Ashok Ghose Dastidar, Vice President of Dust and Flammability Testing
Dust was what caused the 2008 Georgia sugar refinery incident that killed 14 people. The aftermath witnessed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) re-issuing its Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP). Their aim was to ensure more rigorous inspection of facilities that generate or handle potentially hazardous combustible chemicals, especially dust. However, despite such mandates, regulations, and inspection programs, dust-related mishaps are still widespread. Although not all catastrophes strike at the same level of immensity as the sugar refinery accident, they invite major monetary losses—often leading to the closure of a facility. Most of the time, the lack of proper awareness among employees or the failure to recognize dust as a potential danger emerges as the key reason for factory mishaps. Adding to this, a plethora of facilities do not have a sound dust management program that increases their susceptibility to inevitable dangers.
Set against this backdrop, Fauske & Associates, LLC (FAI) provides factories expert, custom, full-service safety testing, engineering, analytics, consulting, and training solutions. The company was founded in 1980, by three lead scientists, Dr. Hans Fauske, Dr. Michael Grolmes, and Dr. Robert Henry, from the Argonne National Lab. FAI’s services include combustible dust testing, onsite hazards assessments, OSHA and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) compliance assistance, audit preparation, training, ignition source evaluation, and vent sizing calculations.
“Our company identifies and solves complex process safety issues through laboratory testing instead of rendering full-scale testing, which can save the consumer quite a bit of money. Most importantly, taking insights from hands-on experience rather than textbooks, our team has excelled in assisting clients to tackle hazards on a daily basis,” Ashok Ghose Dastidar, Vice President of Dust and Flammability Testing at FAI explains. In addition, the company participates at the technical committee of the NFPA and American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), which helps them imbibe necessary know-hows to guide their clients in the future projects.
Dastidar remarks, “Players across diverse industry verticals that generate or carry dust are our prospective customers.
Combustible dust management program is not a one and done type of deal
Albeit we primarily cater to Fortune 500 companies, we have a large client base from the small-and mid-market.” Take the pulp and paper manufacturers, for instance. Beyond the lumbers, this industrial sector creates wood pellets and burns them inside power plants to meet the energy requirement.
Dust Management Programs for Pulp and Paper Manufacturers
The pulp and paper manufacturing industry, like biomass fuel processors, have been one of the earliest and most extensive users of wood. However, many facilities fail to understand that these uneven, finer-sized, and highly reactive particles can drive toward significant fire or explosion issues. “Sometimes it can be as violent as some military products,” Dastidar adds. For these clients, FAI conducts a comprehensive dust hazard analysis to understand a given facility’s mode of operation as well as physical structure, and every data is evaluated against NFPA defined recommendations. Based on these findings, the company delineates a compelling and comprehensive roadmap to ensure the security of a facility. In this context, Dastidar comments, “to do that, at times we need to generate data that characterizes the explosion severity of the specific wood or paper that a particular client is dealing with or how sensitive the material is to an ignition source. Once taking that into consideration, we can not only identify where the hazard exists but what the risk level is going to be in case of a detrimental event—fire or explosion.”
Most importantly, FAI never relies on historical or literature data alone since it is dangerous to extrapolate the findings of such data to unique client situations. It oftentimes tends to provide inaccurate results since the moisture content, particle morphology, particle size distribution, and chemical composition are never static. A particular kind of wood pellet may be non-hazardous in one environment but can be a major cause of explosion in another.
Leveraging nearly four decades of extensive experience, FAI understands that a dust management program encompasses more than just the dust hazard analysis. It is just the ‘tip of the iceberg,’ an identification phase. Every company needs to have an all-encompassing management program for tactically minimizing fire hazards.
These include a sound change management program, training for employees as well as contractors to keep them well-informed, the house-keeping program for timely cleaning, and proper documented preventative maintenance to avoid the generation of ignition sources. “Combustible dust management program is not a one and done type of deal. It has to be continuously monitored and kept up with to ensure the safety of physical plant as well as protection of capital,” Dastidar comments.
In tandem, FAI holds a strong base of a multidisciplinary group of engineers having both sound academic and industrial knowledge. These subject matter experts easily find out the unique as well as complex challenges of every customer and develop a strategy to mitigate these challenges. Instead of undertaking a cookie-cutter approach, they think out of the box—ultimately, keeping FAI far ahead of the pack.
Dispelling the Vulnerabilities of Nuclear Facilities
Another key area of competency for FAI is nuclear process safety. Working in liaison with design institute for emergency relief systems (DIERS) and observing closely the ghastly Three Mile Island incident as well as several other nuclear reactor disasters, the company has grown exponentially in the nuclear process safety field. Today, it provides services related to the custom reactive chemical as well as thermal hazards, relief valve sizing, process scale-up, relief system design, flammability, process hazards analysis (PHA), and process safety management (PSM). All these services tend to solve the complex safety concerns of nuclear power plants as well as ensure safety and optimal performance. “When it comes to larger industrial space, changes in heat balance, runaway chemical reactions, material flows, and complexity of operations increase the probability of missteps. This leads to violent upsets, explosions, or fires. Our team of experts knows how to deal with such issues and ensure the future safety of a facility,” Dastidar comments.
Striding ahead, besides continuing to grow in the chemical process safety, FAI is also equally focused on transportation safety, dust explosions, flammability issues, and similar hazards. The company is currently expanding outward to more complicated release models, involving environmental issues in terms of vapor cloud explosions or releases that might affect groundwater.
“We are looking at other hazards existing in the chemical processing as well as other industries. It’s really good to feel that something that we have focused on for decades is now actually coming to the forefront with people realizing that it’s not something that can be brushed under the carpet or added as an afterthought,” concludes Dastidar.