Nol-Tec Offers Dust Mitigation Solutions for OSHA’s New Respirable Crystalline Silica Rule

Earlier this year, OSHA (the Occupational Health and Safety Administration) announced its “final rule” regarding respirable crystalline silica. In the works since 2013, the new rule reduces the permissible exposure limit (or PEL) for workers in a number of industries where workers are frequently exposed to respirable crystalline silica.

A Decades-Late Update

Crystalline silica is a common mineral that is one of the building blocks of materials such as rock/stone, sand, concrete, brick, and mortar. Exposure to this substance is common in workplace operations that involve the cutting, drilling, crushing, and handling of these materials. This includes those found in construction, glass manufacturing, sand blasting, concrete production, and other industrial processes, as well as other, less obvious applications, such as dental laboratories and jewelry production.

For their part, OSHA admits that the dangers of respirable crystalline silica have been well known for more than 80 years. In their official overview of the final rule, the organization states that “Workers who inhale very small crystalline silica particles are at increased risk of developing serious—and often deadly—silica-related diseases” including silicosis (an incurable and sometimes fatal lung disease), lung cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and kidney disease. OSHA notes that approximately 2.3 million Americans are exposed to silica at work each year.

OSHA’s current PELs for the substance have not been updated since the 1960s, however, and evidence gathered in the decades since shows that the current exposure limits do not adequately protect worker health. “[Since] the current exposure limits were adopted,” OSHA’s overview states, “respirable crystalline silica exposure has been found to cause lung cancer and kidney disease at the levels currently permitted.” Once the full effects of the rule are implemented, the new standards are expected to save more than 600 lives and prevent over 900 cases of silicosis annually.

Nol-Tec Has the Compliance Solution You Need

Under OSHA’s new rule, employers whose workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica are required to, among other measures, implement controls and work practices to limit employee exposure to silica dust.

The best and most effective solution for limiting exposure to harmful dust is to limit the creation of that dust. Nol-Tec Systems offers complete, high efficiency, customizable material handling solutions that will minimize breakage of your materials and significantly reduce dust.

To further limit workers’ exposure to dust, our dense and dilute phase pneumatic conveying systems are fully enclosed to prevent dust from escaping into your facility’s atmosphere.

We will conduct on-site evaluations of your processes, as needed, and conduct small-scale trials in our testing lab—using the actual materials you work with—to create a particulate control solution that provides efficient and effective protection against respirable crystalline silica exposure.

OSHA’s ruling gives employers one to five years to get their safety solutions in place, depending on the size of the company and their specific processes. Five years may seem like a long time, but, as there are thousands of employers across the country that will be working to meet the new standards, solutions providers will be booked up fast, and likely far into the future.

You don’t want to be stuck on a waiting list when the time for your inspection rolls around—contact Nol-Tec today to get started on the respirable crystalline silica solution you and your employees need.

OSHA Combustible Dust Regulations are Delayed, Not Dead

Don’t Wait to Implement Your Dust Mitigation Solution

In April 2009, OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) announced that it was starting work on comprehensive rulemaking regarding the mitigation of combustible dust in industrial settings. The organization published an ANPR (Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) in October of that year, announcing their intentions for the forthcoming dust standard and seeking comments, data, and other information related to combustible dust hazards in the workplace from those in affected industries.

The combustible dust rulemaking process continued throughout 2010 and 2011 with a series of stakeholder and “Expert Panel” meetings. However, the next required step—convening a SBREFA (Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act) panel—has been postponed numerous times. Originally scheduled for April 2011, the SBREFA panel is now tentatively scheduled for August 2016. (It has not yet occurred as of this writing.)

A Complex Problem

Dust-related fires and/or explosions can have many possible causes, making it difficult to determine what is required for responsible regulation. OSHA’s own definition of combustible dust reads, in part, “all combustible particulate solids of any size, shape or chemical composition that could present a fire or deflagration hazard when suspended in air or other oxidizing medium.” The solids in question include wood, fertilizer, sugar, textiles, and many other substances—essentially, nearly all manufacturing generates some amount of combustible dust.

“It’s not an intrinsic hazard; it’s created by multiple factors that differ by substance and setting,” said Marc Freeman, executive director of labor law policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a Bloomberg BNA article from January of this year. “In order to create a standard around combustible dust, it will take a lot of work.”

It seems likely that OSHA officials did not foresee the combustible dust issue being quite so complex. This complexity has, in part, put the rulemaking processes on the back burner. “This does not appear to be a priority for OSHA like it once was,” Jess McCluer, director of safety and regulatory affairs for the NGFA (National Grain and Feed Association), said in the same Bloomberg BNA piece. “After understanding the complexity it seems to have moved to the side. And other issues have moved to the top of the priority list.”

Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail

Though the rulemaking has been delayed, it is all but inevitable that the new standards will go through sometime in the near future. When they do, you need to be ready to meet those standards immediately—there is no grace period. As you likely know, failure to comply with OSHA regulations can lead to hefty fines.

A similar situation occurred several years ago when OSHA implemented their indoor air pollution standards. It was long and well known that the organization would be passing tougher air pollution mitigation standards, as were the requirements of those standards. But most of those to whom the regulations would apply waited to act until after regulations were put in place and being enforced.

This put the affected businesses in a tight spot. They had to have pollution mitigation equipment installed ASAP to meet OSHA’s deadlines, but because so many waited to take action, equipment vendors and/or installers were quickly booked solid and unable to meet the companies’ scheduling needs.

Additionally, because they needed “rush jobs,” many of these companies likely spent far more than they needed to. Rush jobs tend to cost more simply because they are rush jobs, and any sudden high demand for goods or services is sure to drive up prices, as well. And many companies, in their haste to meet regulations, may have had mitigation systems installed that were not optimized for the needs of their factories—they may have paid for “too much” system, or installed equipment that doesn’t work as well as it could or should.

To avoid these pitfalls and ensure that your facility meets OSHA’s dust mitigation standards when the time comes, it’s best to start early and stay ahead of the game. Nol-Tec offers complete combustible dust solutions, and has the experience and expertise to develop a mitigation system that is custom-tailored to your processes and your facility. Through on-site evaluations of your processes and small-scale trials conducted in our testing lab using the actual materials you work with, we can create a dust mitigation solution that delivers the perfect level of performance for your needs.

With time to plan ahead and make sure everything gets done right, you can get the right equipment for your needs, at the best possible price and installed on your schedule. Contact Nol-Tec today to get started on your combustible dust mitigation solution.

Finding the Right Pneumatic Conveying Process for Your Application

At Nol-Tec Systems, we offer numerous solutions for pneumatic bulk material handling. Looking at our product information, you’ll see terms like “dense phase conveying” and “dilute phase conveying”, as well as references to vacuum and pressure. What’s the difference between these conveying options? And how can you know which conveying method is best for the materials you work with? Read on to learn more.

Dense Phase Conveying vs. Dilute Phase Conveying

Dense phase pneumatic conveying is preferred for bulk materials that are friable, prone to smearing, or otherwise fragile. This conveying method uses a low volume of air at high pressure to move large quantities of material. It is a far more gentle process—as material moves through the system’s tubes or pipes, it will roll or flow gently along the sides and around corners, minimizing damage to the material and the equipment.

Dilute phase pneumatic conveying is better for more durable materials that won’t break apart as they go, or for applications where damage to the material is acceptable. This method uses high volumes of air at high velocity—between roughly 3,500 and 5,000 feet per minute—to entrain bulk materials into the air stream and carry them along. Impact with the sides and corners of system tubing can cause damage to materials and increase wear on the equipment. Dilute phase conveying requires less equipment and is therefore the less expensive option.

Conveying with Pressure vs. Conveying with Vacuum

When conveying bulk materials via pressure, you are essentially pushing the material through the system with air pressure. It is effective over very long distances, but tends to cause more damage to material than vacuum conveying does. Most of the pneumatic conveyor systems Nol-Tec provides use pressure conveying.

When conveying via vacuum, materials are pulled through the system, just like a vacuum cleaner pulls dirt out of your carpet. It is a very gentle way to convey materials and causes minimal damage, making it ideal for fragile or friable materials. Vacuum systems are recommended when transporting hazardous materials, because any leaks that may occur would pull external air into the system, rather than allowing the material to pour out. However, vacuum systems are limited to roughly 200 feet between Point A and Point B.

A dilute phase vacuum system can cover the most distance of any pneumatic conveyor, but will also cause the most material attrition. A dense phase vacuum system offers the gentlest pneumatic conveying possible, but has limited reach.

Nol-Tec’s Custom Designs Match Process to Application

Every pneumatic conveying application is different. The distance to be covered, the material being conveyed, the rate at which it must move, and other factors must be considered when putting together a pneumatic conveyor system and choosing between dense or dilute phase and vacuum or pressure.

That’s why Nol-Tec Systems sells custom designs. You know your materials and where you need them to go – we know how to get them there in the best way possible. We utilize extensive testing to determine how the pneumatic conveyor will perform in your facility for your application, and assemble standard components into a custom configuration that will meet your unique needs.

