Under the right substandard conditions at a wood pellet mill, the creation of a spark is like throwing a match into a dynamite factory. “Wood is about like gunpowder, and it’s as explosive in the right scenario,” says Justin Price, principal at Evergreen Engineering Inc. The risks are the same at small and large mills alike. The difference is that smaller plants typically don’t have the dust hazard analysis (DHA) expertise found in larger, more sophisticated facilities, Price says, and therefore they don’t realize the risks and dangers facing them. “The bigger facilities have a larger staff and greater expertise,” he says. “It’s an educational issue.”
Smaller-scale pellet mills could be at greater risk for dust-related safety incidents because they may have less knowledge of the codes and risks, less capital to invest in fire detection and explosion suppression and prevention technologies, less operating capital to rotate staff for proper cleaning and maintenance, and insufficient training. “Housekeeping should be a primary concern to these folks,” says David Grandaw, vice president of sales at IEP Technologies. These plants should at least prioritize keeping residual dust to a minimum, he says.