign metal from entering the elevator. Bearing monitors and sensors will stop the system before an overheated bearing causes heat to transfer into the unit. Even the use of explosion relief panels along the outside of the elevator casing will safely relieve the pressure of an explosion in the event of a combustible dust incident, minimizing the cost of repairs and significantly reducing equipment downtime. Along with bucket elevators, dust collection systems that are used to convey sawdust or provide aspiration for equipment are also susceptible to combustible dust hazards. Dust collection systems regularly have a hazardous dust atmosphere during operation and during filter cleaning. All that is needed for a potential catastrophic incident is the introduction of an ignition source. The most effective mitigation method for this hazard is to prevent the ignition source from going through the conveyance line or into the unit. Per NFPA 652, can be done on the upstream equipment with:

• The use of magnets and metal detectors to prevent tramp metal from entering the system. • Routine inspections and preventative maintenance to prevent equipment breakdowns and chips from being conveyed. • Ensuring the system is balanced so that tramp metal is not able to be picked up, utilizing spark detection and suppression or extinguishing system, etc. A method to mitigate the severity of an incident is to equip the units with explosion protection and venting (e.g., deflagration relief or rupture panels, flameless vents, chemical suppression, etc.), as well as installing deflagration isolation systems (e.g., backblast dampener, abort gate, etc.) on the inlet line in accordance with NFPA 68 and 69. It cannot be reiterated enough that housekeeping and inspecting the dust collection lines is a vital piece of this puzzle, as it will help prevent a buildup of material that a hot piece of tramp metal or burning ember could make contact with. Another hazard commonly identified in wood pellet and other timber processing facilities is the accumulation of green sawdust and wood material throughout a mill building, especially within storage areas. While green sawdust has on average a moisture content of about 40% to 50%, it does not take long for

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the material to dry out, making the sawdust easier to ignite. For example, the green end of a mill in Georgia had a significant accumulation of green dust throughout the infeed area of the mill. A DHA was conducted at this mill in the summertime, and dust samples were taken. Samples of fresh green dust and dust that had accumulated over three days were tested. The moisture content of the green dust that had accumulated over three days had reduced from 45% to 3.5%. At 3.5% moisture, the dust is considered dry combustible dust and poses a severe flash fire and secondary explosion hazard. For this reason, housekeeping procedures and schedules are an important aspect to review during a DHA. There are plenty of hazards that could be present in a facility with relation to combustible dust and fires, and there are many different techniques for minimizing or eliminate those hazards. The first step is to have a DHA conducted. After the DHA, review the recommendations for hazard abatement, and determine a feasible priority and corrective action plan to move toward safety and compliance. Author: Adam Haroz Director of Engineering, Conversion Technology Inc. 770-263-6330 Ext. 105

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« Spotlight: FLAMEX INC.

Vast Experience in Fire and Explosion Hazards Wood pellet production involves operations that are often conducive to the generation of sparks and fire. Size reduction operations such as the hammermilling of dry wood material are often a source of sparks that are transported in the material flow through the pneumatic system. Fires and burning embers may also result from the drying process due to the presence of high temperatures and possible upset conditions with the dryer. Other processes such as pelletizing, pellet cooling, screening and product load out may also produce ignition from sparks, overheated pellets and mechanical friction sources. If not addressed, fires and explosions resulting from normal production processes can have devastating consequences for a business, whether large or small. This is an ever-present problem in this industry that requires continual management to ensure workplace safety, asset protection and business continuity. The design, installation, operation and maintenance of automatic fire protection systems play a critical part in the effort to mitigate these hazards. Spark detection and extinguishing systems have long been recognized by the industry and loss control community as an effective measure in the prevention of fire and explosions in dust collection and air filtration systems. Introduced to North America in the late 1970s, the FLAMEX Spark Detection and Extinguishing System became the first system of its type to gain a Factory Mutual Approval.

These systems have proven to be an invaluable part of an overall protection design in wood pellet facilities. FLAMEX Inc. has been involved in protecting industrial facilities from the hazards of fire and explosion for more than 40 years. The company specializes in the prevention of ignition in facilities that handle combustible dust. Vast experience in the industrial wood pellet industry has given FLAMEX Inc. a deep understanding of the risks inherent in the production process, and how to address them in a manner that eliminates or minimizes production downtime. As part of a major global fire protection organization, FLAMEX Inc. has a wide range of detection and suppression components available to meet the specific protection requirements of varied applications that may be present within a single manufacturing facility. FLAMEX Inc. continually strives to improve its product offerings in step with the latest technological advances. Accordingly, the company recently introduced a new, powerful tool to combat fires effectively from a safe distance. The MX One firefighting turbine can spray 1,000 gallons of water per minute, project a water stream up to 260 feet, and water mist up to 130 feet. The unit can be controlled automatically or manually by a remote device. Applications in the wood pellet industry include process operations, storage and loading areas.





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