New Study Details Ways to Avoid Combustible-Cloud Explosions

A newly released white paper from Newson Gale Inc., a Jackson, N.J.-based industrial safety company, provides a practical study of combustible cloud fires and explosions, their genesis, and the means to prevent them.

The free paper, titled "Controlling Static Hazards is Key to Preventing Combustible Cloud Explosions," is based on data provided in studies published by government-agency and insurance sources in the United States, the U.K., and Germany. A bibliography is included.

The study includes data from one 20-year period in which 281 U.S. explosions were identified as having been caused by ignitable combustible dust atmospheres. In a separate 10-year study period, an insurer reported $3.1 million total losses traceable to dust fires and explosions in the United States.

The paper cites industrial process equipment as the most likely source of an explosion or fire. This includes both actual processing and functions involving the transfer or transportation of components and end-products. In a large proportion of such instances, static electricity can be identified as the primary ignition source, the paper notes.

Significant among the processes most often subject to combustible cloud formation are: dust collection, powder grinding and pulverizing operations, powder conveying, silo and container filling, and general mixing or blending of powders. Among the products considered most likely to lead to the danger of an explosion or fire are zinc and other metallic powders, wheat flour and other food products, and certain plastics and resins. In all of these cases, if unprotected, normal processing steps can produce enough static electricity to ignite a dust cloud.

The conclusion of the paper is devoted to discussions of how and in what circumstances static electricity buildup is likely to occur and what are the accepted means to avoid the danger of combustible cloud explosions or fires.

To view or download the free paper, go to, or, alternately, visit and click on the "Knowledge Centre" drop-down. No registration is required.

Newson-Gale provides systems and services designed to protect people and assets from static hazards, serving industries where processes that generate significant amounts of static electricity have the potential to ignite flammable or explosive atmospheres.

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