“When it comes to controlling combustible dust, the best practice in the wood pellet manufacturing industry is to contain it,” reports Andy Galis, Operations Manager at Greene Team Pellet Fuel Company, “but it’s impossible to catch it all.” Greene Team Pellet Fuel is dedicated to producing clean, renewable energy and reducing dependence on fossil fuels. The company receives daily shipments of fresh sawdust, which the facility processes into wood pellet fuel.While effective, this production process is not without challenges.
“For all wood pellet manufacturers,” explains Galis, “the number one challenge is controlling combustible dust, especially the dry powder-like dust. Despite our best efforts to contain the dust, it still becomes airborne—and that is where the issue is.”
Dry Dust = Combustible Dust
“Once the dust is that dry, we treat it like gasoline.”
– Andy Galis, Greene Team Pellet Fuel Company
Galis explains, “We did some calculations for our mill, and even if we contained 99.99% of the dry dust going into the pellet mill, that would still lead to over 130 pounds of dry dust becoming airborne per week from each pellet mill.”
“And this dust is highly flammable. Once moisture content of the dust drops below 25% H2O, you have the chance for an explosion. Our dust typically exits the dryer around 10% H2O. It’s the smallest pieces that escape suction, and these are typically around 3% H2O, making them even more dangerous. Once the dust is that dry, we treat it like gasoline.”
“We used suction lines in as many places as we could,” Galis continues. “We’ve also tried seals, mechanical adjustments, direct suction on equipment, and indirect suction to try to control the dust.”
The Greene Team realized these efforts weren’t enough, so the pellets manufacturer looked for a better solution.
SonicAire Fans Blow Other Solutions Away
“The key to preventing combustible dust events in pellet manufacturing is keeping the airborne dust from settling on elevated horizontal surfaces,” notes Galis. “If an explosion were to happen, that dust gets rattled off the horizontal surface and then could potentially fuel a secondary (typically more dangerous) explosion. The way to prevent this is with SonicAire oscillating fans. We installed four in our facility, and we’re amazed at how clean the overhead areas are staying. There is practically zero dust in the rafters. We couldn’t be happier with the performance of the SonicAire fans. It makes our plant much safer.”
“Our dedicated team is committed to helping you by providing a customized, engineered solution specific to your facility.”
To create this effective system, SonicAire worked with Greene Team on-site to recommend the best location for each fan. “We knew we wanted to get the entire plant covered by the fans’ reach,” notes Galis. “The SonicAire team got back to us quickly, and the cost was lower than expected – and cheap compared to the explosive alternative. We now operate the four fans with our programmable logic controller (PLC) so that they run 100% of the time with few exceptions. When certain areas of the plant are shut down for maintenance, the fans automatically shut down. As soon as that area starts back up, the fans turn on automatically.”