Just after the incident the facility owners thought the accident was caused by a dust explosion, as they recently converted to a new process for treating the solid particulates prior to entering the dryer. Moreover, process data also showed that the explosion occurred seconds after a burner trip when air was being added to the dryer to purge the system. The combustion management system utilized an air-to-fuel ratio controller, along with mass flow meters for both combustion air and the natural gas for the burner. This paper describes the investigation into the cause of the explosion and design blast venting used on the dryer. The CFD tool FLACS was used to help evaluate the consequences associated with a dust or gas explosion during the incident. This included analysis of the process data to determine the gas mixture within the dryer at the time of the explosion as well as dust explosion testing of the solid particles in the dryer in order to evaluate its potential contribution. Finally, deficiencies were identified in the blast vent design employed on the dryer for deflagrations associated with credible gas or dust explosions.
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