Contact us today to discuss your material requirements and to get started on a pneumatic conveyor system for your facility.

Preventing Combustible Dust Explosions

Dust explosions are lethal. When a cloud of dust ignites, it creates a fireball that can cause serious damage and take lives. Combustible dust has caused explosions all over the world in all types of facilities, from sugar processing plants to coal mines. Any time dust collects, explosion is possible.

So how do you prevent combustible dust explosions?

Preventing explosion is simple: you have to remove one or more of the five factors that lead to dust explosions. One of those factors is an ignition source. A common ignition source in dust explosions are system components that are out of alignment. For example, belts or bearings that are inefficiently situated can overheat.

Taking moving parts like these out of the equation significantly reduces possible ignition sources. Pneumatic conveying keeps moving parts to a minimum. Fewer moving parts mean less friction and less risk.

Nol-Tec can help you reduce risk even further by eliminating oxygen from convey lines and replacing it with inert gasses. We also take steps to prevent dust from accumulating. By taking these three steps, we remove three of the five factors necessary to create an explosion.

For more information about preventing combustible dust explosions, contact Nol-Tec at 651-318-2438.

Combustible Dust: Preventing Accumulation

Dust explosions happen when five factors are present:

  • Oxygen
  • Ignition source
  • Dispersion of dust particles
  • Confinement of a dust cloud in a small space
  • Combustible dust

When dust gathers, it can become volatile. This applies to virtually any type of dust. Explosions have happened at flour mills, sugar processing plants, coal mines and even custard factories. For any application that can create clouds of accumulated dust, explosion prevention measures are absolutely necessary.

Removing one or more of the five elements of a dust explosion is essential. The dust is the fuel for dust explosions, so preventing dust from accumulating is a very important aspect of explosion mitigation. Dense phase pressure or vacuum pneumatic conveying help to move product through convey lines without causing it to break down – which means the material can move through the convey lines without creating a lot of dust.

It’s also important to make sure dust doesn’t collect in covey lines. Nol-Tec’s unique Air Assist technology moves material past critical chokepoints where dust accumulation is common.

To learn more about combustible dust mitigation, contact Nol-Tec today at 651-318-2438.

Minimize Dust Explosion

The site of the Washburn “A” Mill, which exploded in 1878, is not far from Nol-Tec’s Lino Lakes headquarters. Situated along the Mississippi river in Minneapolis, the Washburn “A” Mill was the largest flour mill in the world when it was destroyed by a cloud of dust that ignited. The explosion not only brought down the “A” mill – it also brought five other mills down with it. 18 mill workers died.

In the 19th century, the technologies we use to minimize dust explosion risks simply didn’t exist. Unfortunately, dust explosions still happen in facilities where dust collection equipment is not well maintained or not up to date.

That’s why the Nol-Tec team is working hard to get out the message that dust explosions – and the deaths they cause – are preventable.

How to Minimize Dust Explosion Risk

At Nol-Tec, we’ve discovered that commonly-used explosion panels, venting systems, and explosion suppression systems help to mitigate explosions, but cause a whole host of other inefficiencies. For example, suppression systems use a chemical agent to stop explosions in convey lines. But the chemical contaminates the convey lines, which means all materials have to be tossed out and the convey lines have to be scrubbed. The result: downtime and increased costs.

Our team has worked hard to find better alternatives that both mitigate explosion risk and help keep plants up and running. One innovative solution is to use inert gasses, rather than oxygen, in our convey lines. Since oxygen is one of the 5 elements necessary to create a dust explosion, removing oxygen removes the risk!

For more information about preventing dust explosions, contact Nol-Tec Systems at
651-318-2438.

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Nol-Tec

Nol-Tec Systems was established in 1983, and has since grown to be one of the most knowledgeable solution providers in the dry bulk materials handling industry. We balance the technical expertise of our staff with original ideas in order to provide custom-engineered pneumatic conveying solutions, bulk material handling, dry sorbent injection and emissions control solutions, and integrated control systems.

Our customers are industry leaders, and come in a variety of sizes and industries from small foundries to multi-national food manufacturers. Our work ranges from projects with large utilities for mercury abatement, to pneumatic conveying systems for plastic pellets, to pneumatic material handling for proppant (frac sand) suppliers, and more. We can handle dry bulk materials quickly, efficiently, and with a system specifically designed for your particular needs.

The diversity of our employees is one of our biggest assets. Collectively, they have more than 100 years of experience in the industry, and have handled countless materials in a wide variety of applications. Our staff members provide excellent service to fulfill your ever-changing project needs.

Learn about Nol-Tec’s passion for partnership with our customers and how our exceptional staff makes the difference in handling success for them by watching our new introductory video.

