WPAC holds Drum Dryer Symposium to Develop Best Practices for Safer Operations

Over 100 people from across Canada participated in the online Drum Dryer Symposium on April 4, 2024, to hear from producers and subject matter experts on their learnings and experiences, the current state, and new approaches to drum dryer safety. The Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) hosted the event in collaboration with the BC Forest Safety Council (BCFSC) and Canadian Biomass, the Media Sponsor.

One of the symposium’s outcomes was establishing a Drum Dryer Working Group. Over the next year, the group will work collaboratively to examine trends, identify opportunities for improvement, and formulate recommendations. Resources will be created and shared to help support the continuous improvement of drum dryers and enhance the sector’s safety culture.

Julie Griffiths, Chair of WPAC’s Safety Committee and Quality, Sustainability, and Environmental Program Coordinator with Shaw Renewables, moderated the session. She opened by showing the video Best Practices for Managing Combustible Gas.

Mike Tasker, Occupational Safety Officer, WorkSafeBC and Gordon Murray, Executive Director of WPAC, set the stage for the Symposium. Mike spoke about the importance of drum dryer safety. Gord talked about the industry’s experience with dryer incidents and historic and future safety initiatives.

Before solving a problem, it is necessary to define its root causes. Kayleigh Rayner Brown, P.Eng., Obex Risk Ltd., discussed drum dryer hazards and threats, including types of incidents, severity, and frequency. She spoke to case studies and lessons learned from other industries.

Jeff Johnston, VP of Technical Operations at Drax North America, spoke about optimizing dryer operations and reducing risk. He spoke about experiences and learnings with start-up and shutdown procedures, differences in dryer configurations and types, and strategies for optimizing dryer operation, including a focus on automation.

Jody Head, Site Supervisor with Shaw Renewables, discussed the current status of continuous improvement and the outlook for improving safety and mitigating dryer risk at Shaw Renewables.

Participants felt start-up and shutdown were the greatest risk to drum dryer safety, followed by outfeed/infeed failures and ID fan failure.

Bow-tie analysis is an effective way to improve safety. Michael Fantillo, Production Supervisor with Premium Pellet, discussed the practical application of bow-tie analysis and how they’ve helped improve the safety of drum dryers at his facility.

Julie moderated an interactive session where participants were asked their thoughts on the greatest risks to dryer safety, what risk reduction measures were the most important and what the working group should focus on. Participants identified start-up and shutdown as the greatest risk to drum dryer safety, followed by outfeed/infeed failures and ID fan failure. The feedback from the interactive session will be considered by the working group as they develop resources.

Geoff Thomson, an Occupational Safety Officer with WorkSafeBC, closed the session by making observations and recommendations to the group. He was pleased that WPAC’s members continue to work together to enhance safety. He encouraged people to participate in the Working Group or to sign-up for updates on the initiative.

WPAC is looking for members of the Drum Dryer Working Group. The group is expected to meet monthly for the next year and will support the development of resources shared with the entire industry. If you are interested in joining the group, please contact Fahimeh Yazdan Panah at fahimeh@pellet.org.

Watch the Drum Dryer Symposium.

Gordon Murray is the Executive Director of he Wood Pellet Association of Canada