Report: grain dust bin explosions up in 2022; no fatalities

There was an uptick in grain dust bin explosions in 2022, according to an annual report issued by Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

There were nine incidents last year in the United States, compared to seven reported incidents in 2021 and a 10-year average of nearly 7.8 explosions annually.

Kingsly Ambrose, a Purdue University professor of agricultural and biological engineering and report author, says there were 18 injuries but no fatalities as a result of the explosions.  

“Most of them (occurred) in grain handling and processing related facilities. One was an ethanol plant,” he says.

According to the report, the explosions also occurred in two feed mills, two grain elevators, two rice mills and two grain processing plants. The probable ignition sources were identified in three cases as a fire and one incidence as welding, while five cases were from unknown sources. Fuel sources for all nine explosions were identified as grain dust.

He tells Brownfield there are five conditions that cause a grain dust explosion.

We call this a dust explosion pentagon. We need five factors to close in on the pentagon. One is dust that is almost always present in a grain handling or grain processing facility. There will also be dispersed dust in the air, oxygen, and most grain handling and processing operations are within confined space. So, we have four factors there almost all the time. The fifth factor is an ignition source such as mechanical friction, welding or cutting, static charge build-up etc. Presence of this ignition source will lead to the overall completion of this pentagon and lead to an explosion within the facility.”

The dust explosions occurred in seven different states, with two explosions each in Arkansas and Louisiana, and one each in New Mexico, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Ohio.

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