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.