In spite of its many benefits, pneumatic conveying, like nearly any industrial process, is not entirely risk-free. This is especially true if it is done incorrectly or without quality equipment. The main hazard is that the conveying of a wide range of bulk materials can lead to a potentially dangerous build-up of explosive dust.
In addition, non-certified pneumatic conveying systems could also cause an explosion if the surrounding air is very dusty. Having an ATEX approved blower is the first step in making your installation safer.
What to know before you start the buying process
When you are looking for a new compressed air equipment to be used in these processes or environments, you must know which standards your compressed air system has to meet in order to protect it. One or multiple ATEX zones will have been defined for the area(s) where your pneumatic conveying installation is operating.
Once you know the ATEX standards your product must meet, you can start looking for the right compressed air system. You’ll soon find out that products within the standard scope of supply do not have the required certifications and a custom solution has to be designed.
So, once you know your ATEX requirements, you can have an expert design a blower, compressor and/or ancillary equipment to ensure it offers the necessary protection.
Fortunately, when taking the proper precautions and installing technology designed to counteract this hazard, pneumatic conveying can be made as safe as possible.
The directives enacted by the European Union, which are known as the ATEX directives, play an important role in preventing dust explosions. By outlining the minimum safety requirements for workplaces in explosive environments – as well as defining what type of equipment can be used there – they provide guidance on how to design safe working conditions.
However, the most important thing to keep in mind when trying to protect your workplace from explosions is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
The respective risk depends on many factors, such as the type of material being conveyed, the size of the system, the conveying process used and the ambient environment in which the system operates. In other words, because every workplace is different, every explosion-prevention plan for pneumatic conveying processes has to be created with these unique conditions in mind.
This could mean, for example, installing filters that prevent the dust from getting into the enclosed space of the pipeline. And, in the case of a dusty ambient environment, that might mean installing only sparkless equipment. In addition, it is important to prevent the accumulation of dust on the equipment and/or to ensure the compressor or blower has a proper cooling system installed since such dust increases the temperature of the equipment.
The only thing that every solution has in common, however, is that quality equipment, such as custom-built ATEX-certified blowers, compressors and other equipment specifically designed for your situation and application.