– by Josh Schlossberg, The Biomass Monitor
Fires and/or explosions have occurred at over 75 industrial bioenergy facilities and storage areas over the last fifteen years, resulting in multiple injuries and nine deaths, based on research from The Biomass Monitor.
Fires at bioenergy facilities typically start from boiler fires, spontaneous combustion of fermenting woodchip or sawdust piles, or wood dust explosions, according to the Institution of Fire Engineers and F.E. Moran Plant Services.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) calls dust fires a “major industrial hazard.” An October 2009 OSHA report notes 280 dust fires and explosions at industrial sites—the largest percentage being wood, but also including “food products, metal products, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, rubber and plastic products, paper products, furniture, electric and sanitary services, transportation equipment, durable goods, and textile mills”—over the past 25 years, which have killed 119 people and injured 700. OSHA conducted 1,000 inspections, with 25% of inspections of wood related facilities and found 3,786 federal (74% serious) violations and 1,140 state (34% serious).
Dust explosions throughout industry—not just the bioenergy industry—are tracked on a website by GreCon.
The most recent bioenergy-related accident occurred on August 8, 2018 when recycled wood ignited in an industrial hopper at E.ON’s Blackburn Meadows biomass power facility in Tinsley, UK.