Best Practices for Managing Combustible Gas

Wood pellet plants produce syngas—a highly explosive mix of carbon monoxide, methane, hydrogen, and other volatiles—during various stages of the pellet manufacturing process. This combustible gas is produced whenever biomass is subjected to high temperatures in a low-oxygen environment. It often accumulates within enclosed areas such as dryers, ducts, cyclones, and piping.

If not managed properly, syngas can cause catastrophic fires, explosions, and deflagrations, and resultant injuries, loss of life, and equipment. This phenomenon is equally true for woody and agricultural biomass.

As a result of several recent syngas explosions, WPAC’s Safety Committee in partnership with the University of British Columbia Biomass and Bioenergy Research GroupBC Forest Safety CouncilBiomassCanada Cluster, and Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, produced an educational video to help operators minimize the risks associated with syngas.

The video describes how and where combustible gas will accumulate during the pellet manufacturing process. It gives recommendations for reducing risk such as: the use of back-up power during power outages to maintain extraction fans, considerations for plant design, the locations and components that need to be inspected and cleaned regularly to avoid syngas build-up, the use of monitoring and alarm systems, and operator training.