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Report: Grain Dust Explosions Dipped in US During 2019

March 5, 2020
Eight grain dust explosions were logged last year in the US, according to a new report by Purdue University. Image courtesy of Pixabay
Eight grain dust explosions were logged last year in the US, according to a new report by Purdue University. Image courtesy of Pixabay

Purdue University’s annual report on grain dust explosion incidents in the US shows that eight explosions were documented last year, dipping from 12 incidents logged in 2018. One person was killed and seven were injured during the events. 

“When the grain is getting handled or processed, dust gets separated and suspended in the air and settles around the facility,” said Dr. Kingsly Ambrose, the report’s author and an agricultural and biological engineering professor at Purdue, in a university press release. “If there’s an ignition generating spark, maybe due to the malfunction of a machine, friction, or an electrical failure, [it] can ignite the dust. Although the primary explosion might be quite small, due to the amount of existing dust, the secondary explosions can be catastrophic.”

Three of the explosions occurred in Iowa. Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Nebraska, and Georgia each had one incident. Grain elevators had the most grain dust explosions (4) in the US in 2019, three explosions occurred at feed mills, two were at grain mills, and one blast was recorded at an ethanol plant, according to the report. Four of the nine fires were fueled by grain dust and five involved unknown materials.

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Among the explosions in 2019, the probable ignition sources were fires (2 cases), static electricity (1 case), a hot bearing (1 case), and unknown (5 cases).  

While the number of explosions declined year-over-year, the number of grain dust explosion incidents in 2019 is close to the 10-year average of 8.5 explosions per year. 

Dr. Ambrose is scheduled to appear in several conference sessions at the International Powder & Bulk Solids Conference & Exhibition October 6-8 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL. One of the sessions he is participating in includes “Sensing Dispersed Dust Concentration Using Digital Cameras”

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