Best Practices in 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 resulting in injuries, loss of life and equipment. This combustible gas phenomenon can equally occur in wood and agricultural biomass.

As a result of several recent syngas explosions, the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC)’s Safety Committee has developed a new educational video titled Best Practices in Managing Combustible Gas help operators minimize the risks associated with syngas. This video project was supported through technical and financial support by several partners including the BCFSC, the University of British Columbia Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group, BioMass Canada Cluster, and Agriculture and Agri-food Canada.

The seven-minute video is packed with vital information. It describes how and where combustible gas will accumulate during the pellet manufacturing process and gives recommendations for reducing risks such as:

  • using back-up power during power outages to maintain extraction fans
  • considerations for plant design
  • determining locations and components that require inspections and regular cleaning to avoid syngas build-up
  • using monitoring and alarm systems
  • operator training

We encourage everyone involved in wood pellet manufacturing to take the time to view this video as part of our collective comment to a safer wood pellet industry.