Introduction to Nol-Tec Systems

 

 

Test Results for Mercury Abatement Trials

In our last two blogs, we’ve discussed the evolving mercury abatement market, some of the challenges presented, and the technology Nol-Tec has developed – our Gen 3 system – to meet those challenges. We’ve had proven success with these new systems – proven through our on-site testing program.

Utilizing a large fleet of portable, self-contained testing equipment, Nol-Tec ran tests on site of both power plants and industrial boilers, in real-world conditions. Most tests were for mercury compliance with MATS standards. However, EGUs and IBs also wanted to control SO3 emissions that are not directly included in MATS, but necessary nonetheless for enhanced Hg removal.  Many tests included injecting both alkaline products and Hg sorbents. This helped us prove not only that Nol-Tec’s systems can produce the correct levels of mercury abatement, but also provide the flexibility our customers demand.

At multiple test sites, Nol-Tec proved again and again that our Gen 3 could meet the challenges presented by powder activated carbon (PAC) and mercury abatement standards. We used a variety of PAC formulations, as well as mixing different kinds of sorbents with PAC to meet requirements. We ran systems at higher injection rates than a standard eductor system could handle. We worked with fluctuating pressures (a reality in pneumatic conveying) and long convey distances. In every case, we were able to bring mercury and other pollutant levels into compliance with EPA standards, efficiently and effectively.  PAC and activated carbon injection do work for mercury abatement when used with a correctly designed pneumatic convey system.

More test result details can be found in the August 2014 issue of Air Pollution Control Magazine or on our website at this link. And you can get more information about Nol-Tec’s ACI systems at this link.

Flexible Technology for Mercury Abatement

In our last blog post, we discussed the evolving mercury abatement market, use of powder activated carbon (PAC), designer sorbents and some of the challenges that activated carbon injection (ACI) presents to utilities and industrial boiler owners. Ideally, power producers need a system that allows them to inject any sorbent they want, at whatever rate they want, through a system convey routing that they choose.  And of course, reliability is critical to the success of meeting MATS.

Since that last post, we’ve added a short primer on what mercury is, how it effects us, and methods of treatment. View that document under our Technical Information tab.

Eductor technology has long been a standard in ACI technology. However, an eductor system will not perform reliably if the system pressure exceeds 3 PSI.   Higher injection rates, longer conveying distances, and the use of designer sorbents will dictate that an alternative be utilized.

A viable alternative to the eductor design incorporates the use of a zero clearance rotary airlock (RAL) to meter product into the dilute pressure conveying system.  The zero clearance RAL greatly improves the feeding of PAC due to reduced leakage.  This technology provides a slight increase in system pressure capability, up to 6 PSI.  However, this design is not entirely reliable at the top end of its pressure range.  Some RAL leakage will still occur and material abrasion (especially with some designer sorbents) can reduce the life of the RAL.

By listening to customer needs, Nol-Tec Systems has designed and innovated a convey system which is able to meet the need to convey higher rates, longer distances, and different sorbent types. This pressurized continuous transport system provides the capability to meter material at system  pressures up to 12 PSI.  Nol-Tec’s Gen 3 systems meet the mercury abatement challenges our customers are facing.  For further information, visit our ACI web page.

How do we know we’re meeting our customers’ needs? Because in 2013, Nol-Tec invested a lot of time and effort in to field testing. Next post, we’ll discuss some of those test results.

The Evolving Mercury Abatement Market

Due to the increasingly stringent EPA regulation on mercury and the many variables surrounding in-duct capture technology, the mercury abatement market continues to change and grow. Injecting powdered activated carbon into flue gases is showing proven results in meeting the increasing compliance  standards for mercury abatement.

But because the EPA standards regulate emissions on many pollutants, technology must be able to handle activated carbon injection (ACI) and a combination of other non-carbon designer sorbents (e.g. amended silicates). These designer sorbents are being developed with finer particle sizes and unique chemistry  so as to increase removal rates not only for mercury abatement, but for SO2, SO3, HCl, and HF as well. The physical material handling properties of the new sorbents impact the pneumatic conveying system design. ACI/sorbent injection rates are being increased to meet the newest compliance standards. There is also an increasing demand for longer conveying distances, so as to allow placement of multiple silos in one offloading location. Therefore, the ACI system must be designed properly to convey various sorbents, at increased injection rates over longer distances. For further information on ACI, check out our web page at this link.

Nol-Tec has been working to meet these new challenges. In our next post, we’ll take a look at technology developments that are allowing energy producers (utilities and industrial plants) to meet mercury abatement standards, while addressing these other issues.