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04.12.2017 Biomass: potentially hazardous and not easy to handle

The challenges facing bulk terminal operators looking to make the transition from coal to biomass were outlined at the Association of Bulk Terminal Operators’ (ABTO) inaugural conference, Bulk Terminals 2017, which took place at the beginning of November in London. “Biomass is not one material,” explained Professor Mike Bradley, director of the Wolfson Centre, urging terminal operator delegates at the conference to carefully evaluate the various types of biomass products before investing in new handling and storage facilities.
“Different biomass products have different requirements,” he said, explaining that biomass products can be made up of anything from organic residues, food waste, sewage, straw, cereal and olive stones to chipped wood, elephant grass, wet leaves and paper. “The key is to understand the properties of the particular range of materials involved since no one handling system can deal with all types of biomass.”
Going on to highlight some of the unloading and handling pitfalls faced by operators looking to adapt their terminals for biomass, he advised operators to keep a close eye on their quality control and safety procedures. Biomass dust, he said, is especially problematic. “Dust has caught more people out in biomass handling,” he said. “It is more mobile, it is lighter and will stay suspended for longer.” He said there is a danger that if not dealt with appropriately, it could result in terminal workers inhaling the dust and contracting ‘farmer’s lung’, the accumulation of mould spores in the lungs. Bradley also said that biomass dust can increase fire and explosion risks, particularly as some biomass cargoes are self-heating. “If you can write your name in the dust, you have an accident waiting to happen.”;  
Professor Mike Bradley explaining some of the problems associated with handling and storage of biomass

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